The importance of religion in young Americans’ lives is in danger. According to trends illuminated by the most recent Pew Study on religious life in America, there is a clear downward trend in the importance of religious life in younger people compared to older people - and this trend is growing over time.

While 65% of people aged 65 and older find religion to be “very important” in their life, this percentage decreases to 59% in ages 50-64, 51% in ages 30-49, and 40% in ages 18-29. This tendency also holds for attendance at religious services; frequency of prayer; reading scripture; interpreting scripture; belief in heaven; participation in prayer, scripture study or religious education; and looking to religion as a source of guidance on right and wrong.

And yet, 18-29 year-olds, more than any other group, say they feel a sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week. Young people are the most curious, but they are not turning to religion for answers.

Meanwhile, connection with and attitudes toward Israel in the life of young Americans is also danger. According to the Pew Forum’s study on Jewish Americans, there is a clear downward trend regarding emotional attachment to Israel when one compares older Jews with their younger counterparts. This is also getting worse over time.

According to Yael Eckstein, Global Executive Vice President of the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), these trends are very concerning for both the Jewish and Christian communities.

“As we see the dwindling of these Judeo-Christian values, we also see the support for Israel dwindle” she said, maintaining that lack of faith might be one of the reasons why “even those who stand with Israel are not as strong and passionate about it anymore,” she told Breaking Israel News.

“Also, while people of an older generation saw the miracle that was Israel’s establishment, younger generations did not, and missed that opportunity to develop a lifelong love and respect for Israel, and admiration for what the Jewish people have been able to build there.” Rather, she said, “This generation has been indoctrinated by the media to believe that Israel is an aggressor.”

The solution, she said, lies in education, and in providing the tools necessary for people to strengthen their faith and roots - and this is best done together, as a partnership between Christians and Jews.

Eckstein maintained that dialogue and understanding between the next generation of Jews and Christians is “a goal that we have to start working toward now, because it takes investment, it takes time. But I think it's achievable.”

The Fellowship is attempting to foster these relationships in real time, she added, with tours to Israel that include opportunities to volunteer at Fellowship projects and visit holy sites. Visiting Israel gives Christians a one-of-a-kind chance to tap into the spiritual roots of their religion.

For those who cannot visit, The Fellowship’s website facilitates ways to experience Israel without even stepping out of their house, including opportunities to learn Hebrew, informational videos about Israel, information about The Fellowship’s work in the Holy Land, and more.

According to Eckstein, both methods of learning about Israel build community, which is what both older and younger people may need to increase their connection to Israel and to their faith.

“So many people today are looking for a community to be part of. The Fellowship means being part of millions of individuals who stand together and have dialogue within our differences, respecting our differences,” she said, adding that the opportunity for this is bright if we remember the words of Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

According to Eckstein, American society will be strengthened once the next generation of Jews and Christians discover and are strengthened in their faith. “We will start to see more support for Israel as well,” she added. “The stronger the Judeo-Christian values are among young people, the stronger the support for Israel will be.”

Author's Bio: 

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to promote understanding between Christians and Jews, and build support for Israel. Learn more about the IFCJ here:
The IFCJ was founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leading advocate of religious freedom who has dedicated his work to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews. Learn more about Rabbi Eckstein here: