Here’s another interesting item, this time from the right column on page 14 of Pew Research’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans.
So what does it mean to be Jewish in the United States in the 21st century? Jewish Americans have spoken!
The Shoah (a/k/a Holocaust) comes in FIRST on the list.
Now it is important to note that respondents did not think that remembering the Shoah is THE CENTRAL PILLAR of Jewish meaning. As the report clarifies:
The survey asked Jews whether each of nine attributes and activities is essential to what being Jewish means to them, is important but not essential, or is not an important part of what it means to be Jewish.
According to respondents, the Shoah is an essential part of Jewishness, just a little bit more essential than leading an ethical/moral life.
There is some variation between Jews who self-identified “Jewish by religion” (76%) and those who self-identified as “Jews of no Religion” (60%) which yielded the NET of 73%. However, even among “Jews of no Religion”, the Shoah out-ranked Ethical/Moral by 5 points.
And if you read the latest piece by Peter Beinart, you would be nonplussed by the Shoah being 24 points more essential than caring about Israel. (If you are a “Jew of no Religion”, then the essential-ness of the Shoah knocked it out of the park by 37 points.) We are talking about American Jews after all.
I am not surprised by the data… but when I consider Hipster Anne Frank, Little Dicky, Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful”, Kirsten Dunst in Hallmark Channel’s “The Devil’s Arithmetic” and Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, who coined the term holo-kitsch in 2003 – I wonder:
What does it mean that something so essential to Jewishness is simultaneously and inexorably suffused with kitsch?