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New Study Shows U.S. Jews Proud About Link to Social Justice

April 11, 2001
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The following number are some of the highlights of a new study on American Jews and social justice:

94 percent agree that “social justice work by Jewish organizations makes me proud to be a Jew.”

85 percent disagree that “Jews have enough problems of their own without worrying about broader society.”

The social causes that the largest number of respondents “strongly favor” are assuring freedom of choice for women seeking abortions, ensuring access to affordable health care and fighting anti-Semitism. Of the predominantly left- wing causes examined by the study, “declaring a moratorium on” capital punishment was the only one that a majority (53 percent) opposed.

More than half are not familiar with the Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam.” Literally, the phrase means repairing the world, and has been loosely interpreted to mean a Jewish obligation to work for social justice.

Asked if they would rather volunteer to help needy Americans with a Jewish group or a nonsectarian group, only 15 percent chose a Jewish group, while 73 percent said it would not matter.

Sixty-nine percent associate the term “social justice” with both Judaism and Christianity, while 8 percent associate it only with Judaism and 23 percent associate it with neither. Of the 49 percent who said they had participated in a social justice activity, 24 percent had participated in one sponsored by a synagogue.

Making the world a better place ranked highest as the activity most personally meaningful for being Jewish, followed by belief in God and celebrating Jewish holidays. Ranking lowest were keeping up with Jewish art, music or literature, and studying Torah and other Jewish texts.

Asked to choose which is more important as a Jew – studying Torah or working for social justice – 56 percent chose social justice, while 36 percent said both are equally important.

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