In Steinlight's originating article, though, he doesn't present anything relating to a generational divide among American Jews, emphasizing instead the gap between the mainstream Jewish majority and the self-styled Jewish leaders who putatively misrepresent them. Steinlight's article, however, was written nearly a year ago, and he could have presented new material in the talk the Derb attended.
Whatever the case, it would be interesting to see evidence confirming or contradicting the claim that younger Jews are more restrictionist (and thus more in line with broader public opinion) than older Jews are.
Unfortunately, the GSS does not provide a large enough sample to be directly informative on the immigration issue. Questions on immigration were posed in 2000, of which responses from a whopping 34 Jews (of all ages) were recorded. The GSS does, however, consistently query respondents on their political orientations. Those who self-describe as politically conservative tend to be more restrictionist than those who call themselves liberals, so if younger Jews are more conservative than older Jews are, it's reasonable to assume they are similarly more restrictionist.
The following table divides Jewish respondents (n = 262) into three age categories and compares them politically. For broader comparative purposes, it also includes the same for all white respondents (n = 11,034). To strike a balance between adequate sample size and contemporary relevance, the last ten years of GSS surveys are consulted:
Not much evincing Steinlight's contention. Younger Jews are slightly less conservative and correspondingly more moderate than their parents and grandparents are, but the differences are marginal.
It is noteworthy, though, that in contrast to the pattern observed among all whites, younger Jews are no more liberal than middle-aged and older Jews. If young Jews are not, as Steinlight puts it, "decidedly more conservative than their elders", they are not more liberal than those elders, either. If Jews tend to experience the same rightward shift throughout the course of their lives that whites do, the GSS provides reason to suspect that today's young Jews are more conservative than older Jews were at the same age. That said, Jews of all ages are, on average, considerably more liberal than the rest of white America is.
To the potential objection that Steinlight is describing Jews based on religious affiliation, not ethnicity, the GSS item used to determine the political orientations of Jews is worded as follows: "What is your religous preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?" Only 1.9% of respondents indicated Judaism, compared to 14.7% of respondents who choose no religion. The latter figure is undoubtedly comprised in part of those who are ancestrally Jewish but who are themselves irreligious. There is not an apples-to-oranges problem here.
As to the potential objection that the GSS too generalist and wide-ranging to definitively contradict Steinlight's assertion, that is correct. It is merely suggestive. As is so often the case, though, the GSS is an enormous mine of information about the US population, and consequently is surely worth taking a look at.
GSS variables used: RELIG(3), RACE(1), YEAR(1998-2008), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7), AGE(18-34)(35-59)(60-89)