The Missing 2020 Pew Study Headlines

Imagine if we read the data differently…

The Pew Research Center’s new study, “Jewish Americans in 2020,” is full of rich data about Jewish identity, observance and culture. Researchers surveyed almost 5,000 Jews, selected from a screener of almost 64,000 people, to draw conclusions about the American Jewish community. The data is distilled into over 200 pages of charts and narrative, and provides crucial information that is sure to inform Jewish professionals, clergy and lay leaders for years to come.

By necessity, though, the charts throughout choose one data point to construct a narrative. This is not a complete picture of what the data says. I would challenge us all to try to read this data through various lenses. Here are some starting points.

And if you missed our discussion “Pew Research Center’s 2020 Survey on Jews in the U.S.: Diversity and Complexity of Identity Among Interfaith Couples, Jews of Color and LGBTQ Families,” you can watch it here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

1. Instead of…

Imagine…

The majority of Jews married to people of a different background raise their children Jewish.

2. Instead of…

Young adults identify as Jewish chart

Imagine…

More than two times as many people with one Jewish parent between the ages of 18 and 49 identify as Jewish than those ages 50+.

…or

A majority of people who grew up Jewish and are married to somebody who is not Jewish still identify as Jewish.

3. Instead of…

Those who don't attend services

Imagine…

More than half of Jews who do not belong to a synagogue say they express their Jewishness in other ways.

4. Instead of…

Rabbis should perform interfaith marriages

Imagine…

80% of Jews married to somebody who is not Jewish believe that rabbis should officiate at interfaith weddings.

Or…

A majority of Jews in the Conservative movement believe that rabbis should officiate at interfaith weddings.

Or…

67% of Jews age 65+ believe that rabbis should officiate at interfaith weddings.

5. Instead of…

Imagine…

65% of Jews married to people who are not Jewish say that being Jewish is important to them.

6. Instead of…

Imagine…

More than 60% of Jews whose spouse is not Jewish report sharing Jewish culture and holidays with friends of different backgrounds.

7. Instead of…

Imagine…

Almost an equal number of Jews between ages 18 and 29 have two Jewish parents as have one Jewish parent.

We have the opportunity to look at these survey results in ways that give us insight into what is important to the communities we work with. The data that tells us that for many interfaith families, Jewish identity is an important part of their lives.

Join me on June 1 at 1pm EDT to explore more of what the Pew study can tell us about interfaith families. Join me again on June 22 at 1pm EDT for a webinar on Unpacking Bias to look at how the stories we tell ourselves impact our ability to fully engage interfaith families into our communities.

And in the meantime, I invite you to find a chart in the Pew survey and read the data at least one different way. See what other stories the study has to tell you.


Tema Smith

Tema works in partnership with Jewish professionals, educators, clergy and lay leaders to help them develop the skills and tools they need to fully embrace interfaith couples and families. Before joining 18Doors, she was a synagogue professional, most recently as membership director of a large congregation, and completed a certificate in Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement at Hebrew College where she was a fellow.

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Author: Tema Smith

Director of Professional Development