Reform vs Conservative vs Orthodox Judaism

Wondering if anyone could answer this question for me:

Of Jewish people in America today, about what percent are in Reform Judaism, what percent in Conservative Judaism, and what percent in Orthodox Judaism?

I’m just looking for approximations.

Also, does anyone know which of these groups are growing, or shrinking, as far as population?

According to Pew research conducted in 2013, Reform Jews make up 35% of Jews in the U.S., Conservative Jews are 18%, Orthodox Jews are 10%, Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal Jews combined constitute 6%, and a whopping 30% of American Jews are non-denominational and unaffiliated with any synagogue. At the same time, Reform Judaism is declining while Orthodox Judaism is increasing among the young. The intermarriage rate of all Jews (with non-Jews) in the U.S. is 58%, and for non-Orthodox Jews, it is 71%. In most of these marriages, the children are not raised Jewish. This percentage has been rising since the 1970’s and has now reached an all-time high. Yet even secular, cultural Jews, who may be agnostic or atheist, still have some allegiance toward Israel as the Jewish homeland though not necessarily toward the Israeli settlements with regard to the prospect of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. And even essentially non-religious and atheist Jews have some identity with the Jewish people if not the religion.

I have heard of all of these except reconstructionist and renewal. What is that group about, Meltzerboy? Where do they fit on the continuum from Orthodox to Reform?

Sadly, most American Jews are not affiliated with any synagogue. Intermarriage has greatly reduced the number of Americans who consider themselves Jewish.

A study from 2001:

The core American Jewish population has declined from about 5.5 million in 1990 to about 5.3 million. However, the number of persons who are of Jewish origin – including those who have another religion – has increased from 6.8 million in 1990 to nearly 7.7 million.

Approximately 1 million American households – 15 percent more than in 1990 – report affiliation with a Jewish congregation. Forty-one percent of them belong to a Reform temple, 41 percent to a Conservative synagogue and 18 percent to Orthodox. In 1990, 35 percent of affiliated households belonged to Reform, 43 percent to Conservative and 16 percent to Orthodox.

More core Jews – 30 percent – identify with Reform than with any other movement. Some 24 percent identify with Conservative, 8 percent with Orthodox, 1 percent with Reconstructionist and 1 percent with Humanistic Judaism.

Both are progressive movements but in different ways. Reconstructionist is more liberal and is an offshoot of Conservative Judaism, while Jewish Renewal is based on Hasidic Orthodox Judaism but professes to be transdenominational. Actually, some Orthodox Jews do not like the term “denominations” to describe the movements of Judaism. They prefer to call Jews either more or less orthodox, while they regard themselves as Torah Jews. And some Torah Jews do not consider other streams of Judaism to be representative of Judaism at all although the Jewish members of these movements are recognized by the Orthodox as Jews. Of course, Orthodox (Torah) Judaism itself is far from unified on all points, consisting of traditional, modern, several Hasidic, as well as non-Hasidic Haredi branches.

Then you have the sect " Jews for Jesus" which is gaining in popularity, don’t know where they fit in, a leg in both camps I think. Or neither one or the other.

“Jews for Jesus” is a Messianic movement which melds rabbinical Judiasm with protestant Christianity. Its very harmful imho because they refuse to use Christian terminology which leads to a large amount of them rejecting basic Christian doctrine like the Trinity, the Hypo static Union, and other major concepts. This stems from them rejecting apostolic Christian tradition and replacing it with 15th-century Jewish tradition. Their intentions are good though.

As far as Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox goes… Vast majority of Jews in America are secular and go to synagogue maybe once or twice a year if that. 99% of these secular jews goes to a reform synagogue when doing so. Then there is conservative Judaism which is basically indistinguishable from reform Judaism these days and is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Maybe 10% of jews in America belong to it, but I doubt it. he rest are Orthodox Jews which remain faithful to Tanakh and the Talmud although they have many divisions amongst themselves over some pretty major things. In Israel almost all Jews are Orthodox but in America less than 15% are.

