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What is Judaism: are Europe’s Jews a religious or an ancestry group?

Author(s): Professor Sergio DellaPergola and Dr Daniel Staetsky
Date: 09 March 2022

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The first of four mini-reports highlighting different aspects and findings from JPR’s major study ‘The Jewish identities of European Jews: what, why and how’, dives deeper into how European Jews understand the basis of their Jewishness and finds out whether they see it as their religion, ethnicity, culture or parentage.

The new mini-report is twelve pages long and contains a handful of graphs, illustrating how:

  • Most European Jews (76%) define their Judaism in more than one way and see no contradiction in doing so;
  • Among single-answer respondents, religion is the leading definition (35%), before parentage (23%) and culture (11%). But when calculating for multiple answers, 68% mentioned parentage, compared to 58% who mentioned religion;
  • Religion and parentage are much stronger bases of identity for younger than for older Jews. Older Jews are more likely to define Judaism as their culture and heritage. Ethnicity is the least mentioned definition for all age groups;
  • In Western and Southern Europe Judaism is commonly understood as both religion and ancestry. In Northern and Eastern Europe ancestry dominates over religion.

The report is based on research conducted in twelve European Union Member States in 2018, which, together, are home to about 80% of the Jewish population of Europe. The study includes the opinions and experiences of over 16,000 respondents – the largest sample of Jews ever surveyed in Europe.