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Why did Pew survey on Jewish identity slight question of anti-Semitism?

Israel/Palestine
on 13 Comments

The voluminous new Pew poll titled “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” is getting a lot of attention and is bound to be picked apart in many ways in weeks to come. Yesterday Jane Eisner of the Forward, who helped create the survey, spoke on public radio about the poll’s central finding, that definitions of their Jewish identity among the young are becoming looser and looser.

Clearly certain religious practices and values are just not feeling very relevant to young Jews, and I think that is something that we older Jews really have to think about.

Eisner mentioned the acceptance of Jews:

There is so much of a greater acceptance of Jewish people and culture in this country. You see this reflected in the intermarriage rate. My goodness, in the last few years you’ve seen the vice president and the secretary of state marry their children off to other Jews.

In that connection, I would like to point out a major oversight in the poll. There are no questions about Jews’ perceptions of anti-Semitism, as such. The poll does ask about discrimination against Jews.

Anti-Semitism used to define the American Jewish relationship to the rest of the country. Just pick up a Philip Roth book. But the Pew survey asked nary a question about it! Here’s the full report, 214 pages, and if you search for anti-Semitism, you get only one reference, in a paragraph about what Jews think are long-term problems facing Israel. (11 percent “mentioned general threats like anti-Semitism.”)

The question is, Why did Pew leave this out? I think it was a mistake, but a revealing one. Gentleman’s Agreement came out nearly 70 years ago; and young readers won’t even know what that phrase means. In an era of staggering Jewish success, anti-Semitism is simply not a factor in our lives.

P.S. And when are the rightwing groups going to seize on this omission?

Updated: Because I searched for anti-Semitism, I missed the part of the survey that treats discrimination against Jews, which commenter Krauss pointed out to me. My original post said that the poll left anti-Semitism out. The discrimination section is not that long, but here are the findings:

More Jews say several non-Jewish groups face a lot of
discrimination in American society than say this about
Jews; 72% of Jews say gays and lesbians face a lot of
discrimination, 72% say this about Muslims, 64% say
blacks face a lot of discrimination, and 56% say
the same about Hispanics. By contrast, most American
Jews (54%) do not think there is a lot of discrimination aga
inst Jews in the U.S. today. A substantial minority,
however, says Jews do face a lot of discrimination (43%)…

About one-in-ten American Jews say that in the past year they have been called offensive names (12%) or been snubbed in a social setting or left out of social activities (7%) because they are Jewish. Overall, 15% of Jews say they have experienced one or another of these things in the past year. Younger Jews are more likely than others to say they have been called offensive names
because they are Jewish. Among Jews under age 30, 22% say they have been called offensive names because they are Jewish, as have 16% of Jews in their 30s and 40s. By comparison, 6%
of those ages 50-64 and 4% of those 65 or older say this has happened to them in the past year.

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13 Responses

  1. Krauss
    Krauss
    October 5, 2013, 11:50 am

    In that connection, I would like to point out a major oversight in the poll. There are no questions about Jews’ perceptions of anti-Semitism

    Have you read the report? I’m sure you have, but you’ve must have missed it.

    They ask a series of questions about anti-Semitism, including racial slurs Jews in the report have heard this past year.
    It’s at about 10% for all Jews. Interestingly, it’s higher for younger Jews than it is for older Jews.
    My working theory is that young people are simply cruder. It’s likely that younger women get told misogynist remarks at a higher rate than older women in today’s America. As people get older this levels off. For Jews over the age of 65, only 4% or so have heard a racial slur this past year. I’d love to compare that to what 65+ year old blacks or Arab muslims get told on average over a year, but alas, the survey didn’t go that deep. My intial guess would be that both of those groups get told racial slurs at a substantially higher rate, including older members.

    They also ask questions relating if they’ve been snubbed in a social setting that had to do with their Jewishness, although that’s much harder to actually quantify if you compare to a racial slur. About 10% also responded that yes, their Jewishness did lead them to a social snub.

    But this does go to what you’re groping for, namely that around 90% of American Jews have had no direct experience of anti-Semitism this past year.

    Which is also why the ADL has since long branched into advocacy for Israel and other projects because they know this too.

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      October 5, 2013, 12:13 pm

      Thanks Krauss, I will amend my post a little later to reflect this! House chores.

      • Krauss
        Krauss
        October 5, 2013, 12:21 pm

        “Series of questions” is an overstatement. It’s more like one single table with two questions in them. It’s also in the context of how they, the Jews of the report, perceive discrimination against other ethnic minorities. And less than surprisingly, Jews seem to understand and empathise with ethnic minorities more than the majority of the American population.

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        October 5, 2013, 5:03 pm

        Any survey questions on social and occupational discrimination against orthodox Muslims, religious non zionist Jews, and christian evangelicals zionist or otherwise; ‘in the past yer’ by the elite minority, ie secular liberals Im betting it occurs proudly on a daily basis.

        NPR: Christian Academics Cite Hostility On Campus
        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128959747

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      October 6, 2013, 5:17 pm

      ADL seems to want to be a power player in international affairs. Pushing for US attack on Syria. And Iran. Etc.

  2. just
    just
    October 5, 2013, 12:01 pm

    anti-Semitism is not acceptable , and has not been for ages. I wonder why it is that the hasbara alleges that it is alive and well (growing) ad nauseam. I also wonder if the loss of it has caused the endless invocation of the Holocaust by hasbarists, while at the same time they continue to deny the ongoing Occupation of the Palestinian people and the Nakba. Being Jewish is not a problem, being Zionist is.

