PITTSFIELD -- A landmark study on Jewish identity in the United States is the topic of the Hilda Vallin Feigenbaum Lecture Series at 2 p.m. Sunday at Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad St.
The free discussion, including audience Q-and-A and a reception, features Alan Cooperman, a Stockbridge native, former Berkshire Eagle reporter, and current deputy director of the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project, based in Washington, D.C.
Cooperman supervised, edited and co-authored the extensive survey.
"We are very pleased and fortunate to have Alan Cooperman come home to the Berkshires to speak to us about the state of Jewish Identity in America," said Andy Hochberg, coordinator of the lecture series, in an e-mail message. "The study done by the Pew Research Center, I’m sure, will have relevance to all who attend."
Referring to Cooperman’s parents, Hochberg added that "I was particularly fond of both Dr. Martin and Leona Cooperman and their presence is missed. I do look forward to seeing and welcoming Alan back to Temple Anshe Amunim."
"The recent Pew survey is one of the most comprehensive studies of Jewish-American life in over a decade," said Rabbi Josh Breindel. "Its findings have drawn a great deal of interest and inspired a lot of discussion in the Jewish community. My congregants have been particularly interested in respondents’ changing understanding of the nature of Jewish identity and attitudes towards intermarriage."
"It’s a special delight for us to host Alan," Breindel added. "Not only did he grow up at Temple Anshe Amunim, but he also brings a wealth of knowledge about an important and timely topic."
The survey, released on Oct. 1, attracted major media attention. It found that Jewish identity is evolving, with 22 percent saying they have no religion although they’re proud of their heritage.
Among the key findings:
n Jews tend to be less religious than the U.S. public as a whole, with fewer saying they attend religious services weekly, believe in God with absolute certainty, or that religion is very important in their lives.
n Overall, about 6 in 10 say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture, while just 15 percent say it’s mainly a matter of religion. The rest cited some combination of religion, ancestry and-or culture.
n Majorities of those surveyed say people can be Jewish if they work on the Sabbath, are strongly critical of Israel and even if they don’t believe in God. The only clear no-no, though, is believing Jesus was the Messiah, which clear majorities view as incompatible with being Jewish; even so, about a third of Jews say a person can be Jewish even if he or she believes Jesus was the Messiah.
n Large majorities of U.S. Jews stated that remembering the Holocaust and leading an ethical life are essential to their identity. More than half say that working for justice and equality is crucial, while 43 percent say that caring about Israel and having a good sense of humor are essential.
n Compared with the overall population, Jews are less likely to say that they attend religious services weekly or that they believe in God with absolute certainty. And just 26 percent of U.S. Jews say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent of the general public.
Cooperman’s research specialization focuses on religion’s role in U.S. politics. Before joining the Pew Research Center in 2009, he was a national staff reporter and editor for 10 years at the Washington Post. He also served as a foreign correspondent in Moscow and Jerusalem for the Associated Press and U.S. News & World Report.
After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1982, he began his journalism career at The Berkshire Eagle, where he served as business editor. His Pew Research report topics include "Mormons in America" and "Muslim Americans" and he was the primary editor of demographic studies of Global Christianity and the Global Religious Landscape.
A resident of Washington, D.C., with his wife and two sons, Cooperman has appeared on NPR, BBC, the PBS NewsHour, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and C-SPAN.
For more information: Temple Anshe Amunim at (413) 442-5910 or www.ansheamunim.org.