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2017 Annual Assessment

Jewish Identification

The Jewish identification of Israelis abroad is weaker than that of Jews in Israel. This is especially so in regard to ongoing religious behaviors such as keeping the dietary laws, synagogue attendance, and lighting Sabbath candles. The differences between Jewish Israelis abroad and those in Israel are much less pronounced with respect to the intermittent rituals of fasting on Yom Kippur and Passover Seder attendance (Table 4.1). One major explanation for these differences is the low rate of religious and ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) Jews among Israelis abroad.22

USA Germany France Latin America FUSSR Jews in Israel
Synagogue attendance (once a month +) 24.0 4.6 22.4 34.2 21.1 45.1
Lighting Sabbath candles (always) 34.0 14.8 53.6
Fast on Yom Kippur 62 14.3 68.5 69.6 57.6 68.1
Seder attendance 90.0 67.2 85.9 85 71.6 94.8
Keep dietary laws 42.0 33.3 32.1 35.1 71.4

Sources: 2013 US Pew survey; 2014 Israeli Pew survey; Rebhun and Pupko, 2010; Rebhun, Sunker, Kranz (in preparation)

Substantial variations in Jewish identification exist according to country of settlement. High levels were found among Israelis in the United States and South America. Jewish identification of Israelis in the FSU, many of whom are return migrants (i.e., Jews who immigrated to Israel and later returned to the origin country) is slightly lower. Jewish identification is especially weak among Israelis in Germany. This can be attributed, among other things, to their socio-demographic profile: young, unmarried, of secular familial background, and left-leaning political attitudes.23

Jewish identification strengthens with the prolongation of time abroad. Insights into Israelis in three large U.S. communities (Boston, Miami and Los Angeles) show that among those who are in the United States for more than ten years the Jewish Community Center (JCC) membership rate is 75 percent higher than for their counterparts with a tenure of less than a decade. The proportion of synagogue membership and of those who keep the Jewish dietary laws is 25 to 30 percent higher among veteran Israeli emigres than the more recent Israeli arrivals. The differentials by tenure for lightening Sabbath and Chanukah candles is 12 and 10 percent, respectively (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1: Ratio of Percentage of Jewish Ritual and Communal Affiliation among Veteran Israelis (More than 10 Years) and Recent Israeli Immigrants (10 Years or Less) in the United States

Israeli Identification

Israelis abroad have various ways of maintaining contacts with Israel. The major and most common one is through family: between two-thirds of Israelis in Latin America to as high as 98 percent of Israelis in the UK maintain ongoing contacts with relatives in Israel. Contacts with friends in the home country are less frequent, albeit quite intensive: approximately half of the Israelis in the United States and close to three-fourths of Israelis in the United Kingdom reported that they have constant contact with their friends in Israel. About eight out of every ten Israelis residing in the UK pay a visit to Israel at least once a year; this is true for about two-thirds of the Israelis in the United States and France. Among Israelis in other countries, less than half travel to Israel on a yearly basis (Table 4.2).

Approximately half the Israelis in the United States belong to informal Israeli social networks. Among Israelis in the United Kingdom the rate is slightly lower, about 40 percent. In other countries Israelis mainly integrate either into local Jewish social circles or the general non-Jewish society. Between one-third and one-half of Israelis abroad regularly surf Israeli websites with only slight variations between Israeli communities (Table 4.2).

USA UK France Germany FUSSR Latin America
Contacts with family in Israel 90.6 97.8 73.3 91.3 81.6 67.1
Contacts with friends in Israel 52.3 72.5 53.9 59.9 68 43
Visits to Israel (once a year or more) 64.2 86.8 67.8 47.8 47.8 36.9
Israeli friends (most/all) 51.3 40.7 16.5 16.5 19.0
Surf Israeli websites (a lot) 45.2 35.2 49.5 30.0 46.7 51.3

Sources: Rebhun and Pupko, 2011; Rebhun, Sunker, Kranz (in preparation)

As time abroad elapses, ties to Israel weaken. While about 85 percent of Israelis living in the United States for ten years or less indicated that they are strongly attached to Israel, this was true for only 79.1 percent among the more veteran immigrants with a tenure of 11 years or more. The respective rates for familiarity with the social and political situation in Israel are 92.3 and 69.8 percent respectively; and for defining oneself as Israeli – 88.5 and 62.8 percent respectively. Similarly, among Israelis in Germany, the intensity of contacts with family and friends in Israel declines over time as does the frequency of visiting Israel (Table 4.3).

Table 4.3: Israeli Identification among Israelis in the U.S. and Germany by Tenure (Percentages and Ratio)
0-10 Years 11 Years + Ratio
US: Attachment to Israel 84.6 79.1 0.93
US: Acquaintance with situation in Israel 92.3 69.8 0.76
U.S.: Israeli identity 88.5 62.8 0.71
Germany: Contacts with family 93.0 83.9 0.90
Germany: Contacts with friends 62.7 45.8 0.73
Germany: Visits to Israel (twice a year+) 50.1 37.2 0.75

Sources: Rebhun and Pupko, 2011; Rebhun, Sunker, Kranz (in preparation)