A survey commissioned by the Jewish Federation of New York
and conducted by the Israeli Institute for Democracy's Gutman
Center in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of
Soviet Jewry at the Lovda Institute in Moscow found that 80
percent of Jews from the former Soviet Union feel that they
are a part of the Jewish people and 75 percent are proud of
their Jewishness, especially among those under the age of
A significant portion of young respondents said they have
never felt antisemitism and they are respected for their
Jewishness by those surrounding them. In comparison, older
respondents, who in their youth felt inferiority and
helplessness and sometimes hid their Jewishness, said
antisemitism shaped their Jewish identity and without it they
would have been wholly unaware of their Jewishness.
Over half of those surveyed (59 percent) defined themselves
as "Jewish" without additional definitions and less than one-
third (31 percent) used compound definitions (e.g. "Russian-
Jew" or "Ukrainian Jew"). Sixty-nine percent said they keep
mitzvas and Jewish customs to some degrees. Sixty-one percent
believe efforts should be made to prevent or at least slow
down the assimilation process and 32 percent even think every
effort should be made to achieve this end.
Paradoxically many of them are themselves married to non-
Jews, which may indicate that most of the respondents do not
see the correlation between assimilation and intermarriage.
On the list of essential duties a Jew most undertake the
respondents ranked marrying a Jew last, compared to the duty
to remember the Holocaust (70 percent) or defend the Jewish
people's honor (58 percent). However, 66 percent said they
would prefer to see their children marry Jews.
The researchers say although most Jews feel a strong Jewish
identity, they are uninterested in strengthening their ties
with communal institutions and therefore they are more
accessible through informal channels. The survey, which was
conducted on a representative sample of 806 Jews from Russia
and the Ukraine half of whom are active in official Jewish
organizations, was presented at an international conference
on the identity of Jews from the former Soviet Union held in
Jerusalem last week.
According to official figures 230,000 Jews currently live in
Russia and 104,000 in the Ukraine, but most Jewish
organizations are convinced the real numbers are much higher.
Most of the survey participants also estimated between
400,000 and one million Jews reside in Russia.