2021 Annual Assessment

The Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People

PROJECT HEAD: Shmuel Rosner

Dan Feferman, Shlomo Fischer, Shuki Friedman, Avi Gil, Inbal Hakman, Michael Herzog, Gitit Levy-Paz, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, Uzi Rebhun, John Ruskay, Noah Slepkov, Adar Schieber, Yedidia Stern, Shalom Salomon Wald

Barry Geltman

2021 Annual Assessment

The main trends that have affected world Jewry this past year can be divided into two categories: internal dynamics relating to identity, self-definition, preservation of tradition, and the like; and dynamics pertaining to Jewish involvement with world events, which also have an impact on Jewish identity and cohesion.

The first category includes such matters as polarization between Jewish subgroups, the rising share of Jews of no religion, political instability in Israel, challenges affecting younger Diaspora Jews’ attitudes toward Israel, and more. The present year has seen developments on these fronts, and the publication of new data; but for the most part trends have persisted with no dramatic change. This is true regarding the following issues: secular-Haredi relations in Israel; mixed marriages in the Diaspora; and questions pertaining to Israel’s place in Jewish identity, and how the religious component should be weighted compared with the cultural and ethical components (the exception is Israeli political stability – should the new government prove to endure in the medium or long term).

The other category includes issues such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued rise in antisemitism. Trends have begun to change this year on these matters, going beyond perpetuation of the status quo or affirmation of what was already known. The pandemic, after all, was a new element with which the Jewish world had never had to contend. Also, the antisemitic incidents in the US, and especially the manifestations of hate on the far left, undermined the community’s sense of security.

In other words: the Jewish world is coping with its regular challenges while also facing new ones, first and foremost COVID-19 and rising antisemitism. This situation requires that the Jewish leadership as a whole display extreme caution in setting priorities. In particular, it is essential that the Israeli government and the Jewish institutions address urgent problems while avoiding the addition of yet more challenges to an already-overloaded agenda, especially those generated by intra-Jewish initiatives of the kind that spark new tensions.