By Roberto Loiederman
January 23, 2014
The Pew Research Center’s study on American Jews, released in early October, triggered much handwringing about the finding that 20 percent — referred to as “Jews of no religion” — see themselves as Jewish because of culture or ancestry, not because of any connection to the religion.
On the heels of that survey comes another about alumni of Habonim Dror North America (HDNA) that suggests such labels may not tell the whole story. Titled “Building Progressive Zionist Activists: The Long-term Impact of Habonim Dror,” the survey was carried out by Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Steven Fink, senior methodologist and analyst at Avar Consulting in Rockville, Md. The HDNA survey makes the case that HDNA alumni — many of whom self-identify as nonreligious Jews — are often involved in Jewish organizations, in many cases taking leadership roles, and that they’re also ardent supporters of Israel, boasting a very high rate of aliyah (immigration to Israel).
Habonim and Dror, both founded many decades ago, are Jewish youth organizations that merged in the early 1980s. The resulting group, HDNA, manages children’s summer camps at seven North American sites as well as community activities all year in locations throughout the United States and Canada. It also runs a workshop program in which young adults spend a year in Israel.
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