    Game is up.

    Islamophobia is the new rage. Cultivated and nourished by the elites in the “West” as a gift to the afraid, “very afraid”, uninformed, uninterested masses.

    Gotta “hate” somebody…Pew has not exactly been helpful at all in telling the “truth”.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      October 5, 2013, 12:16 pm

      Maybe it’s just me but there’s been a lull and a decline in the fixation over muslims.

      Partly this has to do with the economic situation. The 2004-2007 period was the peak, especially in Europe, on the debate(if you can call it that).

      This isn’t to say that Islamophobia is ‘over’, but there was always a laziness on some parts of the left where you’d have conflation between the pure islamophobes like Geert Wilders and people who were liberals and secularists and saw genuine issues with the growing islamisation of the muslims of Europe(the same trends now sweeping the Arab world).

      Also, being Jewish in Europe has gotten harder because of the widespread anti-Semitism in muslim populations. Cities like Malmö, Sweden are notorious for this.

      A third factor could be that as the Middle East has exploded these past few years, muslims in Europe in particular but also elsewhere in the West have been drawn to these conflicts intellectually and emotionally. So many of their former home countries have been ablaze, coups, revolutions and civil wars. A lot of them still have family back “home”, so to speak, so that’s also a priority.

      Finally, I think partly what drove it was just demographic fear-mongering, this is what people like Mark Steyn did. He basically said “muslims will take over Europe”. Pew(there they are again!) basically came out and threw cold water on the issue and their forecast is that muslims will be 10% of Europe’s population in 2030 and no more than 17% in 2050. To compare; Israel today has 20% muslims and still growing, inside the green line. Is Israel a muslim country?
      (As a sidenote, Europe also has a large Christian Arab population which many of the islamophobes seem unaware of).

  3. Citizen
    Citizen
    October 5, 2013, 1:35 pm

    I found these items in the Pew survey, that I think relate to anti-semitism or perception of same:

    Chp 1 re discrimination in the USA:
    “… 43% say Jews face a lot of discrimination. Overall, 15% of Jews say that in the past year they personally have been called offensive names or snubbed in a social setting because they are Jewish”.

    Chp 5 re most important problem facing Israel: “…about one-in-ten mentioned general threats like anti-Semitism (11%)”

    Chp 6 re Social & Political views: “More Jews say several non-Jewish groups face a lot of discrimination in American society than say this about Jews; 72% of Jews say gays and lesbians face a lot of discrimination, 72% say this about Muslims, 64% say blacks face a lot of discrimination, and 56% say the same about Hispanics. By contrast, most American Jews (54%) do not think there is a lot of discrimination against Jews in the U.S. today. A substantial minority, however, says Jews do face a lot of discrimination (43%). And Jews are more likely than the population as a whole to say that Jews face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today (43% vs. 24% among the general public).
    ______________
    About one-in-ten American Jews say that in the past year they have been called offensive names (12%) or been snubbed in a social setting or left out of social activities (7%) because they are Jewish. Overall, 15% of Jews say they have experienced one or another of these things in the past year.
    Younger Jews are more likely than others to say they have been called offensive names because they are Jewish. Among Jews under age 30, 22% say they have been called offensive names because they are Jewish, as have 16% of Jews in their 30s and 40s. By comparison, 6% of those ages 50-64 and 4% of those 65 or older say this has happened to them in the past year.”

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield
      October 5, 2013, 7:13 pm

      They asked about being called names and snubbed socially, but it is significant that they did not think to ask about more serious forms of victimization such as getting beaten up or pelted with stones or arrested or denied rental accommodation for being Jewish — things that commonly occur at times and places with severe anti-Semitism or other discrimination, e.g. to Jews in earlier times or to Palestinians in Israel.

  4. RoHa
    RoHa
    October 5, 2013, 9:41 pm

    “Clearly certain religious practices and values are just not feeling very relevant to young Jews, and I think that is something that we older Jews really have to think about.”

    Why do older Jews have to think about it?

    (Even acknowledging the universal principle that everything Young People do is wrong.)

  5. Krauss
    Krauss
    October 6, 2013, 7:21 am

    Update:
    I’ve written before that I wanted to compare the feeling of discrimination between Jews and blacks. Well, now I have some piece of the puzzle. In the summer of 2013, so not long ago, Pew did a report on racial disparities, mainly between whites and blacks.

    In that study, 35% of blacks said that they had been called racist slurs or treated in a racist way.
    So compare that with 10% of Jews. Interestingly, 10% of whites in the summer of 2013 report also said that they had experienced racism. So Jews of America are as likely to experience racism as the average white gentile. And unlike the white gentile, there’s actually a word and a social acceptance for reporting/denouncing anti-Jewish bigotry.

    But at any rate, it just goes to show that no, the reason why 71% of non-Orthodox Jews, 90% of the Jewish population is intermarried, is because anti-Semitism has basically died in America.
    And it also highlights how privileged a life many of us are living.

  6. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    October 6, 2013, 10:53 am

    Phil: “By comparison, 6% of those ages 50-64 and 4% of those 65 or older say this has happened to them in the past year”.

    To me, this sounds as if the Jewish oldsters live among Jews where one wouldn’t expect to find antisemitism (ghettos, anybody?).

    I pass much time in groups (in NYC to be sure) which are so thoroughly Jewish (in composition, not in activities) that those people in the groups brought up in Yiddishkeit spring it on me as a natural thing to do (poor me, grew up deprived in San Francisco and w/o Yiddish), to say nothing of all the Jewish jokes.

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