Pew and the Jews: “So What?”

When Pew released their most recent findings on the state of Jewishness in America, our first take was that there wasn’t much suprise in it. (Full disclosure, RD’s co-editors are ourselves among the surveyed population: post-postmodern, semi-secular, rainbow people—but always Jewishly self-identified.)

A Portrait of Jewish Americans” seemed to offer little we hadn’t been hearing for some years now, whether about intermarriage, the emphasis on culture over religion, or the relative rise and fall of particular denominations. We were curious to note that many Jews are cool with the idea of Jesus-as-Messiah—even more curious as to how that question made it onto the list. (And yes, we’re working on that story as we speak.) 

But in the end, we decided to go above our own heads and ask an eminent group of writers, scholars and activists to respond to the brief prompt: “So what?”

Their answers, linked below, tease unexpected meaning from Pew’s results.

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Good News For Bad News Addicts
J.J. GOLDBERG

Once again we obsess on the headlines but don’t bother with the details.

Bagels Aren’t Enough
JAY MICHAELSON 

“Pew’s data sets out the stark reality: Jews not religiously invested are just not that Jewishly invested in general.”

There is Only One God…And We Don’t Believe in Him
HERB SILVERMAN 

“I identify with a Jewish culture that values education, evidence, and questioning, which is why so many Jews like me become atheists.” 

Losing Their ‘Religion’
RACHEL GORDAN

American Jewish history is the history of Jewish grappling with the American (and Protestant) category of religion. At the moment, it’s not working out so well.

Good News for Jewish Justice
RUTH MESSINGER

As an organizer my question is: Where are American Jews now?

Spiritual (and Jewish), But Not Religious
MARTIN KAVKA 

Among other things, the Pew poll gives us the fascinating statistic that almost half of “Jews of no religion” are nonetheless believers.

Opportunity Knocks in Pew Results
RACHEL BARENBLAT

So the ground is shifting beneath our feet—what else is new? 

And What of the Non-Jewish Jews?
SHAUL MAGID

The Pew poll revealed a significant number of Americans who, despite having no apparent reason to do so, identify as Jews. 

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Evan Derkacz and Lisa Webster have been co-editing Religion Dispatches since the site launched in 2008. They are still speaking to each other.