Thank you all for the responses :slight_smile:

Just to clarify, when you talk about Jews that are “not affiliated” or are “non-denominational”, does that mean non-religious Jews (like say a Jewish atheist), or does it refer to religious Jews that are just not affiliated with a particular Synagogue?

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) only began to differentiate between Jewish ‘schools’ (probably more appropriate than denominations), in its 2010 Report.

In its 1990 Report, it found that there were 5,982,529 Jews in the United States, with 3,975 congregations. This constituted 2.4% of the total population.

In its 2000 Report, there were 6,141,325 Jews in the United States, with 3,727 congregations, constituting 2.1% of the total population. So… while there were almost 200,000 more Jews, around 200 synagogues closed, this is a clear sign that Jews as a total became less religious during this time.

In its 2010 Report, the ARDA differentiated between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews. The numbers in that report were:

Orthodox Jews: 947,020 adherents, 1,932 congregations, 0.3% of the population
Conservative Jews: 501,776 adherents, 592 congregations, 0.16% of the population
Reform Jews: 766,352 adherents, 845 congregations, 0.25% of the population

It did also list the Reconstructionist Jews referred to by meltzerboy.

Reconstructionist Jews: 41,436 adherents, 95 congregations, 0.01% of the population
The only other relevant entries were two entries for Messianic Jews:
“Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations” had 65 congregations associated with it.
“Association of Messianic Congregations” had 12 congregations associated with it.

The total of the 4 Jewish groups there is: 2,256,584 Jews, 3,369 congregations, .72% of the population.

So, roughly 3.8 million people are no longer considered to be religious by the ARDA’s methodology. They only keep track of religoius bodies and their membership, congregations, etc. Those 3.8 million Jews are now lumped in to the 51.2% of the American population which is “unclaimed” to be the member of any religious body. So, they’re now part of 158 million Americans not listed with a religious body.

So, roughly 60% of Jews are not even members of a religious body. But, the members that are listed, may also not be practicing… so that number is probably higher. These numbers are only claimed members, and don’t reflect who practices.

Orthodox Jews are clearly the most religious of the Jews, but, since there are unlikely to be many “unaffiliated” Orthodox Jews, they do constitute around 1/6 of all Jews in America, if we’re still using the 6 million number, which includes all the cultural, secular, ethnic Jews, etc. who are again, not members of a religious body according to the ARDA.

If this were Yahoo answers, I’d request to be voted up as the best answer :smiley:
This is the product of a lot of demographics and statstics number crunching from a poli-sci major :tiphat:

Wait, the top post says there are more Reform Jews than Orthodox, and the bottom one says there are more Orthodox than Reform…

Both. I certainly would not say that all secular Jews are atheistic. However, the idea of a religious Jew who is not affiliated is a contradiction in terms. Much like the “devout Catholic” who never goes to Church.

It is worth noting that the whole concept of Reform and Conservative Judaism is controversial within world Judaism. Many Jews outside the US and western Europe would reject the legitimacy of such modernist movements.

Two corrections: first, in Israel, most Jews are secular, not Orthodox; and second, Conservative Judaism is a legitimate and distinguishable movement from that of Reform Judaism. Perhaps from the perspective of Orthodox Judaism, it is indistinguishable, but not from the perspective of Reform Judaism. Conservative Judaism was created as a reaction to Reform Judaism, which it believed went too far in reinterpreting orthodox principles.

Well, I think both meltzerboy and I are right. As I tried to explain in my post, the source which I used only counts members of religious bodies.

So, if I were to combine meltzerboy’s figures with the number of synagogues that there are:

35% of America’s Jews are Reform, yet there are only 845 Reform synagogues in this country.
Only 10% of America’s Jews are Orthodox, yet there are a whopping 1,932 Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

So, the vast majority of the 60% of American Jews who are not members of a religious body (are not registered with a synagogue as a member) are Reform Jews.

Taken purely from a religious perspective, the Jewish religion in this country, is predominately Orthodox. The majority of Jews in this country are not religious, and so classify as secular Jews, cultural Jews, ethnic Jews, even political Jews via Zionism.

But, they are not religious. Many Reform and Conservative Jews are not religious, while the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are religious.

I see, thanks!

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