Changing Jewish demographics and power structures, the polarization of American Jewry; growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and the BDS movement highlight the 6 top trends affecting Jewish people worldwide according to a newly released Annual Assessment from the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).
The Assessment also includes a deep analysis of the geopolitical situation and its impact on the Jewish people and Israel.
Here are some of the findings:
The most pressing concern is that today’s colleges will produce tomorrow’s leaders and opinion shapers and alter public perceptions. Therefore, the threat lies in the general erosion of Israel’s very legitimacy in the US, which could spread to the wider public opinion through constant demonization and vilification, which has become more acceptable in the mainstream.
In order to overcome polarizing politicization, the top Jewish leadership in the Diaspora and Israel should undertake a community-wide dialogue in order to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and de-legitimization of the State of Israel itself. Such a determination will enable the organized Jewish community to effectively fight BDS and expose its genuine anti-Semitic face.
American Jews Polarized in Support for Israel
The latest data show that the American Jewish community is becoming more polarized in regard to its support for Israel. For the first time studies show that liberal views correlate with more “distance” from Israel and that the liberal American Jewish community finds unequivocal support for the policies of the Israeli government more problematic.
Younger Jews in general have a greater attachment to Israel in large part because of their participation in Taglit-Birthright and Masa programs.
The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the movement of Jews from Europe
The outlook for Jewish communities in Europe is not positive. Due to economic downturns in some countries, France in particular, demographic shifts, and the deterioration of civil security, Europe is in the throes of political turmoil and identity crisis. Anti-Semitic incidents doubled in France and the UK last year and more than 1,700 jihadists have returned to Europe from Syria. Despite keen efforts made by the French authorities to protect them, many French Jews do not trust their government to do so, and feel excluded from full civil participation in the country. Most French Jews of have investigated emigration. French immigration to Israel has grown from 3,300 in 2013 to 7,300 in 2014. Out of 480,000 French Jews, more than 9,300 are expected to move to Israel by the end of 2015.
Demographics, a positive development
Today, there are 14.2 million Jews in the world. Taken together with the “partially Jewish” and the Russian immigrants in Israel, who are of “no religion,” but fully integrated in the Jewish Israeli life, the number reaches 16 million. This is very close to the number of Jews in the world in 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust.
Chabad is growing and may become one of the strongest Jewish streams in America
There are 959 Chabad Centers in America while only 595 Conservative synagogues and a little over 800 Reform Temples. And, Chabad Centers are a worldwide phenomenon, serving Jews globally, a claim that no other stream can make.
Chabad plays by different rules than mainstream Jewish organizations and institutions. They are not concerned with “membership,” nor with group and denominational boundaries. They are much more concerned that individual Jews do mitzvot and endow the world with divine purpose and meaning through individual acts of tzdedaka, tefilin, and Shabbat observance – without demanding membership fees and long-term commitments. Chabad thus seems particularly suited for to an individualist fluid age of “symbolic ethnicity.” Preliminary research indicates that involvement with Chabad encourages Jewish engagement and commitment in ensuing years.
Growing U.S. Orthodox population
Orthodox Jews today make up only 10% of the American Jewish population but they are significantly younger than the American Jewish population as a whole and their birthrates are much higher. Orthodox Jews are more attached to Israel than other Jews are: 61% say that they are very emotionally attached to Israel while only 27% of other Jews indicate the same feeling.
Analysis of the Pew reports on American Jewry shows that the growth of Orthodox Jewish children signals a trend of growing support for Israel in the coming years but less influence on the general American society, as ultra-Orthodox Jews who make up 62% of the Orthodox population, also affirm social isolation and believe that secular education and culture is less important than their tradition. Therefore, they have a narrower and less instrumental engagement with the larger American society and political agendas.
The complete 2014-2015 Annual Assessment can be found here.