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Poll: Most Secular Israelis Don?t See Intermarriage as a Problem

Reprinted with permission of Haaretz. Visit www.Haaretz.com.

Only 43 percent of the secular Jews in Israel view intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews as an issue of concern, according to a poll made public yesterday by the deputy minister for social and diaspora affairs, Rabbi Michael Melchior.

"Low awareness of the implications of assimilation is a danger hovering over the continuity of the Jewish people," Melchior said in response to the poll's findings.

The survey was taken on the occasion of the declaration by Melchior and Kol Dor, a young leadership organization, of the present Jewish month of Heshvan as worldwide Jewish social action month.

The poll, conducted by the Shiluv Institute among a representative sample of 504 Jewish men and women, revealed that 92 percent said it was the obligation of Israel to fight anti-Semitism in the world. This opinion was particularly apparent among respondents between the ages of 18 and 29. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they perceived the increase in anti-Semitism in the world as personally frightening. More women were frightened by anti-Semitism than men--75 percent as opposed to 47 percent. According to the poll, 92 percent of Israeli Jews believe Israel should invest efforts and resources in strengthening the bond with the Jews of the Diaspora, but only 20 percent said Diaspora Jews should be allowed to vote in Israel' elections.

Sixty percent of the sample said marriage between Jews and non-Jews bothered them; however while 97 percent of the Orthodox respondents said intermarriage was a problem, only 43 percent of the secular Jews felt it was.

Some 80 percent of those polled said they believed every citizen should volunteer in the community, although the rate of support for volunteerism among the ultra-Orthodox, 63 percent, was lower than that among mainstream Orthodox and traditional Jews, 84 percent. About 50 percent of those asked said they did some sort of volunteer work. Two-thirds said they volunteered at least once a month. Twenty-eight percent of those polled said they believed Israel should assist the victims of disasters elsewhere in the world.

Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.

Amiram Barkat is a staff writer for Haaretz.

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