Jews are less likely than Catholics or Protestants to change faiths, though religious switching nationwide has increased since 1965, according to a study released this week by the American Jewish Committee.
Most who leave Judaism become unaffiliated, rather than converting to another religion; many continue to identify as Jewish in an ethnic or cultural sense, concluded the study’s author, Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago.
“Jewish losses are disproportionately to no religion,” he said.
With 76 percent retaining their faith, Jews are more “religiously stable” than Catholics (73 percent); and while eight in ten Protestants remain Protestant, specific denominations retain a much lower percentage of members — as low as 16 percent in one case.
Nevertheless, like its Christian counterparts, Judaism is losing more adherents than it gains. To improve these numbers, the study recommends that Jews increase social and educational religious opportunities for children, reach out to non-Jewish spouses of interfaith marriages, and actively recruit converts — a practice traditionally discouraged, particularly in the Orthodox branch.
The study, whose respondents included about 1,000 Jews, 31,000 Protestants and 15,000 Catholics, follows up on a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which found that about 44 percent of Americans have left the religion they were raised in, if you include switching among Protestant denominations.