Torah studies are flourishing among the secular sector and summer brings once again the “Lo Ba’Shamaim” Jewish festival at Kibbutz Kfar Blum open to the wide public.
Has the subject matter become common knowledge or does it still belong to the “religious only?”
A survey conducted for Ynet’s Jewish channel and the Gesher Institute shows that an outstanding majority of the public neither studies Judaism nor is interested in doing so.
However, students of Judaism find different ways to study the subject – independent studying from books, group studies, formal educational frameworks and even online.
And what does the public make of the media coverage Judaism receives? Some 25% of the participants defined it as “negative and futile.”
The Ynet-Gesher survey was conducted by the Mutagim Institute and included 500 interviewees who comprise a national model representative of the adult Jewish Hebrew-speaking population of Israel.
In the first part of the survey, the participants were asked whether they had a certain method of studying Judaism and what was it (one or more answers)? Some 60% of them said they do not study Judaism and are not interested in doing so, while another 10% do not study but wanted to.
Among those avidly studying Judaism, 49% said they independently study from books, 46% study in groups and 28% study in institutions (yeshiva, university etc), and 21% improve their Jewish knowledge via the internet.
Segmentation into religious terms shows that 79% of the seculars neither study Judaism nor are interested in it, compared to 55% among the traditional public. The haredi public usually prefers group studying (62%.) Despite the wide usage of the internet, the option of learning Judaism on line isn’t popular in neither one of the sectors.
'Lo Ba’Shamaim' Jewish festival at Kfar Blum
In the second part of the survey, the participants were asked how they view the way in which the various media outlets cover Judaism. Some 25% answered that the coverage is “negative and futile,” while 19% claimed the field receives coverage as if the media had a political agenda, 18% thought the subject is being handled positively and adequately, and 7% felt that media is exaggerating in “over-coverage.” The rest refused to answer that question.
A result analysis shows that 25% of the secular sector claimed the coverage has a political agenda and 21% of them believe it is positive and adequate. In comparison, 50% of the haredi participants said the coverage is negative and futile and so think 38% of the religious sector and 28% of the traditional sector. In all three segments, this option came in the first place.
‘The desire to connect transcends all sectors’
Shoshi Becker, head of Gesher educational enterprises, said in response that “about 50% of the population studies (Judaism), while the ‘traditional teaching’ is still done through books, a group study or a formal educational framework, the latter being the most preferred. It’s interesting that more women than men said they would like to study.”
According to Becker, “Close to 19% of the seculars study Judaism and another 10% would like to. A fairly high percentage of the traditional sector would like to study Judaism, although they are not currently doing so. The desire to connect to Judaism and study it transcends all sectors. The more religious the participants are, the more they feel that Judaism isn’t getting the appropriate representation in the media outlets and is depicted negatively and inanely.
“The media can certainly be a vehicle to representing Judaism as deep and significant, as well as a mouthpiece and means of education suitable for the 21st century. Very few among the participants feel that Judaism is overly covered and many feel that there is room for amending the media coverage of Judaism.
"Recently we have been seeing many people from the media and culture sectors, who feel that they are distant and alienated from the world of Jewish content and are curious to learn about this world and become household members.”