Jewish Values: Is the American Dream included? THE AMERICAN DREAM: Americans have had a love-hate relationship with immigrants throughout U.S. history. But Jewish Americans have been in the forefront of reaching out to newcomers with the hope of a better life. This U.S. Army photograph was taken just after World War II as Harry Weinsaft, a worker with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, gave a food packet to young Renati Rulhater, a Jewish child living in a Displaced Persons camp in Vienna, Austria. The American Dream of prosperity and success is a common theme in our culture. It can be especially poignant for immigrants who come with the dream in their heart, as we’ve discussed before, though some say it can be more dreaming than a commitment to the hard work that turns the dream into reality for newcomers.

If you work hard, is it still true that you will get ahead? About a third of Jewish Americans (37%) in the latest poll by the Public Religion Research Institute say yes, but this is lower than the proportion of all Americans (44%) who say it’s still try that hard work pays off. Other religious groups, such white Evangelicals, white mainline Protestants, or Catholics are also more likely to say that working hard still pays off today.

Two-thirds of Jewish Americans believe the government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor, about the same as the percentage of all Americans who feel the same way. Protestants, especially white Evangelicals, are less likely to agree that the government should do more to cut the wealth gap.

Taxing the rich is one way to reduce the gap between rich and poor, and eight of ten Jewish Americans (81%) favor increasing the tax rate for those who make more than $1 million a year. More Jewish Americans favor this tax strategy than other Americans. Among all Americans, 70% favor taxing the rich. White Evangelicals are the least likely to support taxing the rich, with 65% in favor of increasing taxes on those who make $1 million or more annually.

Overall, PRRI researchers conclude that “American Jews are not anti-wealth or anti-Wall Street.” They note, however, that a large majority believes that the economic system we currently have favors the rich and disfavors the poor.

Do you agree or disagree that hard work pays off in today’s economy?

What of you think of taxing the rich—a good or bad idea?

How do your religious values inform your views of economic equality?

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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