On Sunday, January 29, 2012, the findings of the third Guttman-AVI CHAI report - A Portrait of Israeli Jews: Beliefs, Observance, and Values of Israeli Jews, 2009 - were presented to the public. Based on a survey conducted by IDI's Guttman Center for Surveys for the AVI CHAI Foundation in 2009, the report is a sequel to two earlier studies conducted in 1991 and 1999. Taken together, the three surveys present a unique continuum of Jewish religiosity in Israel.
The main findings of the report were presented by IDI Senior Fellow Prof. Tamar Herman, director of the Guttman Center, and Ayala Keissar-Sugarmen, who was responsible for the data analysis and report. Following their presentation, there was a discussion about the meaning of the report and about topics related to the future of Israeli-Jewish identity, moderated by journalist Sara Beck, with the participation of Rabbi Adv. Gilad Kariv, journalist Irit Linor, and author Assaf Inbari. In addition, singer and composer Erez Lev-Ari performed.
From 1991 to 1999, there was a decline in attachment to Jewish tradition and religion. From 1999 to 2009, by contrast, there was an increase in this attachment, which returned to and in some aspects even surpassed the level measured in 1991. One example of this is the observance of religious tradition: in 1991, 24% of the respondents stated that they "observe religious tradition to a great extent"; in 1999 only 19% did so; in 2009, 26% did.
The decline in attachment to Jewish tradition in 1999 was interpreted then as a result of the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union. The reversal of the trend between 1999 and 2009 may be evidence that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been assimilated into Israeli society and adopted Jewish customs and traditions; it may also reflect an increase in the demographic weight of the Orthodox and Ultraorthodox in the Jewish population. However, it is important to note that while the Orthodox and Ultraorthodox state that they observe religious precepts more stringently than they did in the past and are more strongly attached to tradition, those who defined themselves as "secular but not anti-religious" and "secular and anti-religious" did not report that they were more observant than previously. The statistical data reveal a strong correlation between self-defined religiosity and observance of tradition; nevertheless, Israeli Jews who define themselves as secular but not anti-religious, and even as secular and anti-religious, do observe some traditions. Israeli Jews are fiercely loyal to Jewish rites of passage, but less scrupulous about keeping kosher (76%), not eating hametz on Passover (67%), fasting on Yom Kippur (68%), lighting Sabbath candles (66%) and making Kiddush on Friday night (60%).
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Two main trends are evident over the years (1991, 1999, and 2009). With regard to fundamental matters of religious belief, such as the notion that a higher power directs the world, there was a slight increase. With regard to specifically Jewish tenets, though, such as the coming of Messiah, there was a decline in the percentage of believers in 1999 as compared to 1991; but this decline was "corrected" in 2009, when the figure returned to the 1991 level.
In the News
Can You Believe It? Israel has More Conservative and Reform Jews than Haredis (Jewish Journal, Feb. 23, 2012)
The Threat of Jewish Revivalism (New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012)
When Democracy and Halacha Collide (The Forward, Feb. 10, 2012)
In God They Trust (Jewish Ideas Daily, Feb. 8, 2012)
Keep the Faith (Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine, Feb. 7, 2012)
Interview with Prof. Tamar Hermann (Jewish Journal, Feb. 5, 2012)
Belief in God is not the Problem (Yair Sheleg, Haaretz, Feb. 5, 2012)
The End of the Secular Majority (Assaf Inbari, Haaretz, Feb. 3, 2012)
Most Israelis Believe in God - Is that a Problem? (Jewish Journal, Jan. 30, 2012)
God Rules All in 2012 Israel, Even the State (Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Jan. 29, 2012)
Poll: 80% of Israeli Jews believe in God (Ynet, Jan. 28, 2012)
Survey: Record number of Israeli Jews believe in God (Haaretz, Jan. 27, 2012)
Poll: 70% of Israeli Jews Believe Jews are 'Chosen People' (+972 Magazine, Jan. 27, 2012)
Israeli Jews becoming more religious, poll indicates (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 26, 2012)
Study: Belief in G-d, Religious Observance on the Rise (Arutz Sheva, Jan. 26, 2012)
Poll: Most Israelis Prefer to Keep Israel Jewish (Yeshiva World News, Jan. 26, 2012)
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