Local Jewish Community Studies as Planning Tools for the American Jewish Community

, June 9, 2009

Jewish Political Studies Review 21:1-2 (Spring 2009)

More than 50 American Jewish Federations completed local Jewish community studies from 1993 to 2008. The principal purpose of this paper is to illustrate the utility of these studies. Part I cites examples of how the results of these studies have been utilized to guide Jewish community decision-making at the national and local levels. Part II forwards a series of additional arguments in support of completing local Jewish community studies.

The National Jewish Population Surveys (NJPS) completed in the United States in 1971,[1] 1990,[2] and 2000[3] each garnered significant attention among many institutions that supply direct services to Jews, and among leaders providing guidance concerning the condition of the American Jewish community nationally. NJPS 1990 was particularly important, as its findings moved the issue of Jewish continuity to the forefront of the Jewish communal agenda, resulting in such programs as “Birthright Israel.” All three national studies contain invaluable information that has been used effectively by academics, Jewish agencies and Jewish communal workers, synagogues, commercial concerns, the government, the media, and many others. Some of this information has been presented effectively to major philanthropists to convince them that certain projects are worthy of their largesse.

Unfortunately, it currently appears increasingly unlikely that an NJPS 2010 will be conducted. United Jewish Communities, which sponsored the 2000 study,[4] has announced that it will not undertake the project. Some possibility exists that a university, with a grant from a major philanthropist, may be willing to do so. While this researcher supports the undertaking of a national study in 2010, at least four reasons can be cited by those arguing against such a study. First, NJPS 2000 was accompanied by widespread criticism of its methodology, with much of the criticism aimed at United Jewish Communities (although some of the criticism was justified, much was not). Second, while less expensive methodologies than the one used in NJPS 2000 could be employed,[5] the cost of an NJPS 2010 would still be very significant. Third, some experts doubt the ability to use random digit dialing (RDD) technologies in 2010 as effectively as in the past, the principal problem resulting from the growth in the number of cell phone-only households. Fourth, and most relevant, most planning, programming, and service delivery in the American Jewish community occurs at the local, not the national, level.

It is this last reason, that most planning is local, that is most salient. The North American Jewish Data Bank (http://www.jewishdatabank.org)/) archives about 200 local Jewish community studies. Fifty-four such studies have been completed since 1993, based on over 53,000 random telephone interviews at a combined cost of $8-10 million (Table 1). The vast majority of these interviews took 15-20 minutes. They covered diverse topics, including the geographic distribution of the Jewish population, migration patterns, basic demographics (such as age, marital status, and income), religiosity, intermarriage, memberships in synagogues, JCCs and Jewish organizations, levels of Jewish education, familiarity with and perception of Jewish agencies, social service needs, Israel, anti-Semitism, use of the Jewish and general media, philanthropic giving, voting patterns, and many other topics. About 75 percent of the American Jewish population lives in the more than 50 Jewish communities that have completed local Jewish community studies. Of the 25 largest American Jewish communities, only one (Rockland County, New York) has not completed a study.

Almost all local Jewish community studies have collected information for three main purposes. The first purpose is to provide data which will direct and focus the organized Jewish community in providing services and programs that will contribute to the development of a Jewish community that will offer compelling reasons for Jews to maintain their Jewish identity as well as be active members of that Jewish community. The second purpose is to assist the organized Jewish community in actualizing its goals by providing data useful in its decision-making, ranging from prioritizing its objectives, to funding agencies, programs and institutions, to the undertaking of capital campaigns, to making relevant policy decisions, and to best providing social, cultural, recreational, and educational services to the Jewish community. The third purpose is to assist Jewish Federations and other Jewish organizations in financial resource development.

The overriding question posed by this paper is whether local Jewish community studies have proven useful to the Jewish communities completing them. Part I provides concrete examples of the use of local Jewish community studies. The first section of Part I demonstrates that local Jewish community studies can provide guidance for national planning purposes. The second section examines the type of guidance that local Jewish community studies can provide for planning issues at the local community level. Both of these purposes are satisfied by providing examples from local Jewish community studies. In many cases, these examples are peppered with statements that compare a particular community with up to about 50 comparison Jewish communities.[6] Although making comparisons among communities can never be perfect (for a whole variety of methodological reasons that are beyond the scope of this paper),[7] they are certainly useful for evaluating how a community’s profile compares with others. Part II provides a series of additional arguments in support of conducting local Jewish community studies.

Part 1: Examples of the Use of Local Jewish Community Study Results

1.1 The Use of Local Jewish Community Studies for Addressing National Issues

This section provides three examples of the usefulness of the results of local Jewish community studies in addressing national concerns:

1) examining consistent correlations between behaviors measured in local Jewish community studies in support of national programming efforts;

2) providing guidance as to the extent to which given situations are prevalent nationally; and

3) providing large sample sizes (that would be unobtainable from a typical national study) for small geographic areas that have relevance at the national level.

National Example I: Numerous Local Jewish Community Studies Find the Same Correlations

The 1990 NJPS alerted the American Jewish community as to the extent to which a focus on Jewish continuity was warranted. In response, the American Jewish community has been searching for programs and experiences that will be effective in convincing young Jews both to marry other Jews and to become active members of the Jewish community when they become adults. One way to accomplish this is to examine existing programs and experiences that have been successful. If “success” may be defined, for example, as higher levels of in-marriage, synagogue membership, or donating to Jewish charities, then the rates for these behaviors may be compared for groups of households with and without these programs and experiences in their backgrounds.

For this reason, many local Jewish community studies have asked about the formal and informal Jewish education as a child of each adult in a surveyed household. One form of informal Jewish education queried in more than 25 local Jewish community studies was whether each adult had attended or worked at a Jewish sleepaway camp as a child. These studies then examine the correlation between such experiences and adult Jewish behaviors. For example, the 2004 Miami local Jewish community study showed that 48 percent of households in which an adult attended or worked at a Jewish overnight camp as a child are current synagogue members, compared to 34 percent of households in which no adult had attended or worked at a Jewish overnight camp as a child.[8] Based upon repeated findings of this nature, the Foundation for Jewish Camping (http://www.jewishcamp.org/) was founded in New York, with the goal of supporting Jewish overnight camping as a method to build a strong North American Jewish community. The results of several local Jewish community studies showing the relationship between camping as a child and adult Jewish behaviors were touted in the press release and the literature aimed at potential donors announcing the establishment of this Foundation.

Similar relationships found for Jewish day schools, supplemental schools, sleepaway camps, Hillel/Chabad experiences on the college campus, and Israel trips have likewise been used effectively on the national stage.

National Example II: Local Jewish Community Studies Provide Guidance as to the Extent That a Given Situation is Prevalent Nationally

One issue that has been of concern in both the Jewish and the general communities has been that of single parent families. When this researcher is asked by Jewish community lay leaders why Jewish community studies are necessary, he often begins by asking them for their best estimate of the percentage of children in Jewish households being raised in single-parent households. Most responses from the lay leaders generally range between 25 percent and 60 percent. