Fewer Jews in Foxholes
Ever since my first year in Air Force ROTC I’ve been trying to figure out how many other Jews there are in the military. I guess it was probably so I could have an idea of the likelihood of me actually meeting other Jews, and being at bases with viable Jewish communities. When I was a freshman, I was able to find out the Air Force component on the Air Force Personnel Center website, but looking back at the site in subsequent years, I have no idea where I found it.
Within the last month (after Googling for years) I found 4 websites with some relevant information. The Jewish War Veterans (my late grandfather was a member, fought in WWII) website recently put out a “350th Year, Commemoration of Jews in the (Colonial/American) Military Guide,” which is a great read if you’re looking for a half-hour to kill at work and want to read something to make you proud to be a Jewish serviceman. The guide tells that “Jews have always had a higher percentage in the military than their percentage of the total population.”(p.35).
This was pretty inspiring, and I kept researching. What I found out on the other 3 sites was not as motivational. I’m not sure when the trend began, but for at the least the last few years, we’ve been well under being equal on a per capita basis.
According to one website, that names its source as the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center, but doesn’t give a date for the article, declared Jewish servicemembers are 1,413 Army, 1,027 Air Force, and 1,548 Navy/Marines. Based on the totals of that site, the data indicates our percentage of the military overall, as well as by DoD department, is a low 0.3%.
The third website I found cites the Armed Forces Chaplains Board of the DoD, and its info is current as of 31 Dec 02. This site gives numbers on only enlisted personnel, however. Here we get 823 Army, 1,226 Air Force, and 1,034 Navy/Marines. Our percentage there comes out at roughly 0.4%.
The last website I found again put up the figure of 0.3%; in other words 3 in every 1000 servicemembers declares Judaism as their religious preference. It also cites a 2000 Gallup Poll that puts the percentage of Jews in America at roughly 2%, which is the same as I’ve been told all my life. The bottom line is that our percentage of America’s fighting forces would have to increase nearly 7-fold to match our percentage of the population as a whole. I was floored to discover this. I tried to figure out how it could be that in past wars we’ve served our country in droves, and now it’s in trickles. Steve Sailer, a journalist for UPI, wrote the article on this last website, and he tries to offer an explanation:
At 0.3 percent, Jews make up less of the services than they do of the general population, where estimates of the proportion of Jews center around 2 percent.
There are several reasons for this. For example, American Jews tend to be older than the national average with a median age of 41, according to the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, compared to 35 for Americans as a whole. So, fewer Jews are of military age.
Further, this study found that about half of all Jews have bachelor’s degrees, vs. 28 percent overall. While 95 percent of military officers have college degrees, only about 3 percent of enlistees do, and 85 percent of them have never been to college. Therefore, the percentage of Jews in the working class from which most enlistees are recruited is well below the national average.
Muslims, who make up about 1 percent of the population, [and also about 0.3% of the Armed Forces,] according to a Center for Immigration Studies report by Daniel Pipes and Khalid DurÃ¡n, are somewhat more represented in the military on a per capita basis than Jews, but are less represented than Christians.
He brings in a lot of interesting facts (which I love), but he doesn’t address any Jewish societal influences, which I believe may also have a significant impact on the disheartening disproportion.
I went to a private Jewish day school in Philadelphia for High School, and I feel motivated to send their college counselor ROTC or other military recruitment/information packets. I know when I brought up ROTC to my counselor, she was shocked. Besides me, and one graduate a year above me (who went Navy ROTC), I’d never heard of anyone from my school going into the military. Beyond that, I’m not sure what we can do. I would think that considering the nature of our enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jews would be lining up around the corner at the recruiter’s office to join the fight, like they did in WWII, when another menace threated American and especially Jewish freedom.
I’d like to end this article with 2 questions:
1) Why do you think our percentage of the military has fallen off so drastically?
2) What can we do about it, if we should even be concerned?