Dr. Melissa Deckman is a Professor of Political Science at Washington College and a PRRI Affiliated Scholar. Her research interests center on the intersection of religion, women, and politics. She has written in the past about the Christian Right’s participation in school board politics. Her most recent work is as co-editor and contributor to Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools. PRRI sat down with Dr. Deckman to discuss the significance of the book.
Pew Research Center’s Survey of Jewish Americans, released just yesterday, provides a wealth of demographic and religious information. With an increasing number of Jewish Americans reporting that they are not religious, the survey asked an important question: what does it mean to be Jewish?
The survey found that most Jews (62 percent) report being Jewish is primarily a matter of ancestry or culture, while 15 percent say it’s primarily a matter of religion. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) say being Jewish is both about religion and ancestry and culture.
The survey also found that when considering what is most essential for their Jewish identity, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Jewish Americans cited remembering the Holocaust, ranking it higher than anything else. A majority (56 percent) of Jewish Americans also mentioned that working for justice and equality was essential to their Jewish identity.
The study’s findings are largely consistent with the 2012 Jewish Values Survey. The PRRI survey of Jewish Americans found 87 percent of American Jews say the Holocaust is somewhat (33 percent) or very (54 percent) important for informing their political beliefs and political activities. The PRRI survey also found that the Holocaust was ranked as more important for informing their political beliefs than any other Jewish experience.
Similarly, like the Pew study, the PRRI survey found that the notion of pursuing justice is an important part of their worldview. A majority (52 percent) of Jewish Americans reported that pursuing justice was a very important for informing their political beliefs and activity.
The comprehensive report is a welcome addition, providing both new and confirming information about an under-researched and important community.