Jewish Choices

American Jewish Denominationalism

By Bernard Lazerwitz, J. Alan Winter, Arnold Dashefsky, and Ephraim Tabory

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in American Jewish Society in the 1990s
Paperback : 9780791435823, 215 pages, December 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435816, 215 pages, December 1997

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Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures

American Jewish Society in the 1990s: An Introduction
Barry A. Kosmin and Sidney Goldstein

Andrew Greeley



1. Denominations in American Religious Life


Chapter Preview


2. A Sociohistorical Overview of American Jewish Denominations


The First Jewish Denomination: Reform Judaism
The Counter Reformation: Orthodox Judaism
The Centrist Denomination: Conservative Judaism
Denominational Development in Historical Retrospect
Denominational Differences: Homosexuality as a Case in Point
The Social Psychology of American Jewish Denominationalism



3. A General Description of the Adherents of American Jewish Denominations


The Two Surveys
The Population of Interest
Characterisitcs Associated with Differing Denomiational Preferences
Demographic and Socioeconomic Concomitants of Denominational Preferences
Religious and Jewish Community Involvement: 1971 and 1990
Consequential Dimensions of Denominational Preference
Jewish Denominations within the Context of America's Denominational Structure


4. The Components and Consequences of Jewish Involvement


The Models


5. Jewish Denominational Switching: Permeable Boundaries among Jews in the United States


Denominational Switching among American Jews
Concomitants of Denominational Switching


6. Denominational Preferences and Intermarriage: Permeable Boundaries between Jews and Non-Jews


Intermarriage and Denominational Preference
Intermarriages Before and After 1970
Variables Associated with Intermarriage
Raising Jewish Children
Jewish Community Size and Intermarriage



7. A Look toward the Future: Jewish Fertility, Births, and Denominational Preference


Jewish Religiosity and Fertility
A Fertility Projection: A Look at the Future


8. Summation, Conclusions, and Recommendations


Summary of Major Findings
The Challenge of Americanization
Recommendations for the Denominations
Closing Comments


Appendix A. Methodology of CJF 1990 National Jewish Population Survey
Joseph Waksberg

Appendix B. Total Sample Errors and the Comparison of the 1971 and 1990 Surveys

Appendix C. Model Indices Cited in Chapter 4

Appendix D. Computation of the Projection in Chapter 7, Table 7. 2



Subject Index

Name Index

Illustrates how and why Jewish denominational preferences are more a matter of individual choice than family heritage.


Having a religious preference and expressing it via a denominational choice is a fundamental way Americans relate to their society. Similarly, American Jews have divided their religion into four parts—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and no preference Jews. This book focuses on how Jewish lifestyles are expressed through denominational affiliation.

The development of American Jewish denominations is viewed as more a matter of individual choice than family heritage. The characteristics of individual adherents of the three major denominations vary systematically as does one's involvement both in local Jewish communities and in the community-at-large. The authors show that as one goes from Orthodox to no preference Jews, the extent of religious expression, ethnic attachments, and Jewish community involvement declines. They project the distribution of denominational preference in 2010 and conclude with recommendations for those who wish to see Jewish identity survive and thrive in America.

Bernard Lazerwitz is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Bar Ilan University, Israel. His previous work includes Pathways to Suicide: A Survey of Self-Destructive Behaviors (with Ronald Maris) and Americans Abroad: A Comparative Study of Emigrants from the United States (with Arnold Dashefsky, Jan DeAmicis, and Ephraim Tabory). J. Alan Winter is Professor of Sociology at Connecticut College. He is the author of Continuities in the Sociology of Religion: Creed, Congregation and Community; Clergy in Action Training (with Edgard W. Mills and Polly S. Hendrick); and is the editor of The Poor and Vital Problems for American Society (with Jerome Rabow and Marc Chesler). Arnold Dashefsky is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut. His previous work includes Ethnic Identification Among American Jews (with H. M. Shapiro), among others.