By Billy Hallowell
File: A Muslim and a Jew pass each other in the street in the Netherlands.
A new poll indicating that American Jews may have distrust and suspicion for evangelicals is raising eyebrows. The study, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, has some startling findings, especially considering the fact that many Jews and Christians have been working together for some time now in support of the Israeli state.
The Jewish Forward has more about the pollâ€™s results:
Only one in five Jewish Americans holds favorable views of those aligned with the Christian right, a category that includes most of Israelâ€™s evangelical supporters.
The survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and published April 3, asked Jewish respondents to rate the favorability of several religious groups. Mormons received a 47% favorability rating, Muslims 41.4%; the group described as â€œChristian Rightâ€ was viewed in favorable terms by only 20.9% of Jewish Americans. In contrast, the general American population, as shown by other polling data, views evangelicals more favorably than Muslims and Mormons.
These results are sending shock-waves through some faith communities. International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, for one, is stunned, saying that he finds the results both â€œshocking and concerning.â€ Eckstein, who has worked diligently to foster Jewish-evangelical relations, isnâ€™t taking the results lightly.
As many people ask why these results are emerging even after years of collaborative work between the two faith communities, some contend that it may be a result of conflicting political inclinations and long-held stereotypes. Some experts also maintain that social conservatism â€“ though it appeals to many Christians â€” is not palatable to the majority of American Jews.
â€œMost liberal Jews view the Christian right as wanting to impose a Christian America on them,â€ explained Marshall Breger, professor at the Catholic University of Americaâ€™s Columbus School of Law. â€œTo the extent to which the bulk of Jews are liberal, both politically and culturally, theyâ€™ll have negative views of the Christian right.â€
Eckstein, though, says that he has seen evangelicals become more accepted by Jews over the years.
â€œIn the early years, the Christian right was very, very suspect in the eyes of the Jewish community,â€ he explained. â€œWhen we started giving to the Jewish Agency [for Israel] and the [American Jewish] Joint [Distribution Committee], the Jewish communityâ€™s attitude began to change. Evangelicals went from being a pariah to becoming accepted.â€
The Forward continues:
This acceptance, however, has not penetrated the liberal Jewish circles or the broader Jewish community, all of which still view friendship to Israel as second in importance to shared social values. â€œThere is a small segment of the Jewish population that loves evangelicals because evangelicals love Israel,â€ said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington religious affairs think tank. These Jews focus on the issue of Israel while not â€œbuying intoâ€ other values promoted by Christian evangelicals, Cromartie said.
All research points to the sharp contrast between Jews and Christian conservative views on abortions, women rights, gay and lesbian rights, and the separation of religion and state as the key factor distancing the two communities.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, the report states that â€œJews hold considerably unfavorable feelings toward members of the Christian Right, significantly more so than toward Mormons or Muslims.â€ You can read the full report, which included 1,004 self-identified Jews (with a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points) here (http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Jewish-Values-Report.pdf).