Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

The Pew Research Center could be more precise on how many Jews live in the US

A researcher at the Pew Research Center defends his institution against an Orthodox claim it counts everyone calling themselves Jewish, while almost half of them are not so for Orthodox-Jewish Law. But I’m dissatisfied.

Well taken is his defense that all polling goes by self-definition and that there is no alternative. Also true is that it cannot use one definition or another to replace self-identification. No less right is that self-definition both underestimates and overestimates the numbers, while his opponent cherry-picked the latter arguments—which is a cardinal sin in statistics.

Some are Halachically Jewish, but they might not identify as such for many reasons. They don’t practice any Judaism, they practice another worldview (Buddhism or Christianity, I guess), some don’t want to be counted as Jews (or as part of any group) as protection against Jew-hatred, some might even not know their mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish, etc.

Or some are not Halachically Jewish, but they could identify as Jewish for many reasons. They see it as a faith and they adopted some part of religious Judaism, on their own or in the framework of non-Orthodox congregations, their father or spouse is Jewish, they see un-Orthodox Jews and conversions as nothing less Jewish, they just feel Jewish, etc.

However, the Pew Research Center does not need to go Orthodox or Reform or use any other criteria of who’s a Jew to give better results.

What would stop them from asking their respondents to specify why they do and don’t see themselves as Jews? Conflicting answers (ambivalence) are allowed. (Yes, No, I’m unsure. I don’t know. I don’t want to say.)

Do you consider yourself a Jew because:

You are a Jew according to Orthodox-Jewish criteria?

You are connected to a non-Orthodox stream of Judaism?

You are converted though outside an Orthodox stream of Judaism?

Your father, spouse, child, or other close one is a Jew?

You’re culturally Jewish?

You feel close to Jews?

You feel Jewish?

You feel connected to Israel?

You or a close one was victimized by the Holocaust?

You teach your children much/some Judaism?

Do you not consider yourself a Jew because:

You don’t see Judaism as your faith (any longer)?

You feel uncomfortable identifying as a Jew?

You are anti-Zionistic or anti-Israel?

You feel distant from Jews?

You are not a Jew according to Orthodox-Jewish criteria?

You are not connected to a non-Orthodox stream of Judaism?

You did not convert through an Orthodox stream of Judaism?

You think that (many) Jews will not count you in?

You’re not culturally Jewish?

You don’t feel close to Jews?

You don’t feel Jewish?

You don’t feel connected to Israel?

You have no close one who was victimized by the Holocaust?

You want to leave the past the past and dislike the roots digging?

You refuse to teach your children any/much Judaism?

You were rejected by Jews, Jewish Law, or one or more congregations?

With these answers, the PEW Research Center would respect how people self-identify and show how many in the US do (not) identify as Jews.

Everyone seeing the numbers and correlations can then have an idea how many Jews there are in categories that they find important: (not) Orthodox, (no) non-Orthodox membership, observance, or conversion, (not) a Jewish believer, father, spouse, child, or other close one, (not) culturally, (not) relationally, (not) emotionally, (anti-) Israel/Zionistically, (not) Holocaust, (not) teaching children, uncomfortable to identify, etc.

Don’t just ask them if they identify as a Jew and what kind of section of the religious spectrum they are. More may teach us a lot. Without the details, the results are like swimwear, hiding what could be the most interesting.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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