Poll shows local Jews liberal except on Israel security

The survey showed, for example, that 79 percent of Jews nationwide would accept a Palestinian state that doesn't threaten Israel. That figure rose just slightly in the Bay Area: 82 percent in the San Francisco, North Bay and Peninsula area, and 85 percent in the East Bay.

At the same time, 56 percent of Jews nationally and in both local areas asserted that a Palestinian state will be a threat to the Jewish state.

Similarly, 70 percent of the Jews nationwide said the Clinton administration should pressure both the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to move the peace process ahead. That figure dipped just a bit to 66 percent in the S.F.-based area and 68 percent in the East Bay.

Someone analyzing the general differences between Bay Area Jews and American Jews will see a "consistent shading of liberalism" here, said Earl Raab, who helped create the survey. "But it's not very significant in any single question" on the survey.

The 92-question survey, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Brandeis University and the S.F.-based JCRC, was sent in December to 6,800 Jewish federation donors in 14 communities.

About 630 Jews from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's region, which includes San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin County and Sonoma County, returned surveys — as did about 340 in the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay's region, which includes Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

In the S.F. area, 44 percent labeled themselves as liberals, 48 percent as moderates and 8 percent as conservatives. In the East Bay, 47 percent called themselves liberals, 48 percent moderates and 5 percent conservatives.

Nationally, 33 percent of considered themselves liberals, 54 percent moderates and 13 percent conservatives.

Raab, the JCRC's executive director emeritus, and Rabbi Doug Kahn, the JCRC's executive director, were part of a small team that created the survey.

Aside from demonstrating the similarities between Bay Area Jews and American Jews, the survey offered numerous glimpses into how Bay Area Jews think.

The survey, for example, asked several questions about the current controversies over religious pluralism in Israel.

Ninety-two percent of Jews in the S.F. area and 94 percent of those in the East Bay said Israel should recognize Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel. Nationally, 91 percent concurred.

Eighty-six percent of S.F. area and 87 percent of East Bay respondents asserted that men and women should be able to pray together "in the vicinity" of the Western Wall. On the national level, that figure was 81 percent.

Respondents were more disturbed by the government's stance on religious pluralism than on the peace process.

Eighty-one percent of S.F. area and 80 percent of East Bay Jews said the Israeli government's peace policies don't affect their sense of closeness to Israel. Nationally, the figure was 84 percent.

But a much lower number — 59 percent in the S.F. area and 55 percent in the East Bay — said that the Israeli government's stance on religious matters doesn't affect how close they feel to Israel. On the national level, that figure was 63 percent.

"They have a very strong, clear and personal reaction on religious pluralism in Israel. They react as a matter of personal outrage," Raab said. "But they're not so damn sure about what policies will work in the peace process."

The survey showed strong support for the Oslo peace accords still exists. Results related to the peace process include:

*68 percent of both S.F. area and East Bay respondents stated Israel should freeze further settlements in the West Bank. Nationally, the figure was 62 percent.

*66 percent in the S.F. area and 67 percent in the East Bay assert that Netanyahu has "unnecessarily provoked" the Palestinians. On the national level, that figure was 60 percent.

*At the same time, 61 percent in the S.F. area and 60 percent in the East Bay assert that the Palestine Liberation Organization can never be trusted to make "real peace" with Israel. On the national level, the figure is 70 percent.

Raab considers the answer to the latter question particularly telling. Even those Jews who were critical of the Israeli government's peace policies also questioned the sincerity of the Palestinians.

He calls these Jews "doubtful doves."

"These are people who think Israel should do more…but who have serious doubts about the PLO."

As for anti-Semitism, local Jews worry a bit less than their national counterparts.

Twenty-three percent of S.F. area and 24 percent of East Bay respondents asserted that anti-Semitism in the United States is increasing. That figure grows to 31 percent on the national level.

Part of the fear apparently stems from concerns about the growing popularity of Christian fundamentalism and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Forty-two percent of S.F. area and 40 percent of East Bay Jews "worry a lot" about a rise in future anti-Semitism due to Christian fundamentalism. Nationally, the figure was 42 percent.

And 52 percent in the S.F. area and 50 percent in the East Bay "worry a lot" about anti-Semitism as a result of increased support for Farrakhan among African-Americans. Nationally, that figure was 52 percent.

"These are two areas that receive a lot of media attention in the general and Jewish press," Kahn noted. "There is heightened sensitivity."

The survey also asked questions related to domestic issues.

Regarding abortion, 97 percent of S.F. area and 96 percent of East Bay Jews believe the practice should remain legal. Nationally, the figure was 91 percent.

On one issue related to the gay-lesbian community, the survey asked if unmarried couples, including same-sex partners, should have the same rights and benefits as married couples.

Seventy-six percent of S.F. area and 79 percent of East Bay Jews said unmarried couples should receive benefits. Nationally, that figure was 61 percent.

The survey marked the first time that information about sexual orientation was requested. About 3 percent in the S.F. area and 1 percent in the East Bay identified as homosexual.

That question was not asked nationally. The Bay Area's decision to add it to the survey came out of concerns that in the past, gays and lesbian Jews haven't had the chance to record their opinions as a group, Kahn said.

The JCRC plans to post a summary and analysis of the survey on its Web site — http://www.jcrc.org — next month.