The number of American Jews who consider themselves religiously observant has dropped by more than 20 percent over the last two decades, as the share of Jews who consider themselves secular has risen, according to a survey.
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that around 3.4 million American Jews call themselves religious — out of a general Jewish population of about 5.4 million.
The number of Jews who identify themselves as only culturally Jewish has risen from 20 percent in 1990 to 37 percent last year, according to the study. In the same period, the number of all U.S. adults who said they had no religion rose from 8 percent to 15 percent.
Jews are more likely to be secular than Americans in general, the researchers said.
About half of all U.S. Jews — including those who consider themselves religiously observant — claim in the survey that they have a secular worldview and see no contradiction between that outlook and their faith, according to the study's authors.
Researchers attribute the trends among American Jews to the high rate of intermarriage and "disaffection from Judaism" in the United States.
The survey of more than 900 self-identified Jews has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The broader findings of the American Religious Identification Survey, based at Trinity College in Hartford, had been released last spring. The study began in 1990 and has been conducted about once-a-decade ever since.
Saudi academy gets exemption allowing it to expand Virginia campus
FAIRFAX, Virginia (AP) — Officials have granted a zoning exemption that will allow a Saudi-funded academy to expand its campus.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 Monday to grant the exemption. The committee emphasized that the decision was made on zoning issues, not what goes on in the classrooms of the Islamic Saudi Academy. The plans permit construction of a building that would eventually accommodate 500 students.
"The community will get an awful lot of development," said supervisor Penelope A. Gross. "I think (it) will improve the community."
Scores of people spoke at hearings in the spring and summer on the academy's expansion. Some neighbors worried about traffic. Others raised concerns about what the school teaches.
The academy was founded in 1984 and has some 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It is the only Saudi-funded school in the United States.
About 80 percent of its students are U.S. citizens from the area's Muslim communities. Most students attend classes at a second campus in the Alexandria section of Fairfax.
The school has undergone a series of high-profile examinations of its religious curriculum, which has been revised repeatedly to remove teachings considered extremist. In 2007, at least one textbook still said that the killing of adulterers and apostates was "justified."
The school's curriculum was again revised at the start of the 2008-09 school year after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned its textbooks.
Critics of the academy concede that most of the offensive material has been taken out. But they say the textbooks clearly remain guided by Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Sunni Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia.
Attorney Lynne Strobel, who represented the academy, said the school has taken steps aimed at reducing some of the potential traffic.
Hebrew charter school plans big expansion in S. Fla.; additional schools to open
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A Hebrew-language charter school in South Florida is filled to capacity and plans to expand.
Ben Gamla was billed as the country's first such Hebrew-language school when it opened in Hollywood two years ago. Now, school officials said enrollment has reached the maximum with 600 students. A new campus in Plantation is slated to open this month and a charter has already been obtained to open a campus in Miami-Dade County.
The school is seeking permission to create four more charters: an elementary school in Palm Beach County and two other elementary schools and a high school in Broward County.
Critics have said Ben Gamla is a thinly veiled attempt to publicly finance what amounts to a Jewish day school, but administrators insist religion is not a part of curriculum.
Because of the concerns, an expert hired by the school district scrutinized Ben Gamla's lesson plans monthly for a year, finding them appropriate for a publicly funded charter school, officials said.
Committee rejects request for demolition permit for La. Catholic church
The Neighborhood Conservation District Committee on Monday denied the archdiocese's request for a permit to demolish Annunciation Catholic Church, its rectory and parish hall.
Elizabeth LaCombe, a representative of the archdiocese, said the church, which was closed in 2001, is deteriorating and attracts thieves, vandals and squatters dangerous to the community.
But several residents of the St. Roch neighborhood argued that the church could be restored and used as a community center or for other purposes.
The archdiocese has closed 34 parishes since Hurricane Katrina.
Greece's Acropolis Museum to restore reference to Christians vandalizing Parthenon
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's new Acropolis Museum says it will restore references to early Christians vandalizing the ancient Parthenon temple. The references were originally deleted from a film shown to visitors for fear of angering the country's powerful Orthodox Church.
The decision last month to delete the short segment angered its creator, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras, and was criticized as an act of censorship in the Greek press.
Museum Director Dimitris Pantermalis said Tuesday that the film would be shown uncut after the Greek-born French filmmaker told him it implied no official involvement of the church of the day in the vandalism — some 1,500 years ago.
The museum opened on June 20.
Source: AP News