Jewish Life is More Popular Than Ever

Well, the statistics are out, and what they show about Jewish life in Israel is nothing short of remarkable.  Notwithstanding all the negative press, and taking into account all the animosity toward the ultra-orthodox community, Israeli Jews still want to live “Jewish.”

Today(Thursday), the Avi Chai Foundation published its third comprehensive study on Jewish life patterns in Israel.  ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center (full disclosure: I founded ITIM), has developed a strategic plan based of the last study in 2002, and this latest study confirms our mission.

Only 7% of Jewish Israelis identify as “Charedi” and another 15% as dati (or religious).  And yet, when it comes to lifecycle ceremonies, 92% say its important or very important to sit shiva for a relative, 80% say it is important or very important to have a wedding ceremony with a rabbi’s blessing, and 91% say it is important to have a Bar Mitzvah (88% for Bat Mitzvah). 

Israeli Jews still feel incredibly strong about the Jewish lifecycle, even though they also are devastated by the services being provided by the religious establishment.

This raises an important question:  Would these statistics be as high if there was separation of Synagogue and State in Israel? Might they go up even higher?  46% of Jewish Israelis identify themselves as “Chiloni” (3% of them as anti-religious).

The bottom line (and I’ll probably write more about this in the coming weeks), is that we are at a crossroads of sorts.  Jewish life in Israel is here to stay (though the rabbinate might not be).  We need to begin some serious thinking – as difficult as it might be (and see my comments about the issues on Jewish peoplehood in today’s Jerusalem Post)- about what Jewish life in Israel should look like.