Survey measures Hispanics’ views of Jews, Jewish culture

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Hispanics who have higher levels of education, income and acculturation — as well as frequent personal contact with Jewish people — have a better understanding and more positive views of Jews than other Hispanics in the United States.

That was a primary finding of a survey conducted by Latino Decisions, a nationally recognized firm with expertise in the Hispanic community, on behalf of the American Jewish Committee.

Erma Lopez celebrates the Jewish Sukkot festival by waving date palm fronds and citron at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.  (David Crane/AJClosangeles)

Overall, 18 percent of Hispanics are highly familiar with Jews, and 31 percent are not familiar with them at all, according to the report.

“This comprehensive, insightful survey will inform and advance our ongoing efforts to engage Latino communities, form coalitions, and deepen understanding of American Jews and Israel,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

Latino Decisions conducted a survey of 2,000 Hispanics to determine familiarity of and attitudes toward Jews. Surveys were conducted between Aug. 12 and Sept. 26, 2011, in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Kansas City, Mo. The locations were selected based on Jewish and Hispanic populations and geographic diversity.

“On the whole, we find Latinos hold many positive views about the Jewish community,” Latino Decisions said. “At the same time, Latino opinions are hampered by limited contact and general unfamiliarity with Jews.”

Nearly half of all Hispanic-Jewish interactions happen in the workplace, according to the survey.

“Interpersonal connections are of the essence, particularly since Latino culture stresses trust and loyalty in the creation of substantive, long-term professional and political alliances,” said Siegel Vann.

Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

Other findings include:

  • 50 percent of Hispanics who do not have a high-school education have zero familiarity with Jews.
  • 38 percent of Hispanics who are college graduates have the highest rate of familiarity.
  • 50 percent of Hispanics with annual incomes over $80,000 have established relationships with Jews.
  • 41 percent of Hispanics who have annual incomes below $40,000, have no contacts with Jews.

Differences in familiarity also showed up between generations. For example, 38 percent of first-generation immigrants have no contact with Jews, 12 percent of second-generation members have no contact and 10 percent of third generations have no contact.

Despite low overall levels of high familiarity, large majorities of Hispanics believe Jews are committed to faith, family and social change:

  • 66 percent of Hispanics think Jews have a strong faith in God.
  • 78 percent said Jews are committed to family life.
  • 61 percent believe Jews make positive cultural contributions.
  • 53 percent agree that Jews are pro-civil rights.

The survey found limited Hispanic familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 60 percent not expression an opinion about who is responsible for the conflict, 15 percent blaming Palestinians, 12 percent faulting both sides, 9 percent blaming Israel, and 3 percent saying neither side is at fault.

Like their own culture, a large percentage of Hispanics believe that Jews “stick together” more than other Americans, according to the report.

“Latinos, many of whom maintain close ties to their respective countries of origin, admire the American Jewish connection to Israel,” said Siegel Vann, “The Latino and Jewish communities are models for enriching U.S. society by expressing multiple identities.”

The survey also measured Hispanics’ views on Jewish influence in media and Jews’ role in the crucifixion of Jesus. Read the full survey at AJC.org.

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