Barna Releases New Study on American Jewish Millennials: The Results Offer Some Surprises

Contact: Susan Perlman, Jews for Jesus
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Barna Releases New Study on American Jewish Millennials: The Results Offer Some Surprises

The Barna Group, which has been collecting data on religion and spirituality in America for more than three decades, has come out with a new 107-page report: Jewish Millennials: The Beliefs and Behaviors Shaping Young Jews in America.

Many of the results are fascinating: Millennials far exceed other generations of Jews when it comes to their interest in matters of faith and spirituality (43% compared to 23% for baby boomers). There is also a spike with Millennial Jews when it comes to prayer and meditation (34% say they do it daily, vs. 23% for boomers and 16% for elders). When it comes to the person of Jesus, 27% of Jewish millennials see him as a spiritual leader or prophet and 23% say they believe Jesus was God in human form.

Such data has intrigued Jewish scholars who have weighed in on the findings. Among them are: Yaacov Ariel, professor of religious studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Matt Williams, director of research for Prizmah: The Center for Jewish Day Schools; and Ari Y. Kelman, Jim Joseph Chair of Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. Says Kelman, “The Barna study presents a portrait of American Jewish Millennials that looks, in some ways, rather unlike any other portrait of that population that I am used to seeing… The Millennials might be way ahead on this one, and the social scientists should listen as closely as possible, if only to reveal their own blind spots with respect to emergent patterns of Jewish life.”

The Barna team found that Millennial Jews in America present quite a paradox. Said the researchers, “They are incredibly influenced by their immediate relationships, yet detached from communal or mutual Jewish experiences in a broader sense. They are free thinking and flexible in their spiritual and religious identity, yet they gravitate toward formal customs and ancient expressions of faith. Often molded by intermarriage and multiculturalism, they reject rigid or traditional definitions of what it means to be Jewish, but—more than any other generation—still consider their Jewish identity to be very important to them.”

While Jews for Jesus commissioned and supported this research, Barna is solely responsible for designing and conducting the quantitative survey and holding qualitative focus groups and in-depth round table talks with Jews in the United States on this topic.