The first is on the Catholics and the Pope’s recent remarks that the Catholic church is too focused on issues like homosexuality and abortion. A recent poll shows that the majority of US Catholics support gay marriage and ordination of women priests. This is in line with most studies and polls and really highlights the disconnect between Rome and most Western societies where the Catholic church is found. Perhaps the new Pope will do something to rectify this, because he does acknowledge it. As a Jew, my only interaction with Catholic clergy is when they come to our synagogue to speak, but I’ve noticed the focus is always on God, our shared heritage, etc. and never a mention of hot button social issues. This is not the kind of interaction that Rome has traditionally pushed for, but hopefully it will be in the future, with groups like Nuns on the Bus highlighting common issues and concerns and not divisive and contentious areas where they even leave their US churches behind.
The second issue is a poll of Jews by Pew Research. It estimates the number of Jews in the US has grown to 6.7 million. It also says a lot about Jews who consider themselves to be of “no religion” etc. We had an interesting conversation on this in Torah study. We talked about how the Orthodox try to push the label of “religious” to mean Orthodox and how damaging that is to Judaism as a whole. We talked about how many Reform Jews are very religious, but how a number of them would answer “not religious” to a study like this because of that damaging labeling. One solution to this is for Judaism to not allow the minority to dictate what is religious, what is “Torah Judaism”, etc. and to define it according to the terms themselves. As I’ve often said, all the movements follow the Torah as they interpret it. If you refer to “Torah Judaism” you are, in essence, referring to all of Judaism, not just to Orthodoxy.
But, I also noticed something according to Pew Research’s own analysis of their data: Reform Jews are more likely than any other group to remain in their own movement throughout their life. They’re more likely by slightly to consider themselves non-Jewish later on in life…only 1% difference between them and the Conservative movement.. and more likely to consider themselves Jews of no religion than the others…but we could be running into the labeling issue there.
There are also some other interesting things brought up in the study. The majority of Jews believe remembering the holocaust, leading an ethical and moral life, as well as working for justice and equality are essential to being a Jew. A quarter of the Jews in the US reside in the South. Jews think other minorities face more discrimination than they do. A majority think blacks, Muslims and gays face more discrimination.
All in all, I think it’s an interesting study and one that will be debated and hashed out for years to come.