Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

Differences in Jewish Americans’ Denominational Affiliation

The distribution of denominational affiliation among American Jews

This post is part of a series that revisits findings from the Pew Research Center’s Jewish Americans in 2020 report. The full report can be downloaded here. This series of posts highlights key findings from the report, offering them as the basis for community discussions. This Friday’s post looks at the distribution of American Jews by denominational affiliation.

Among religious American Jews, there is considerable diversity in religious belief and practice. In this post, I present data on the distribution of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and other affiliations within the religion, as well as those who do not affiliate with any organized branch.

The line graph below comes from this Pew report. It describes changes in American Jews’ denominational affiliation between 2013 and 2020. At first glance, it is tempting to interpret long-term trajectories from these two data points. These findings cannot strongly justify any kind of argument about long-term trends, given that the numbers are so similar and there are so few time periods.

However, meaning can be drawn from the ordinal ranking. More culturally assimilated denominations — like Reform, Conservative, and the unaffiliated — represent 8 to 9 out of 10 Jews. About two-thirds of all Jews are either in the most assimilated sect of American Judaism (Reform) or are unaffiliated. Only one-tenth of surveyed Jews self-reported as Orthodox, and I would wager that most of them are Modern Orthodox.

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