Very interesting data on the observance of Jewish religious traditions and rites, temple attendance, composition of the congregations and the membership’s attitude toward Hebrew in the service and the topics of sermons were made public by the Commission on Research of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the national organization of Reform congregations in the United States.
The Commission, headed by Dr. Lee K. Frankel, pursuant to a resolution adopted at a recent convention of the Union, sent out a questionnaire to the members of Reform congregations, requesting answers to a series of questions pertaining to cultural, religious and social phases of Jewish life as lived by the members.
While fifty per cent of those who responded to the questionnaire stated that they do not fast on Yom Kippur, it appears that ninety per cent observe Jahrzeit, attending temple and reciting the prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, on the anniversary of the death of close relatives. The proportion of temple members who are of East European origin is markedly increasing; over 20 per cent of the temple members are Zionists and the proportion is increasing among the younger generation, notwithstanding the traditional opposition of Reform to the Zionist movement.
There is a definite desire for a decrease in the use of Hebrew in the temple services, as there is a marked decrease in emphasis on Hebrew in the curriculum of the religious schools maintained by the temples. Sermons on books and plays are most popular, political and economic subjects ranking second in popularity and sermons on purely religious subjects last. Three-quarters of the temple membership belong to the federations of Jewish charities and over fifty per cent contribute in addition for other philanthropic purposes.
These and other salient facts are brought out in the report of the Commission, which states:
These findings are the result of the study of the responses of 2,205 members of reform congregations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Los Angeles and Newark, to a questionnaire requesting information about various manifestations of Jewish life in their homes. These 2,205 responses represent a return from 10.1 per cent of the total of 21,712 homes included in our lists.
The group who responded to our questionnaire were found to be representative of the better-than-average rather than of the average, type of members of Reform Congregations in the large cities. The results secured from the tabulation of these 2.205 responses were therefore interpolated and adjusted, in accordance with sound statistical techniques, to bring them to reflect the status of the average type as if we had been able to secure a 75 to 100 per cent response from our constituency.
The findings described below are based upon these interpolated and adjusted figures and may therefore be regarded as typical of our constituency.
1. Temple membership is composed largely of men over forty years of age (70 per cent over 40 years of age; 30 per cent under forty years.)
2. The proportion of Temple members who are of East European origin is increasing markedly.
3. About one-fourth of the members of Reform Congregation are college graduates.
4. About two-thirds of the members of Reform Congregations have received a religious education equivalent to Confirmation or better.
5. Eleven per cent of Temple members are professional men, the proportion being about twice as large as among the general population. Forty per cent are business men and fifteen per cent are employees.
6. Fifteen per cent of Temple members are single, the remainder being married.
7. Members of Reform Congregations have very small families, the average number of children being two per family. Only nine per cent of our families have four or more children. Foreign born parents have on the average one child more per family than native parents. The same holds true when we contrast college graduates with those who merely completed Elementary School, the latter having larger families.
8. Members of Reform congregations who were born in this country have received, on the whole, a better religious education than those who are foreign-born and also tend to give their children a better religious education.
9. The curriculum of the religious schools shows a marked decrease in emphasis on Hebrew as decade follows decade, coupled with a marked increase in emphasis on Jewish History, especially on the Post-Biblical periods.
10. Although the prevalence of religious education among children of members of Reform Congregations shows a marked increase from generation to generation, even at the present time only three out of every four (Continued on Page 4)
children of school age are attending religious school.
11. College men who are members of Temples send fewer of their children to religious school, but keep those whom they do send, in school much longer.
12. Those who have had least religious education themselves send their children to religious schools in the largest proportions, while those who have had the most Jewish education send their children least.
13. Children of the wealthy receive less formal religious education than others.
14. The ceremony of Confirmation is increasing in popularity and prevalence.
15. Attendance at religious high schools is increasing very rapidly from year to year, having doubled in each of the last two generations.
16. Some kind of Jewish periodical is read in two out of every three homes of members of Reform Congregations.
17. Religious education has not tended to increase affiliations with Jewish institutions of social, philanthropic and cultural nature in the last three generations. Secular education influences affiliations more than religious education.
18. Temple members rank very high in the number of their affiliations with Jewish institutions. Three quarters belong to Federations of Charities and over fifty per cent contribute in addition to other philanthropic institutions. Temple Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods enroll members of two-thirds of the families.
19. Despite the traditional opposition of Reform to Zionism in the past, more than twenty per cent of Temple members belong to the Zionist organization. The proportion is increasing among the younger men.
20. Bibles and prayer books are found in almost all homes of members of Reform Congregations. Less than half, however, have books on Bible, Religion, Jewish History and other Jewish subjects, and less than one-fourth have works of Jewish fiction.
21. The subject of Jewish interest most frequently discussed among Temple members today is the necessity for introducing changes in the Temple services and in other Temple activities, with a view to modernizing them.
