Reluctant or Repressed: Aversion to Expressing View on Israel Among American Rabbis: 2013

Sponsor(s): Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

Principal Investigator(s): Steven M. Cohen, Jason Gitlin

Study Dates: 2013

Key Findings:

2013 Internet study of American Rabbis sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs was designed to study:

  1. To what extent do rabbis, in fact, repress publicly expressing their privately held views on Israel?
  2. Which rabbis more often fear expressing their views? How is repression or self-censorship related to denomination, political values, Israel-related positions, seniority and other possibly influential factors?

The survey report by Professor Steven M. Cohen and Rabbi Jason Gitlin concluded that despite strong support by the Rabbis of Israel,

[The Rabbi respondents] "... mesh that attachment with varying degrees of concern about Israeli policies, as well as a significant reluctance to publicly share their true opinions. Nearly half of the rabbis in this survey hold views on Israel that they won’t share publically, many for fear of endangering their reputation and their careers."


Data file available for downloading has 549 Rabbi respondents to an Internet survey conducted from May through July 2013. Zipped data file includes SAV SPSS data file as well as the syntax used to create survey analysis variables, and a Portable SPSS version of the data. 

All identifying data has been removed, including zip code of congregation.  Instead, the Berman Jewish DataBank@The Jewish Federations of North America has created a U.S. Census 4-Region variable and a 9-Census Division variable for all cases with a valid zip code in the file (N=437).

Questions and frequencies are also available for download.


Sample Size: 549

Sample Notes:

The report by Cohen and Gitlin notes that:

"The JCPA rabbis’ list consisted of rabbis – heavily Reform and Conservative -- who had become known to JCPA by way of rabbinic engagement in JCPA campaigns in support of civil discourse, in opposition to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel [aka BDS], opposition to gun violence, and support of American action in preventing atrocities in Sudan. Other rabbis were added to the participants through various additional lists.

The major contours of these rabbis are as follows...
• Over three-quarters are male.
• Their median age is in the late fifties, with about a quarter under 45 and about a fifth 65 or older.
• Their median year of ordination is about 1992.
• About 70% work in congregations.
• Of those in congregations, the largest numbers are Reform and Conservative, while a very small number are Orthodox, and a few are Reconstructionist.
• Of those in congregations, about 80% hold the most senior rabbinic position in their congregations.

In short, the ... rabbis in this sample do not constitute a fully representative segment of American rabbis, with a significant under-sampling of Orthodox rabbis. The non-representative nature of the sample obviates strictly generalizing to the universe of American rabbis. However, the pattern of relationships between and among measures can nevertheless prove instructive, as the findings point to patterns that are consistent with side knowledge and social theory. As with any opt-in panel, the results must be seen as suggestive and taken with a greater degree of caution than with probability-based samples."

Language: English