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September 20, 2015 12:03 pm

Survey: Israel’s Progressive Jews Are Equal in Number to Haredi Jews

avatar by Michael Zeff / Tazpit News Agency

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The global Jewish population is nearly 16 million. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The global Jewish population is nearly 16 million. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A new survey shows that progressive Jews are now equal in number to haredi Jews in Israel.

According to the results of this year’s Smith Consulting Co. survey for the NGO, “Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality,” nine percent of Israeli Jews belong to one of the two major streams of Progressive Judaism, with 4% identifying as Conservative Jews and 5% as Reform Jews. This shows, for the first time, that the progressive Jewish publication is equal in size to the haredi sector, with 8% identifying as haredi and an additional 1% identifying as nationalist-haredi (haredi leumi).

“This is the first time our survey categorized according to a particular stream,” Shahar Ilan, vice president of research and information for Hiddush, told Tazpit. “We usually survey according to political voting groups and according to level of religious belief, from secular to very devout.”

Additional data shows that about 50% of the population does not officially belong to, or consider itself part of, any particular religious stream or denomination of Judaism. Furthermore, 21% identify as nationalist-religious Jews or religious zionists (dati leumi).

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According to Ilan, until recently no demographic research or survey has explored the Conservative and Reform streams in Israel, as they were considered too small in number to properly survey.

“These findings were very surprising for us, as we discovered that the progressive Jewish population is sizable enough to analyze statistically and is even equal to the influential haredi sector,” Ilan told Tazpit.

Indeed, a more analytical reading of the survey statistics shows that in addition to dispelling the misconception of the progressive Jewish community’s size, the survey also negates other stereotypes.

While progressive Judaism is often associated in Israel with immigrants from Western European and North American countries, the survey shows that only 8% of Israelis who immigrated from those countries belong to the Reform or Conservative streams, while immigrants from Asian and Arab countries in progressive Judaism constitute 9%. Out of the general population, 10% of native Israeli Jews associate with progressive Judaism.

“These numbers and proportions of Israeli Jews who practice progressive Judaism suggest that maybe now politicians will have to take this sector into consideration as well,” concluded Ilan.

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