Chapter 7 – Connections to Israel

The Pittsburgh Jewish community has strong ties to Israel, grounded in religious, cultural, and familial connections. For many Jewish adults, Israel is central to their Jewish identity. Travel to Israel is frequent and friendships with Israelis are common.

Approximately three-fifths (59%) of Pittsburgh’s Jews have been to Israel (Table 7.1a). One-quarter (24%) of Jewish adults have been to Israel once, and a similar proportion (28%) have visited more than once. Seven percent, including the 3% who are Israeli citizens, have lived in Israel at some point.

Travel to Israel has increased since 2002, when 44% of Pittsburgh’s Jews had been to Israel. Pittsburgh’s numbers also represents a substantially higher proportion than among US Jews in general, of whom, as of 2013, 43% had been to Israel.

Those in the Immersed group are the most likely to have been to Israel (86%), followed by those in the Connected group (67%). Among those in the Minimally Involved group, one-sixth (16%) have been to Israel. Three-quarters (73%) of Squirrel Hill’s Jewish residents have been to Israel, including 51% who have visited multiple times or lived there.

Table 7.1a Frequency of Israel travel

 NeverOnceMultipleLived/Israeli
Overall4124287
Engagement
Immersed1421569
Connected3328336
Involved4320307
Holiday43321015
Minimally Involved84942
Region
Squirrel Hill2722429
Rest of Pittsburgh4225275
South Hills47132911
North Hills4334194
Rest of region5624164

Two-thirds (66%) of inmarried Jews have been to Israel, compared to half (48%) of intermarried Jews and 57% of those who are unmarried. Three-quarters (76%) of Jews ages 18-34 have been to Israel, compared to about three-fifths (57%) of those ages 50 and older and just under half (48%) of those ages 35-49.

Table 7.1b Frequency of Israel travel

(row %; of Jewish adults)
 NeverOnceMultipleLived/Israeli
Length of Residence
<10years2930329
10-19 years42202711
20+ years4321306
Household Structure
Inmarried3520388
Intermarried5231143
Single adult(s)4221279
Household with child(ren)4517299
No child(ren)4024307
Respondent Age
18-342427436
35-495219228
50-6446192411
65+3926314
Synagogue
Member2621467
Non-member4923207
Denomination
Orthodox18116011
Conservative 29293012
Reform4429252
Other4326237
None5115268

Pittsburgh Jews’ sense of connection to Israel is strongly correlated with the frequency with which they have visited the country. Of those who have never been to Israel, one-third (31%) feel not at all connected, and 38% feel somewhat or very much connected to Israel. By contrast, only 15% of those who have visited Israel once and 3% of those who have visited multiple times do not feel at all connected to Israel. Of one-time visitors, 63% feel somewhat or very connected, as do 86% of those who have visited Israel multiple times, lived in Israel, or are Israeli.

Aside from travel to Israel, Pittsburgh-area Jews connect to Israel through their family and friends who live there. Over half (53%) of Pittsburgh-area Jews indicate that they have close family or friends living in Israel. Engagement with Israel is further facilitated by fluency in the Hebrew language. Among Jewish adults who are not Israeli, 6% can understand most or all of what they read in Hebrew and another 33% can understand some Hebrew. One-third of Pittsburgh-area Jews say they do not know the Hebrew alphabet, compared to 48% of all US Jews.

Types of Israel Travel

Among those who have traveled to Israel, about one-third (32%) have gone with a Jewish organization on a mission or other sponsored trip, and three-in-ten (28%) have traveled on an educational or volunteer program (Table 7.2a). Two-fifths (40%) of those under age 46 who have traveled to Israel have gone on Birthright Israel trips, representing 9% of the overall adult population. The Connected group has the highest proportion who has gone on a Birthright trip, possibly because Jews from the Immersed group were ineligible, having previously gone to Israel on other peer-group educational trips.

