The Wall Street Journal wonders, Just how Jewish is Michael Bloomberg? According to the paper’s own summary of the article:
Mayor Bloomberg was raised Jewish, but hasn’t been known for wearing his religion on his sleeve. His defense of the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque near Ground Zero shows that he’s more passionate defending freedom of religion, than he has been in displaying his religiosity.
The article is a version of the kinds of discussions we’d have in “rap groups” back in Hebrew school, namely, What does it mean to be a “good Jew”?
Here’s a checklist, based on the criteria mentioned in the article. See how you do compared to Bloomberg:
- believes in God
- eschews many of the traditions and customs of Judaism
- believes strongly that your values and how they influence you to make the world a better place are the key parts of Judaism and every other religion
- believes freedom of religion is more important to him than the practicing of it
- belongs to Reform synagogue
- rarely attends synagogue
- goes to services for the High Holidays
- attends Passover seder
- gives generously to Jewish organizations
- thinks God will judge you on what you do and how you help others, as opposed to how you worship and what the customs and ceremonies that your particular religion has
- supportive of the state of Israel
- had a bar mitzvah
- longtime companion is not Jewish
- visited Israel as a private citizen
- children raised with Christian and Jewish traditions
How would Bloomberg score in one of the frequent surveys of Jewish identity conducted by various Jewish think tanks and sociologists? Here are some comparisons from the 2001 American Jewish Identity Survey, conducted by the Center for Jewish Studies at CUNY:
The majority (73 percent) of America’s [Jewish] adults … believe that God exists. But nearly half of this population regards itself as secular or somewhat secular in outlook.
About one million American households report affiliation with a Jewish congregation (synagogue, temple, or an independent havurah). That number represents an increase of some 15 percent over the 880,000 households reporting congregational affiliation in 1990.
About 44 percent [of Jewish adults] report membership in a Jewish congregation (synagogue, temple, or an independent havurah).
The Reform branch of Judaism is the largest in terms of the number of adult adherents: about 1.1 million out of a total of 2.9 million of America’s Jewish-by-religion adults.
Of all [Jewish] adults married since 1990, …just 40 percent are married to a spouse who is also of Jewish origins; 51 percent are married to a spouse who is not of Jewish origins and an additional 9 percent are married to a spouse who is a convert to Judaism.
Of all cohabiting [Jewish] adults …, 81 percent are living with a partner who is not of Jewish origins.
The article gives the impression that Bloomberg is sort of distant from Judaism, especially its religous expressions. But if you look at his Jewish behaviors, and compare him to most of America’s 5 million-plus Jews, he’s what a sociologist like Steven M. Cohen might call a ”highly engaged” Jew.