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U.S. Jewish Teenagers Are Less Religious Than Catholic or Protestant

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A national conference ol Jewish youth group workers was told today that American Jewish teenagers tend to be less committed towards formalized religion than Catholic or Protestant adolescents.

But this tendency on the part of Jewish teenagers to be less accepting of dogma and not to be mistaken for lack of identification with their religions or disinterest, Dr. Danie D. Raylesberg of Bayside, New York, said in a paper delivered at the annual staff conference of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

Dr. Raylesberg, a psychologist-social group worker, said that Jewish adolescents–along with their non-Jewish contemporaries–go through a phase of questioning and doubting religious dogma and institutions, but with one major difference: “Jewish adolescents, on the average, seem to show a greater tendency to accept the teachings of science where these arc in apparent contradiction to the teachings of religion than do Protestants and Catholics.”

He suggested that the Jewish adolescent’s attitude towards religion is “related to the traditional respect within the Jewish group for learning and independent thought resulting in a more ready acceptance of modern science” He cited figures which showed that 56 percent of Jewish students questioned in a recent survey accepted the theory of evolution as opposed to 36 percent of Protestant students and 32 percent of Catholic student.

Dr.Raylesberg, who directs B’nai B’rith Youth Organization activities in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, said that although the questioning of religious dogma sometimes creates some confusion among Jewish adolescents, they seem to the able to work out satisfactory solutions.

“While the American Protestant or Catholic teenager perceives his religion as a distinct aspect of his life having to do with theology, worship, church and religious customs, the Jewish teenager faces a more confusing question–the age-old .md mode r question of “what is a Jew?” But out of this confusion, said Dr. Raylesberg, emerge: “a rationale for his membership in the Jewish people.”

“The Jewish adolescent,” Dr. Raylesbcrg said, “may Join a youth organization without thinking of himself as religious.” He discovers some of his Jewish friends have different points of view about Judaism and Jewish issues. Some attend Orthodox synagogues, same Conservative synagogues, some Reform temples, and some arc non-observant and almost atheistic.

“Some are ardent Zionists, and a few arc disinterested in Israel and sec no connection between it and their lives in America. Some observe dietary laws. Some do not. The Jewish adolescent soon notices that the Jewish group is heterogeneous in the conviction of its members on most Jewish matters but is united in a strong bond of feeling Jewish.”

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