Findings for this study were released on October 1, 2013. The study’s findings chart an increasing number of secular Jews, with about one in five Jews saying they have no religion. Attachment to being Jewish remains strong in this population, with three-quarters of Jews saying they have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Rates of intermarriage appear to have increased substantially over the decades, with nearly six in ten Jews married since 2000 being married to a non-Jew. Among the study’s more intriguing findings, 34% of Jews believe a person can be Jewish if he or she believes Jesus was the messiah. The study also found 10% of American Jews were from the former Soviet Union.
Abt SRBI conducted the study on behalf of the Pew Research Center. The survey interviewed 3,475 Jews: 2,786 gave their religion as Jewish or Jewish and something else while 689 had a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, had no religion, and considered themselves to be Jewish or partially Jewish. In addition, Abt SRBI interviewers completed surveys with 1,190 people of Jewish background and 467 people with a Jewish affinity. People of Jewish background were defined as those who had a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish and either affiliated with another religion or who professed no religion and did not consider themselves to be Jewish. People with a Jewish affinity were those who did not have a Jewish parent, were not raised Jewish, and were not Jewish by religion but considered themselves to be Jewish. A total of 71,151 households were interviewed to complete these interviews, 41,180 on landlines and 29,971 on cell phones. All told, the study required 646 interviewers, 40,654 interviewer hours, and dialing 1,175,367 different telephone numbers.
The study made great efforts to ensure the quality of the research. Abt SRBI researchers developed small area estimates of the Jewish by religion population prior to the study in order to develop an effective sampling scheme. Special strata with high proportions of Russian and Orthodox Jews were created in order to ensure adequate coverage of these populations. Abt SRBI staff developed algorithms to maximize the effective sample size through allocation of the sample across strata and landline and cell phone frames and updated the design throughout the field period based on the latest study results. An estimated 99.1% of the Jewish by religion was covered by the study. Interviewing was conducted in English and Russian. Landline telephone numbers sampled were matched to addresses and checked for Russian names; households with Russian names and households in the Russian stratum were dialed by Russian-speaking interviewers and households flagged as having Russian names were mailed an advance letter in both English and Russian explaining the purpose of the survey. Up to 7 calls were made to determine whether a household was eligible for the study; there was no callback limit for eligible households. One conversion attempt was made for soft refusals. Calls were not made on the Jewish Sabbath, Passover, or Shavuot, except where a respondent specifically requested to be called back at these times. All eligible respondents who were unwilling or unable to complete the interview during the initial call were sent, where possible, a letter explaining the purpose and scope of the study and inviting them to complete the interview. Respondents were offered a $50 incentive. Interviewers received study-specific training, including the pronunciation of Hebrew and Yiddish words.
The Abt SRBI team responsible for the study included: Benjamin Phillips, a vice president in the Social Policy group and expert on American Jews; Stanislav Kolenikov, a senior survey statistician in the Advanced Methods group and expert on sample design and weighting; and Dean Williams, a senior project director in the Social Policy group with extensive experience managing surveys on religion and ethnicity. Mark Schulman, founding partner and chief research officer, Chintan Turakhia, senior vice president for the Social Policy group, and Charles DiSogra, senior vice president in the Advanced Methods group, reviewed the study’s findings.