Monday, July 07, 2008
Secular Don't Want 'Judaism' - But Seek 'Torah'
A survey shows that 79% of secular Jews in Israel don't want to learn Judaism. Outreach groups say the situation they encounter is very different.
The survey was commissioned by the Gesher Institute and Ynet, and was carried out by the Motagim polling institute among 500 Jewish adult respondents - hareidi-religious, religious-Zionist, and secular.Asked if they study Judaism, 10% said they do not but would like to, while 60% said they do not and are not interested in doing so. Among the remaining 30%, slightly more than a quarter study Torah in an organized framework such as a yeshiva or university.
Analysis of the results shows that among those who are secular, 79% say they have no interest in studying Judaism.
Shwartz and Ze'ira: "There is a great thirst for Torah, in a big way."
Meir Shwartz, Chairman of the Lev Yehudi (Jewish Heart) outreach organization, said that this finding flies in the face of his personal experience: "We see that there is simply a great thirst for Judaism, and we can now say that most of the secular schools in the country teach Judaism - at least one hour a week, and usually more - with observant teachers."
Yisrael Ze'ira, head of the Rosh Yehudi (Jewish Mindset) organization, said, "There is big difference between asking secular Jews if they want to learn Judaism or if they want to study Torah. The word Judaism is still associated with the negative way in which religion and religious Jews are portrayed in the media. But we see that in practice, the trend is exactly the opposite; there is a great thirst for 'Torah,' in a big way. In our Rosh Yehudi centers, we see that new people keep coming to join us and to study Torah with us - and they generally ask, 'Where have you been hiding until now?'"
"What is needed now," Ze'ira said, "is for religious people to present, in a pleasant manner, the Torah as the great and sublime thing that it is, not in the small-minded way it is sometimes portrayed; the time for action has arrived."
Religion and the Media
The survey also dealt with "religion and the media." When the respondents were asked how they view the media's coverage of Judaism-related topics, the answer "negatively and vacuously" was chosen more than any of the other answers. This trend was clear in all three groupings - hareidi-religious, religious-Zionist, and secular. A total of 25% chose this answer, while 19% said the media covers Judaism as a political agenda. 18% were satisfied with the coverage, 7% said there was too much coverage, and the others did not respond.