Reports

MASORTIM AND MASORTIYUT IN ISRAEL

WORLDVIEWS, DISCOURSE, AND CULTURAL TRENDS

Gabriel Abensour

MASORTIM AND MASORTIYUT IN ISRAEL

The question of “Who is Masorti” is closely intertwined with the more complicated question of “What is Masortiyut,” which we will try to answer later in this study. Is Masortiyut a sociological affiliation group, along the lines of, for instance, Religious Zionism? Is it a degree of religiosity situated along the spectrum between “secular” and “Dati”? Or is it an adjective, a specific approach to Judaism, that can be combined with nouns, as in “secular-Masorti” and “religious-Masorti”? These questions directly pertain to methodological problems with public opinion surveys that use the term “Masorti” as defined in various ways, as well as with the analysis of data obtained from such surveys. Thus, the share of Masortim in Israeli society varies significantly from one survey to another depending on the number of choices offered and the assumptions underpinning the term “Masorti” – as a degree of religiosity or as a sociocultural identity.

The Social Survey of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), an annual survey that provides up-to-date information on the Israeli populace, places “Masorti” in the “religiosity level” category. Respondents have to describe their level of religiosity according to five options: ultra-Orthodox, Dati, Masorti-religious, Masorti-not-so-religious, and secular. As of 2020, the Masorti public constituted a third of Israel’s Jewish population and was divided into two-thirds (20.6%) who self-defined as Masorti-not-so-religious and one third who self-defined as Masorti-religious (12.6%).1 From a gender perspective, the share of women who self-identify as Masorti is slightly larger (35%) than the share of men (31%).2

Very different data were obtained from a comprehensive survey by Rosner and Fuchs, published in 2019, in which the interviewees could choose between the following definitions: totally secular, secular-somewhat-Masorti, Masorti, liberal-Dati, Dati, Torani-Dati, Haredi. Although the wording of the question still obliged the respondents to define their “level of religiosity,” the addition of the “liberal-Dati” and “secular-somewhat-Masorti” categories effectively turned Masortiyut from a noun into an adjective, without compromising the respondents’ self-identification with the secular or the religious tribes. In this instance, the share of those who define themselves as Masorti dropped to 19%, versus 34% in the CBS Social Survey of that year. Cross-referencing the data made it possible to determine that the outflow was mainly from Masorti to secular-somewhat-Masorti (21%), and to liberal-Dati (5%).3

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