2020 Annual Assessment

  • Political-ideological polarization in Israel is not deep and is in a moderating trend;
  • Religious-traditional polarization both in Israel and in the United States, particularly between the Haredim and the other Jewish groups, is widening;
  • Economic gaps are narrowing and there is a relative improvement in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel;
  • US Jewry is polarized along ideological lines and according to their affiliation with the various religious streams. This polarization extends to one’s approach to Israel;
  • In the United States, Jewish identity and Jewish practice are polarizing factors between young people (who tend toward thinner identification and observe fewer Jewish practices) and older people.

Over the past year and a half, the citizens of Israel have had to deal with three Knesset election campaigns and with significant health and economic challenges. U.S. Jews have experienced their own social and political struggles, similar health and economic challenges and rising anti-Semitism, as well as internal disagreement over Israeli policy. This chapter offers a data-based index of polarization in Israeli society and in the Jewish community in the United States (the largest Jewish community outside Israel).

What Are We Measuring?


The professional literature and our daily discourse include various definitions under the wide umbrella of “polarization” and there is no agreement about the phenomenon’s characteristics or its possible causes. The working definition for the purposes of this article is based on the cited paper by DiMaggio, et. al (1996, page 693). According to this definition, polarization is at once a condition and a process. Polarization as a condition relates to gaps between opinions and views among different groups on a given topic. Polarization as a process relates to distancing trends between the respective groups’ views over time.

As with JPPI’s other indices, the polarization index also attempts to offer a broad picture on a number of key issues. In this case, the trends in two societies: Israeli society – gaps in views and opinions in Israel; US Jewry – gaps between groups of American-Jews. This study will examine the question of polarization on a number of key issues.

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