A new research study on Jewish identity and community participation in Central and Eastern Europe identifies trends among Jewish adults in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Romania. Identity à la Carte, a two-year and wide-reaching study, examined views on religious observance, Jewish identity, anti-Semitism, Israel, Jewish knowledge, and organizational affiliation among 1,270 Jews, ages 18-60. The study—a project of the JDC International Center for Community Development—was conducted by leading demographers Andras Kovacs, Barry Kosmin, and Sergio DellaPergola, among others.
“Identity à la Carte is an academic triumph that clearly shows how Jews collectively adapt to the new political realities of Central and Eastern Europe,” said Dr. Barry Kosmin, research professor in public policy and law at Trinity College. “It has international scope and provides solid, comparable data on Jewish populations.”
Among the findings, Jewish identity was valued more highly now than in childhood by the majority of the respondents: 81% in Poland, 73% in Hungary, 66% in Bulgaria, 63% in Romania, and 62 % in Latvia. In addition, respondents have long-standing connections with Israel, including high rates of travel to the country, with 85% having traveled to Israel overall and 66% having visited several times.
Respondents also had optimistic views of the Jewish future in Europe, with 46% in Romania; 55% in Poland; 64% in Latvia; 74% in Bulgaria; and 87% in Hungary believing their Jewish community will continue to thrive in the next few decades. Additionally, respondents believe “that Europe today is a safe place for Jews to live,” with: 57% in Latvia; 59% in Poland; 61% in Romania; 67% in Bulgaria; and 77% in Hungary agreeing with that statement.
“It helps to give us a better understanding of our own communities, as well as those that are non-affiliated,” said Luciana Friedman, President of the Jewish Community of Timisoara, Romania. “As applied research, it will inform and enrich our policy and programs.”
To that end, 54% of the overall respondents are self-identified Jews from “mixed families” (with a maximum of two Jewish grandparents): 77% from Poland; 46% percent from Hungary; 67% from Bulgaria; 57% from Romania; and 39% from Latvia. Whereas 46% of overall respondents come from self-identified “homogeneous” families (with 3 or four Jewish grandparents): 22% from Poland; 54% from Hungary; 33% from Bulgaria; 43% from Romania; and 61% from Latvia.