Religious beliefs and practices of jewish americans pew research center

On a variety of measures, Jews are less religious than the general public. For example, roughly one-quarter of Jews say religion is very important in their lives, compared with more than half of Americans overall. Similarly, a quarter of Jews say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, compared with 50% among the general population. A key exception to this pattern is Orthodox Jews, whose level of religious commitment matches or exceeds most other religious groups in the population.

The data also make clear that American Jews have a broad view of their identities; being Jewish is as much about ethnicity and culture as it is about religious belief and practice. And many Jews defy easy categorization. Some Jews by religion are non-believers, while some Jews of no religion are ritually observant.


Though Jewish identity is correlated with religious observance (Jews by religion are substantially more observant than Jews of no religion), the correspondence is not perfect. Religion’s Importance

A slim majority of U.S. Jews say religion is very important (26%) or somewhat important (29%) in their lives. On this measure, Jews exhibit lower levels of religious commitment than the U.S. general public, among whom 56% say religion is very important in their lives and an additional 23% say it is somewhat important. However, the fact that many Jews say religion is relatively unimportant in their lives does not mean that being Jewish is unimportant to them; as described in Chapter 3, eight-in-ten Jews say being Jewish is either very important (46%) or somewhat important (34%) in their lives.

Orthodox Jews stand out sharply on this measure as compared with other Jews. About eight-in-ten Orthodox Jews say religion is very important to them, which is on par with white evangelical Protestants (86%) and black Protestants (89%). Among Conservative Jews, 43% say religion is very important to them. Fewer than one-in-five Reform Jews (16%) and fewer than one-in-ten Jews with no denominational affiliation (8%) say religion is very important in their lives.

Seven-in-ten U.S. Jews believe in God or a universal spirit (72%), including one-third (34%) who say they are “absolutely certain” about this belief. Eight-in-ten Jews by religion say they believe in God or a universal spirit, including 39% who are absolutely certain about this belief. Among Jews of no religion, 45% believe in God with 18% saying they are absolutely convinced of God’s existence. Most Jews see no conflict between being Jewish and not believing in God; two-thirds say that a person can be Jewish even if he or she does not believe in God, as discussed in Chapter 3.

Nearly one-in-four U.S. Jewish adults say they attend Jewish religious services at a synagogue or other place of worship at least once a week (11%) or once or twice a month (12%). Roughly one-third of Jews (35%) say they attend religious services a few times a year, such as for the High Holidays (including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). And four-in-ten say they seldom (19%) or never (22%) attend Jewish religious services. Attendance at Jewish religious services is much more common among Jews by religion than among Jews of no religion, half of whom say they never attend religious services (52%).

Jews report attending religious services at much lower rates than do other religious groups. Six-in-ten Christians (62%) say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month (compared with 29% of Jews by religion). Orthodox Jews, however, say they attend religious services at least as often as the most religiously committed Christian groups. Roughly three-quarters of Orthodox Jews (74%) say they attend religious services at least monthly, on par with white evangelical Protestants (75%) and black Protestants (71%).

Married Jewish respondents who have a Jewish spouse attend Jewish religious services much more frequently than do intermarried Jews. Four-in-ten of those who are married to a Jewish spouse (41%) say they attend religious services at least monthly, and just 7% say they never attend religious services. Among Jews married to a non-Jew, these figures are reversed (9% say they attend religious services at least monthly, and 37% say they never attend Jewish religious services). Jewish Practices

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is an important annual Jewish holiday traditionally marked by fasting. About half of U.S. Jews say that on Yom Kippur in 2012, they fasted for all (40%) or part (13%) of the day. As with participating in a Seder, the share of Jews who report fasting on Yom Kippur seems to have declined somewhat in recent years. In the 2000-2001 NJPS, six-in-ten Jews said they fasted for all or part of the previous Yom Kippur.

Regularly lighting candles to mark the start of the Sabbath is less common among Jews than participating in a Seder or fasting on Yom Kippur, as is keeping a kosher home. Nearly a quarter of Jews (23%) say they always or usually light Sabbath candles (down slightly from 28% in the 2000-2001 NJPS), and a similar number say they keep kosher in their home (22%).