American Jewry has Secularized: Why It Happened and What Happens Now
Abstract: A recent Pew Research Center study highlighted a sharp decline in the last decade in the percentage of American Jews that identify as Jewish by religion and an increase in the number of atheist and agnostic Jews. Notably, this sub-group still has a strong Jewish identity. However, the Pew Study did not explain why this trend is occurring. As a result, some media and Jewish communal circles began asking the question: Who is a Jew? Secularization theory sheds light on why American Jews are increasingly turning away from Judaism as a religion, though they maintain strong Jewish identities. A set of oral history interviews with self-identified American Jews helps to determine what, according to the social identity perspective, is a prototypical Jew, or the characteristics in-group members deem essential to being Jewish.