The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (www.jcpa.org) released the results of an ongoing research project on American Jewry, this time focusing on politically “liberal” Jews. Findings showed that this population group is indeed generally supportive of Israel, Zionism, the notion of Israel as a distinctly “Jewish” state, and the need for Israel as a safe refuge for Jews. They also consider the violence carried out by Palestinians as unacceptable. “Anti-Semitism” was the strongest social concern among liberal Jews, much greater than for general liberals who were queried.
On the question of identity, most liberal Jews identified themselves in terms of a “social” identity. In a particularly striking finding, only about 25 percent felt it important to choose a “life partner” from their own ethnic identity, and only about 15 percent felt it important for their children to do so.
The study was directed by Dr. Irwin (Yitzchak) Mansdorf, a clinical psychologist, researcher in political psychology, and a fellow of the Jerusalem Center. Initial focus groups were conducted with the assistance of The Melman Group of Washington, D.C., headed by Mark Melman, public opinion researcher for the Democratic leadership.
Dr. Mansdorf summarized the findings, saying, “Our results have significant political implications, as Jewish liberals may become indistinguishable from liberals in general. In addition to softer support for Israel among younger Jewish liberals, there are also implications for Jewish continuity, as less and less liberal Jews appear to place any importance on life-partnering with another identified Jew. We will continue our research, consider these implications and work towards delineating the ramifications for the future.”
Summary of major findings:
- American liberal Jews in general are strongly supportive of Israel.
- They support the legitimacy of Zionism and the concept of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
- They reject notions of Israel as a racist or apartheid state.
- They express very strong concerns over anti-Semitism.
- This concern appears to be limited to threats from the “Right,” as the sample rejected associations between Democrats or the party and anti-Semitism.
- Younger (below 60) liberal Jews also show strong concerns over anti-Semitism.
- Younger liberal Jews show less support for the legitimacy of Zionism or the need for Israel as a safe refuge for Jews.
- Liberal Jews in general attach little importance to themselves or their children choosing life mates from their own ethnic group.
- As attitudes of liberal Jews begin to mirror attitudes of the general liberal population, Jews, as a distinct “bloc” may become indistinguishable and less significant.