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Who reads the “Haggadah” all the way through?

The Jewish People Policy Institute ‘s (JPPI) Israeli Judaism project has revealed that the majority of Israeli Jews read the Haggadah in its entirety at Passover Seders. Given two versions of the same question, 64% of Jews replied that they read all of the Haggadah (version 1) or “the entire Haggadah, including the part that is read after the meal.”

Multiple studies show that Passover Seder participation is one of the most common practices of both Israeli and non-Israeli Jews. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 93% of Israeli Jews took part in a Passover Seder “last year.” According to the 2013 Pew study of Jewish Americans, 70% of U.S. Jewry has participated in a Passover Seder “last year”). In 2009, the Guttman Center for Surveys of the Israel Democracy Institute found that 90% of Jews believe that it is “very important” to participate in a Passover Seder. According to 2009 Israel Central Bureau of Statistics findings, 88% of Jews who self-identify as secular or Masorti (traditional) participate in a Passover Seder (the percentage was higher among religious and Haredi Jews).

In a Jewish People Policy Institute survey for the Israeli Judaism project (the survey was conducted in late 2017 and early 2018), 97% of Jews responded “yes” to the question: “Do you host or participate in a Passover Seder?”. It is one of the only practices Judaism in Israel that is almost equally observed across the spectrum of Jewish sectors (including 93% of “totally secular” Jews, the sector with the lowest participation rate in Passover Seders). In that way, according to the survey findings, the Passover Seder is similar to another family dinner an absolute majority of Jews attend: Rosh Hashanah (also attended by 97% of Israeli Jews).

There is a problem in asking only about participation in a Passover Seder because it does not allow us to know exactly what “participation” means for different Jews. JPPI`s Israeli Judaism research project aims to address such problems by posing more-specific questions, including one on how many Jews read the Haggadah in its entirety. As mentioned, most Jews read the Haggadah to completion, but there are major differences along the religious spectrum.

As expected, when Passover Seder participants are more religious, the likelihood that they read the entire Haggadah increases. It is worth mentioning that a majority of Jews from all seven sectors delineated by JPPI (except one, the “completely secular”) read the entire Haggadah. According to JPPI’s senior fellow, Dr. Shlomo Fischer, a sociologist, this finding shows that the “The Passover Seder of Israelis has remained a highly traditional Jewish ritual.”

(The seven sectors are: completely secular, secular traditional, traditional, religious liberal, religious, national Haredi, and Haredi.) 71% of Jews who self-identify as totally secular read only parts of the Haggadah, and only a smaller 22% claims to read the entire Haggadah. The “totally secular” group may be an anomaly, but it is the largest of the 7 sectors, comprising 31% of Israeli Jews.

Do those who read the entire Haggadah necessarily keep kosher for Passover?

Do those who keep kosher for Passover necessarily read the entire Haggadah?

The answer to both questions is no.

Only 87% among the Haggadah readers keep kosher for Passover (meaning, 13% do not keep kosher for Passover) and 85% of the people who keep kosher for Passover read the entire Haggadah (which means that there are 15% of Israeli Jews who keep kosher for Passover but do not read the entire Haggadah). At bottom, this all means that 56% of Israeli Jews read the entire Haggadah and keep kosher for Passover.

And why even partake in the Seder? About 25% of Israeli Jews answered, “because the Torah said so”. For the rest, the answer is a combination of historical, cultural, and family related reasons.

The Jewish People Policy Institute’s Israeli Judaism project is headed by Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow of the institute, and Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, who is responsible for the survey and statistical analysis. Noah Speklov, a JPPI fellow, helped analyze the data, which was based on two rounds of questionnaires: the first round surveyed 2000 Israeli Jews and the second round included an additional 1000 respondents. This representative sample represents of Israel’s Jewish population the sampling error (based on all 3000 respondents) was 1.8%; for questions with fewer respondents, it grew accordingly.

The Jewish People Policy Institute (founded by the Jewish Agency) is a non-profit think tank. It aims to contribute to the Jewish people and civilization future by strategic thinking and long – term planning.

Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat Co-Chair JPPI; Avinoam Bar-Yosef is the Institute’s President.