A statistical survey conducted by Smith Consulting Co. for the NGO, ‘Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality’ has revealed the changes in the distribution of Israeli Jewish citizens according to the different religious denominations they identify with.

The Hiddush NGO publishes its annual Religion-State Index every year during the time of the Jewish New Year. The index is a large-scale public opinion poll conducted on a representative sample group of 800 subjects, all of whom are Israeli Jewish adults (18 and older).

According to this year’s results, one element of the survey showed that 9% of Israeli Jews belong to one of the two major streams of Progressive Judaism, with 4% identifying as Conservative Jews and 5% as Reform Jews. This shows, for the first time, that Progressive Judaism is equal in population size to the Haredi sector, with 8% of the population being Haredi Jews and an additional 1% identifying as National-Haredi (Haredi Leumi).

“This is the first time our survey categorized according to a particular stream,” Shahar Ilan, vice president of research and information for Hiddush, told Tazpit. “We usually survey according to political voting groups and according to level of religious belief, from secular to very devout.”

Additional data shows that about 50% of the population does not officially belong to, or considers itself part of any particular religious stream or denomination of Judaism and 21% identify as Religious-National Jews or Religious-Zionists (Dati Leumi).

According to Ilan, until recently no demographic research or survey even payed attention to the Conservative and Reform streams in Israel as they were considered too small in number and too nieche to properly survey.

“These findings were very surprising for us, as we discovered that the Progressive Jewish population is sizable enough to analyze statistically and is even equal to the influential Haredi sector,” Ilan told Tazpit.

Indeed, a more analytical reading of the survey statistics shows that in addition to dispelling the misconception of the Progressive Jewish community’s size, the survey also negates other stereotypes.

While Progressive Judaism is often associated in Israel with immigrants from Western European and North American countries, the survey shows that 8% of Israelis who immigrated from those countries belong to the Reform or Conservative streams, while immigrants from Asian and Arab countries in Progressive Judaism constitute 9%. Out of the general population, 10% of native Israeli Jews are part of Progressive Judaism.

“These numbers and proportions of Israeli Jews who practice Progressive Judaism suggest that maybe now politicians will have to take this sector into consideration as well,” concluded Ilan.

By Michael Zeff
Tazpit News Agency

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