Jews in the United States and Israel apparently know relatively little about each other, according to a news survey released on Monday by the American Jewish Committee.

AJC partnered with SSRS, which surveyed a sample of 1,000 American Jews older than 18 between March 25 and May 9, resulting in a 4.5 percent margin of error and 95 percent confidence level.

In Israel, the survey was conducted by Geocartography in May, using a sample of 1,000 Jews aged 18-plus, with a margin of error of 3 percent.

A majority in both countries—73 percent of Americans and 67 percent of Israelis—have relatives or friends living in the other country, but those with immediate family members make up a smaller 12 percent of Americans and 14 percent of Israelis.

Some 45 percent of American Jews have visited Israel while a near equal 47 percent of Israelis have visited the United States.

Among Americans who have not visited Israel, 24 percent said it was because of lack of interest, 25 percent said it was because of lack of opportunity, 27 percent cited lack of funds, and 9 percent said they were concerned for their safety.

Of those who did visit, 73 percent said that the visit or visits strengthened their connection to Israel, 6 percent said it weakened their connection, while 20 percent said it made no difference.

Among Israelis who visited the United States, 25 percent said that it strengthened connection to American Jews, 6 percent said it weakened it, and 70 percent said it made no difference.

Sixty percent of American Jews said that being connected to Israel is important to their Jewish identity, while 21 percent said it was not too important, and 19 percent said it was not important at all. However, when respondents were isolated to those between the ages of 18 to 39, only 46 percent responded that being connected to Israel was important to their Jewish identity.

In terms of denomination, 84 percent of Orthodox Jews, 87 percent of Conservative Jews, 64 percent of Reform Jews and 34 percent of secular Jews felt a connection to Israel was important to their Jewish identity.

Among Israelis, 75 percent believed that a thriving Diaspora was vital to the long-term future of the Jewish people with 36 percent saying it’s because Diaspora Jews advocate for Israel with their governments, 27 percent because they believe that the variety adds strength to the Jewish people, 24 percent because of the funding provided by Diaspora Jews and 6 percent said that the Diaspora fosters Jewish creativity in a different way than Israeli life.

Only 16 percent of Americans and 13 percent of Israelis answered all basic knowledge questions about the other group correctly—four Americans and three Israelis.

The survey showed education about Jews in the Diaspora is less common in Israel than education about Israel in the United States, with 32 percent indicating that they did not receive any education about the Diaspora, 37 percent saying it was not comprehensive, 20 percent saying it was “so-so,” and 11 percent saying it was comprehensive.

Among American Jews, 42 percent cannot read Hebrew, 36 percent can read phonetically with little understanding, and 22 percent range from minimal to native fluency.

There are also divisions among American Jews in the formal education they receive about Israel from kindergarten through 12th grade with 37 percent describing it as strong, 21 percent as medium, 22 percent as weak and 18 percent as non-existent. Orthodox Jews are more likely to have received a strong education about Israel with 60 percent of Orthodox Jews, compared to 53 percent of Conservative Jews, 40 percent of Reform Jews and 16 percent of secular Jews describing their Israel education as strong.

“These surveys provide a wealth of critical information about the state of Israel-Diaspora relations and make the case for increased commitment in each community to high-quality education about, and interpersonal engagement with, the other,” said Laura Shaw Frank, AJC director of contemporary Jewish life.

The full survey can be viewed here


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