Today marks the release of major new survey findings that for the first time provides a comprehensive portrait of what it means to be Jewish in Canada, touching on such areas as identity, practices, and experiences.
This survey is benchmarked against comparable research in the USA and shows that Canadian Jews as a whole are distinct from their American counterparts in being more connected to Jewish life, through education, membership in Jewish organizations, friendships, and connections to Israel.
Robert Brym, Professor and S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, Rhonda L. Lenton, Professor of Sociology and President and Vice-Chancellor, York University, and Keith Neuman, Executive Director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research, have collaborated to develop and analyze the findings of the historic 2018 Survey of Jews in Canada.
“Knowing how Canadian Jews define their Jewishness and what they need and want from Jewish organizations can help shape community policy and programming. The Canadian Jewish community is substantially more cohesive than its American counterpart, and the kind of knowledge the survey provides can help keep the community strong. I’m proud to bring this important work forward, both personally and as a sociologist,” said Brym.
“The historic nature of this research marks the beginning of a better understanding of how our community practices our faith, engages within families and with others, and how each of us shapes our cultural identity,” said Lenton. “I see a positive common thread of Canada’s success in embracing people from around the world while supporting and encouraging cultural and religious differences.”
“This study provides a powerful example of how survey research can be used to provide a valuable portrait of Canada’s Jewish community that is both enlightening to all and practical in guiding the organizations working to support this community”, comments Keith Neuman, Executive Director, Environics Institute for Research
The research team worked closely with regional survey partners, including; the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, Federation CJA (Montreal), and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.
“For more than 100 years, UJA Federation has used research and data to take a big picture view of our community’s largest and most pressing issues. This incredibly comprehensive study will help to inform our strategic investments in the community, so we are extremely proud to have supported this significant work,” said Adam Minsky, President and CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
The survey was conducted by telephone and online between February and September 2018 with a representative sample of 2,335 Canadians (ages 18 and over) who identify as Jewish or part Jewish. The survey focused on the Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver metropolitan areas, which together account for more than 80 percent of the country’s Jewish population.
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- One in three Canadian Jews considers religion to be a very important part of his or her life. The basis of Jewish identity today is as much about culture and ethnicity as it is about religion. One of the most important expressions of being Jewish involves families getting together over a meal to mark a Jewish holiday.
- The Canadian Jewish community remains surprisingly cohesive across generations in terms of maintaining such traditional practices as lighting candles on the Sabbath, belonging to Jewish organizations, donating to Jewish causes, and becoming bar or bat mitzvah. Few differences exist in this regard between young adults and elderly Jews.
- Canadian Jews are mindful of anti-Semitism in this country, but are more likely to believe that other groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, Black people, and Muslims are frequent targets of discrimination. Moreover, Jews are more likely to hold this view than is the Canadian public at large.
- The great majority of Canadian Jews have a strong emotional connection to Israel. Eight in ten have visited Israel at least once, and one in six have lived there for six months or more. However, they do not agree when it comes to the politics of the region, such as the policy of building Jewish settlements on the West Bank.