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Israeli and US Jews: Alike and Different


American and Israeli Reform rabbis pray in the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city. A recent gathering of American Reform rabbis in Jerusalem was meant to celebrate the small gains the liberal Jewish movement has made in Israel in recent years. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

American and Israeli Reform rabbis pray in the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city. A recent gathering of American Reform rabbis in Jerusalem was meant to celebrate the small gains the liberal Jewish movement has made in Israel in recent years. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)


Jews in Israel and the United States share pride in their religion, says the Pew Research Center.

But there are also differences in how they view being Jewish.

Pew polled Jews in America and Israel about religion twice and compared the results. One poll was done this month with Israeli Jews and the other in 2013 of American Jews.

In both nations, more than nine out of 10 Jews say they are proud to be Jewish, according to Pew.

Other questions drew different responses from American and Israeli Jews.

In the United States, 69 percent of Jews said they believe leading an ethical and moral life is important to being Jewish. In Israel, the percentage is 47 percent, Pew said.

Also 56 percent of American Jews said they believe working for justice and equality is important to being Jewish. The percentage is about half as much in Israel, according to Pew.

Israeli Jews are more likely than American Jews to view following Jewish religious law as important. Thirty-five percent of Israeli Jews consider observing Jewish law important, compared to 19 percent of Americans, Pew said.

But Jews in the two countries have similar opinions on what would disqualify a person from being Jewish.

Majorities in both countries said they believe a person can be a Jew if she or he works on the Jewish Sabbath, criticizes Israel, or does not believe in God, according to Pew.

But only 18 percent of Jews in Israel and 34 percent in the United States said they believe a person who believes Jesus was the Messiah can be Jewish.

The two nations have the largest populations of Jewish people – 6.1 million in Israel and 5.7 million in the United States.

I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or share your views on our Facebook Page. Tell us how important religion is to you.

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Words in This Story

pride n. a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people

pollv. to ask people a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something

ethicaladj. behaving in a way that is right and good

Sabbath – n. day of religious observance

Messiah n. Jews believe a king will be sent by God to save the Jews, and Christians believe it is Jesus Christ

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