Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Teves 5768 - December 27, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Most Soviet Jews Feel Like Part of Jewish People

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 30.

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.


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