Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
In the Jewish tradition, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for reflection, repentance and atonement. Most Jews consider these to be the most important to their faith, but PRRI data shows that age plays a role in determining which holidays Jews find personally significant.
A majority of older Jewish Americans (53%) say Yom Kippur is the most important Jewish holiday, compared to just more than one-third (37%) of younger Jewish Americans. In contrast, 2-in-10 younger Jewish Americans (20%) say Hanukkah is the most important Jewish holiday, more than three times the number of older Jewish Americans (6%). Age does not have the same affect on other holidays, with comparable percentages of older and younger Jewish Americans selecting Rosh Hashanah (9% vs. 11%), Passover (24% vs. 21%), and assorted other holidays (9% vs. 11%).