Monday, January 08, 2007

RK survey results: multiple choice

The Reform rabbis' kids survey has been up for just 5 days, but has already gotten 136 responses! Given the small size of the eligible pool (I'm estimating around 600-700 in the world), this is a solid sample size, so I'm ready to publish results.

One reason I did this is that we hear a lot about Jewish demographics and population shifts, but these studies are rarely longitudinal, so we don't hear about what happens to individuals over time. I throw around anecdotal claims, but without statistics about the population. So the focus on Reform rabbis' kids of a particular generation allows us to isolate a group of people who had a relatively similar Jewish upbringing (compared to the general Jewish population), and (as the data confirms) ended up all over the map.

A note about methodology:
I posted the survey here and on Jewschool, sent it to friends and relatives (encouraging them to forward it on), my mother sent it to the HUC alumni list (for rabbis to send to their children, or answer themselves if they're eligible), and a friend sent it to the Bronfman alumni list.

A commenter wrote on Jewschool that this is "an unscientific poll that anyone can fill out". That's true -- the survey relies entirely on the honor system, and there is no way of verifying that the people who answered the survey are actually who they claim to be. There are also some sample biases: posting on Mah Rabu and Jewschool skews the sample towards people who are Jewishly active in some capacity, and posting on the HUC alumni list skews it towards rabbis (who got the email directly, instead of only getting it if their parent forwarded it to them).

With all that in mind, let's look at the results. For now, I'll just post the data, and leave the conclusions up to the readers.

The survey was restricted to people who are children of Reform rabbis (this wasn't defined further, but no one asked for clarification; we can assume that this means people who are HUC graduates and/or CCAR members) and were born between 1966 and 1984 (the younger limit was to restrict the survey primarily to people who are out in the world on their own, and the older limit was mostly arbitrary).

Three questions were asked: year of birth, country of residence, and Jewish self-definition. There was also a space for optional comments, which will go in the next post.

The Jewish self-definition said "Check all that apply about your current Jewish self-definition", and the choices were:
  • I am a rabbi, rabbinical student, or other Jewish professional (or Jewish professional student).
  • I am Jewishly active in a Reform (affiliated) context.
  • I am Jewishly active in an Orthodox context.
  • I am Jewishly active in a Conservative (affiliated) context.
  • I am Jewishly active in a Reconstructionist (affiliated) context.
  • I am Jewishly active in a nondenominational context.
  • I am not Jewishly active.
  • Other (please specify)
Note that all of the denominational labels specified "affiliated" except Orthodox. This was to reflect an asymmetry among the denominations: Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist identities are tied to movement institutions, while Orthodox identity is not (and there is not a centralized "Orthodox movement" parallel to the others).

Among the 136 respondents, 29% reported that they are rabbis or other Jewish professionals. This is a particularly meaningless number, because of the sample biases discussed above. So I separated the data into Jewish professionals and non-professionals, and analyzed the two groups separately.


Among the Jewish professionals (N=39):
  • 15% checked no other box besides "Jewish professional"
  • 67% checked Reform
  • 3% checked Orthodox
  • 15% checked Conservative
  • 5% checked Reconstructionist
  • 21% checked nondenominational
  • 0% checked "not Jewishly active"
This adds up to more than 100%, because some people checked multiple boxes (in addition to "Jewish professional"). 8 respondents checked two boxes (4 Reform/nondenominational, 2 Reform/Conservative, 1 Conservative/Reconstructionist, 1 Conservative/nondenominational). 1 respondent checked 3 boxes (Reform/Conservative/nondenominational).

"Other" choices (not included in the numbers above):
  • "I am a Chabad Lubavitcher Chassid"
  • "in an Israeli 'traditional' sense"

Among the people who didn't check "Jewish professional" (N=97):
  • 40% checked Reform
  • 10% checked Orthodox
  • 14% checked Conservative
  • 4% checked Reconstructionist
  • 20% checked nondenominational
  • 27% checked "not Jewishly active"
Again, this adds up to more than 100%. 8 respondents checked 2 boxes (2 Reform/nondenominational, 3 Orthodox/nondenominational, 2 Reform/Reconstructionist, 1 Reconstructionist/nondenominational), and 5 respondents checked 3 boxes (2 Orthodox/Conservative/nondenominational, 1 Reform/Conservative/nondenominational, 1 Reform/Reconstructionist/nondenominational, and 1 Reform/Orthodox/Conservative).

"Other" choices (not included in the numbers above):
  • "I am active in a cultural context as a writer"
  • "Traditional/spiritual"
  • "I consider myself a reform Jew, but am not currently active in a temple."
  • "I am a member at a conservative Synagogue although it is not affiliated with the movement."
  • "Although I celebrate shabbat and observe Jewish holidays with my family." [checked "not Jewishly active"]
  • "Havurah style/nonafilliated Conservative context"
  • "Hillel"

I broke the not-Jewish-professional group down further, into two age groups: born 1966-1975, and born 1976-1984.

The most striking result from this division is that all the respondents who checked more than one box were from the younger group. (This is also true in the Jewish professionals group, with one exception.)

Among the Jewish non-professionals born 1966-1975 (N=34):
  • 50% checked Reform
  • 6% checked Orthodox
  • 9% checked Conservative
  • 0% checked Reconstructionist
  • 3% checked nondenominational
  • 26% checked "not Jewishly active"
Among the Jewish non-professionals born 1976-1984 (N=63):
  • 35% checked Reform
  • 11% checked Orthodox
  • 17% checked Conservative
  • 6% checked Reconstructionist
  • 30% checked nondenominational
  • 27% checked "not Jewishly active"
So the active/inactive ratio is constant between the two age groups, and the largest shift is the increase in people who are "Jewishly active in a nondenominational context". There isn't enough information to tell whether this is due to a generational shift or just an age difference, since we don't know what the 1966-1975 crowd was doing 10 years ago.

Otherwise, I'll leave the interpretation of these results to the readers. Go to it!

1 comment:

  1. affiliation tends to happen with age. if someone's not paying tuition or synagogue dues, 'affiliation' is not necessarily exclusive. the older crowd probably has more reason to affiliate.