Table 7.2a Types of Israel travel

 Birthright (under 46-years-old)Education/volunteerFederation/org. mission
Overall402832
Engagement
Immersed484335
Connected561850
Involved241121
Holiday453916
Minimally Involved-1422
Region
Squirrel Hill553130
Rest of Pittsburgh612240
South Hills162921
North Hills152339
Rest of region11644

Table 7.2b Types of Israel travel

(% of Jewish adults who have been to Israel)
 Birthright (under 40-years-old)Education/volunteerFederation/org. mission
Length of Residence
<10years692028
10-19 years553127
20+ years182536
Household Structure
Inmarried502245
Intermarried591524
Single adult(s)313421
Household with child(ren)402738
No child(ren)452433
Respondent Age
18-34512619
35-49172647
50-64n/a2940
65+n/a1837
Synagogue
Member443245
Non-member431924
Denomination
Orthodox185420
Conservative 572937
Reform571747
Other512931
None311521

Emotional Connection to Israel

 Feelings of connection to Israel are intimately tied not only to Israel travel, but also to Jewish engagement. The strongest connections to Israel are found among the Immersed group (63% very much) and the Holiday group (34% very much) (Table 7.3). About three-quarters (76%) of Jewish residents of the outer suburbs are somewhat or very much connected to Israel, more than in any other area in Greater Pittsburgh. Contrary to the popular stereotype, adults ages 18-34 are among the most connected to Israel in the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community, with two-fifths (40%) feeling very connected.

Table 7.3 Emotional connection to Israel

(% of Jewish adults who have been to Israel)
 Not at allA littleSomewhatVery much
Overall17213033
Engagement
Immersed952363
Connected9273826
Involved21182932
Holiday17242534
Minimally Involved36421111
Region
Squirrel Hill14222639
Rest of Pittsburgh29202921
South Hills10301743
North Hills16233526
Rest of Region8153739
Length of Residence
<10years21282823
10-19 years23242727
20+ years15202836
Household Structure
Inmarried12203335
Intermarried39232315
Single adult(s)10242441
Household with child(ren)29262124
No child(ren)14212936
Respondent Age
18-3416212340
35-4935202222
50-6410272636
65+13203433
Synagogue
Member6183244
Non-member23242627
Denomination
Orthodox212077
Conservative 10163242
Reform15243822
Other17202340
None27301825

News about Israel

Almost half (48%) of Pittsburgh-area Jews follow news about Israel at least once a week (Tables 7.4a and 7.4b). Those who have lived in Israel or have been there multiple times follow news more closely, with two-fifths (40%) and one-fifth (21%), respectively, following news about Israel daily. The Immersed group members follow Israel news most closely, with one-third (35%) following news on a daily basis. About one-fifth of Jewish residents of Squirrel Hill (21%) also follow news about Israel on a daily basis.

Table 7.4a Following news about Israel in past month

(row %)
 NeverLess than weeklyLess than dailyDaily+
Overall24283513
Engagement
Immersed7233635
Connected21293911
Involved22323313
Holiday4342114
Minimally Involved4412422
Region
Squirrel Hill25302421
Rest of Pittsburgh28273412
South Hills1024569
North Hills34292611
Rest of Region2733319
Length of Residence
<10years31312612
10-19 years25352614
20+ years23273714
Household Structure
Inmarried21312821
Intermarried4322287
Single adult(s)1829458
Household with child(ren)42232014
No child(ren)20293714
Respondent Age
18-343031337
35-4936262413
50-6417293915
65+20243619
Synagogue
Member18253622
Non-member2830329
Denomination
Orthodox6272443
Conservative 17313912
Reform28313010
Other19283914
None3124369

Table 7.4b Following news about Israel in past month

(row %)
 NeverLess than weeklyLess than dailyDaily+
Travel to Israel
Never3626326
Once21323710
Multiple15273721
Lived5361940
Connection to Israel
Not at all5525183
A little/somewhat2532385
Very much8253532

Community Connection to Israel

About one-quarter (23%) of Jewish adults in Greater Pittsburgh can correctly identify Karmiel- Misgav as the community’s partnership region in Israel. Another 25% are aware of a partnership region but cannot identify it. Five percent believe there is no partnership region, and almost half (46%) are not sure if there is a partnership region.