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Study suggests a more liberal European Jewry

BERLIN (JTA) — European Jewish leaders believe that conversion, intermarriage and communal membership should be dealt with more liberally, a new study finds.

In a survey of 251 Jewish leaders in Europe conducted last fall, 85 percent of respondents felt it was "not a good idea to strongly oppose intermarriage and bar intermarried Jews and their spouses from communal membership." Most European Jewish communities now allow only those with a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion to be counted.

The results of the pan-European survey, which was sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s International Centre for Community Development, were released late Sunday by the JDC. The Gallup Europe survey included respondents from 31 countries.

In more survey results, fewer than 27 percent of respondents felt that only those who were born to a Jewish mother or who have undergone an Orthodox conversion should be allowed to become a member of the community. Even among those describing themselves as Orthodox or Modern Orthodox, 43 percent believed that those who have undergone conversion under rabbinic supervision from any denomination should be allowed to join. Similarly, 46 percent of Orthodox respondents agreed that one Jewish parent was enough to justify membership in communal organizations.

While many younger Jewish leaders expressed pessimism about Jewish life in Europe, the vast majority of all respondents agreed that Europe is a safe place for Jews to live, with only 15 percent of those under 40 and 5 percent of those over 55 disagreeing.

Supporting Israel was the third highest priority among respondents, but nearly half said they were sometimes “ashamed” by the actions of the Israeli government. Also, about 75 percent agreed at least somewhat that events in Israel sometimes led to an increase of anti-Semitism in their countries. Respondents, however, expressed strong support for Israel overall.

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