Shift in Jewish Identity a Challenge for Some, Says Jewish Studies Scholar and Author
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Jonathan Boyarin is a professor of Modern Jewish Studies at Cornell University and author of several books, including “Jewish Families” and “Jewishness and the Human Dimension.” He comments on a Pew Research poll out this week suggesting that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews now describe themselves as having no religion.
“These findings are striking but not surprising. Personally, I grant individuals a lot of freedom to decide who they want to be. But these statistics are a challenge for those who believe Jewishness is ultimately a family affair.
“The results confirm what I’ve been saying for years: the liberal denominations are declining, and Orthodoxy is growing, precisely because of high birthrates and high retention rates. So is maintaining strict boundaries between Jews and non-Jews the only way to sustain Jewish community? There are still lots of people who want to maintain community without going that route.
“The high number who believe that belief in the Messiahood of Jesus is compatible with Jewishness curiously recalls recent scholarship emphasizing how long it took, in the first centuries after Jesus lived, for Christianity and rabbinic Judaism to become clearly separated from each other.
“I don’t have a clue what will be in fifty years, and I’m not sure the demographers do either. For now, the best investment for Jewish continuity in a free society in any effort that shows young people how rich a life of Jewish learning and community can still be.”
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