About a quarter of Jews in Israel (24%) turn to rabbonim for advice, and nearly half of them (43%) are not religious, according to a new study conducted by Dr. Ido Lieberman and Dr. Yael Keshet, based on figures compiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
“In nominal numbers, we are talking about 386,750 secular and traditional Jews who regularly visit rabbis’ homes and ask for their advice,” the researchers tell Ynet.
The two, lecturers in sociology at the Western Galilee Academic College, studied the flocking of Israelis – particularly non-religious Jews – to rabbis’ home, and tried to understand whether this phenomenon is similar to Americans flocking to psychologists and personal coaches. They also asked themselves why secular businesspeople and politicians court famous rabbis and seek a mystic response which has nothing to do with anything rational.
The researchers (he is religious, she isn’t) stress that they approached the study without any criticism and out of a sincere desire to understand the motives of the seculars who turn to rabbis.
“The existential search for encouragement, a source of comfort and mental support motivate a variety of people in the population to turn to spiritual elements too with the hope of finding salvation,” says Dr. Keshet.
“Despite the suspicions, the stigma and the negative experiences sometimes, more and more people from all classes are interested in containing and connecting to the spiritual and traditional aspect in their secular lives. The blurred boundaries between religion and secularism are only growing.”
According to Dr. Keshet, the study also reveals that among secular and traditional Jews, the rate of those who turn to rabbis is higher among young people than among adults over the age of 40. It is also higher among members of the second generation of Sephardic decent compared to people born in Israel of European or American descent. People with a lower income and education are also more inclined to turn to rabbis.
The study also found a strong connection between a shaky mental situation and the desire to turn to a rabbi. When the respondents were asked who they would rather turn to if they felt depressed or wanted to share their personal problems with someone, 51.2% said they would rather turn to a psychologist or another professional, 43.9% would rather turn to a rabbi and 5% said they would opt to use both options. Read more at Ynet.