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Younger Jews have more nuanced view of Israel, survey finds

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A new survey shows an increased attachment to Israel for non-Orthodox American Jews younger than 35, adding to the notion of a "Birthright Bump," one of the survey’s leaders said.

The Workmen’s Circle poll found that non-Orthodox Jews younger than 35 are substantially more attached to Israel than those aged 35 to 44. Attachment dropped in the 45-to-54 age cohort and further still in the 55-to-64 grouping.

The Internet survey of 1,000 American Jews was conducted in late April and early May by Steven M. Cohen of the Berman Jewish-Policy Archive at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College and Stanford University.

Cohen said the survey shows the cumulative impact of Birthright Israel in bringing so many young Jews to Israel.

“While this finding is the first statistically significant results of its kind, it’s very suggestive and very policy relevant,” Cohen said in a statement. “Should other evidence of a similar nature emerge, we will have mounting support for the notion of what could be called the ‘Birthright Bump.’ ”

Cohen said the bump is a trend upward in Israel attachment for an entire cohort of young people, owing to their far more frequent travel to Israel due in large part to Birthright trips. Birthright Israel has sent nearly 300,000 Jews aged 18 to 26 to Israel since 2000.

Israel attachment to Israel was based on two questions: “How emotionally attached are you to Israel?” and “To what extent do you see yourself as pro-Israel?”

According to the survey, Jews under 35 and those 35-44 also expressed far less enthusiasm for Israel’s stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On a Trust in Israeli Leaders index ranging from 0 to 100, the younger respondents scored about 20 points lower than their parents’ age groups.

“Apparently, while attachment to Israel and trust in Israeli leaders are correlated, they are not the same sentiment,” Abrams said in a statement. “Among those under 35, people in my own age demographic, Jews can be both attached to Israel and assume fairly independent if not skeptical stances toward Israeli government policies.”

The sample excluded Orthodox and Jewish day school alumni in order to loosely mirror the Birthright-eligible population.

Cohen said that the upturn in Israel attachment for younger Jews is not due to increasing Jewish engagement on their part. Their frequency of attending synagogue services largely resembles that found among those 35-44. In fact, the younger Jews are less likely to report that half or more of their close friends are Jewish.

“In other words, they’re not more attached to Israel because they’re more attached to being Jewish,” Cohen said in a statement.

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