22. The problem of anti-Jewish prejudice and discrimination is keenly felt among our members. It was listed as second in frequency of discussion.
23. Great interest is manifested in abstract problems of religion, which was listed as third in frequency.
24. The Jewish ceremonials most frequently observed among members of Reform Congregations are those connected with Temple attendance. Almost all families are represented in the Temple regularly on the High Holy Days and at least occasionally on the Sabbath. Seventy per cent also are represented in Temple on the other holidays. It must be borne in mind that these figures do not apply to individuals, but to families. The large attendance of women is responsible for these high family percentages. They would undoubtedly be much lower if we considered individuals.
25. Lighting Sabbath candles, lighting Chanukah candles and the Home Seder on Passover are definitely increasing in popularity among our members. All other traditional Jewish ceremonials are definitely decreasing in observance. One-half our families never light Chanukah candles, nor conduct a Seder, nor fast on Yom Kippur. Four-fifths of them never have the Kiddush ceremony on Friday night, and nine-tenths of them never have family services of worship or grace at mealtimes.
26. Less than ten per cent of men members of Reform Congregations remain away from business on Saturday for religious reasons.
27. Persons born in this country observe Jewish ceremonials less than persons who are foreign born.
28. College graduates observe the Jewish ceremonials less than non-college graduates.
29. Religious schooling has a definite tendency to increase ceremonial observance.
30. There is a very great demand among men members of Reform Congregations for services on Friday nights and Sunday mornings.
31. Among the factors to which our members attribute their feelings of Jewishness, Jewish birth and an upbringing in a Jewish home are ranked first. The feeling that Judaism still has the capacity to make important contributions to civilization was rated next in importance, and the appeal of the beliefs and ethics of Judaism was rated next.
32. Reform Jews have no Jewish superiority complex. The belief that Jews have superior qualities which ought to be perpetuated, was ranked last as a cause of the feeling of Jewishness.
33. Those who replied to our questionnaire are in favor of more responsive reading, more silent reading and meditations and more congregational singing in the services.
34. Our membership is strongly opposed to increasing the amount of Hebrew read in the services.
35. Sermons on books and plays are the most popular among our membership. Sermons on political and economic subjects rank second in popularity and sermons on purely religious subjects rank last.
36. Sentiment in favor of free and unassigned pews is increasing.
37. Our membership is strongly opposed to increasing the sessions of the religious schools to twice a week.
38. There is a strong demand for adult classes for instruction in Judaism among our members.
39. Our membership is strongly in favor of revising the Prayer book.
40. Sentiment was about evenly divided on the following questions: (a) the desirability of having a Cantor; (b) the desirability of having children learn Hebrew in the religious school; and (c) the desirability of observing Jewish ceremonials in the home.
41. The amount of Jewish information possessed by the average Temple member today is less than that possessed by the average Confirmant of today. Women are better informed than the men, foreign born members than natives, and professional men than business men.
42. There is a marked relationship between the amount of Jewish information possessed by the individual and the number of his affiliations with Jewish institutions.
The Commission on Research also made a study of the large number of comments and criticisms made by persons who answered the questionnaire. These comments touched upon three hundred and thirteen different subjects and cannot therefore be analyzed in a report of this size.
However, grouping them roughly, the following becomes apparent:
The number of comments on the Temple and its activities was greatest. Slightly smaller was the number of comments on the Rabbis and their ministry. Third in size was the number of comments on the problem of Jewish-Christian relationships. Comments on Jews and Judaism were next, followed by comments on Jewish Education. Comments on ceremonials and the home trailed far in the rear. One hundred and twenty-nine people made concrete suggestions for the welfare of Judaism which may prove very valuable indeed.
A considerable amount of research was done to determine the veracity, reliability and validity of the information secured by the questionnaire. Although the statistical details cannot be given here, it is sufficient to say that the questionnaire proved satisfactory in all these respects.
Tribute to Maxwell Goldstein, K. C., as one of the leading members of the Bar of the Province of Quebec and as a public-spirited man, was paid by leaders of the Jewish community here as a testimonial dinner given by the Congregation Temple Emanu-El at the Montefiore Club, Monrreal.
Peter Bercovitch, one of the two Jewish members of the Quebec Legislative Assembly, paid tribute to the guest of honor. Michael Hirsch, honorary president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies; Rabbi Harry J. Stem, pastor of the Temple Emanu-EI, and Nathan Gordon praised Mr. Goldstein for his philanthropic work and as a leader of Reform Judaism in Canada.
The Hebrew Technical School for Girls. New York, marked its fiftieth anniversary at the commencement exercises held last night at the school building. More than 150 young women received diplomas as graduates of the commercial, industrial and professional departments of the institution.
Miss Helen Livingstone, principal of the technical school, presided. Dr. Leon W. Goldrich, executive director of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, addressed the graduates
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.