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Demographic and Religious Dimensions of Jewish Identification in the U.S. and Israel: Millennials in Generational Perspective

In: Journal of Religion and Demography
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The mutual relationship between demography and religion is explored in this paper through a comparison of the two largest Jewish populations worldwide: the U.S. and Israel. Special attention is devoted to the younger adult population – the Millennials – operationalized here as ages 18 to 29 and divided into three sub age groups. Data come from the Pew Research Center’s surveys of Jewish Americans in 2013 and of Israelis in 2015. After a short review of the main demographic differences between the two Jewish populations, the paper focuses on the multiple possible meanings and contents of Jewishness. The paper explores age-related differences regarding indicators of contemporary Jewish identity: religiosity, peoplehood and nationalism. We discover that young Jewish adults – the Millennials – in Israel and in the U.S., especially those 18–21 years old, are more likely than their elders to view their Jewishness mainly as a matter of religion rather than as a culture or ethnicity. Emerging similarities and differentials between Jews in Israel and in the U.S. are interpreted in the light of general theories of demographic change and religious identification, and are related to specific events and developments that have affected Jews in the two countries and their mutual relationships.

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