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The Direction of Denominational Switching in Judaism

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This research note examines patterns of denominational switching and the characteristics of switchers within Judaism in the United States. Viewing orthodox, conservative, and reform Judaism and a fourth “nonspecific” group as categories that range from the most traditional to the least traditional, respectively, we focus on the movement of individuals toward or away from a more traditional denomination in comparison with remaining in the same denomination in which they were raised. The data were drawn from the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) 2000–2001 (NJPS 2003). We found that 62 percent stay within the same group, 29 percent move away from tradition, and 9 percent move to a more traditional denomination. Multivariate logistic regression analyses show that a lower level of Jewish background, higher previous travel to Israel, a greater extent of organizational affiliation, and a higher level of spiritual feelings and beliefs are associated with moving to a more traditional denomination whereas a higher level of Jewish background, lower previous travel to Israel, and a lower level of spiritual feelings and beliefs are associated with moving to a less traditional denomination. In addition, a few sociodemographic factors (previously married, has a child at home, lives in a western state) are associated with movement toward tradition whereas others (older age, female, not living in the northeast or west) are associated with movement in the other direction.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Roberta G. Sands is a Professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, 3701 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-62104., Email: 2: Steven C. Marcus is a Research Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice., Email: 3: Rivka Danzig, Instructor, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice.

Publication date: September 1, 2006


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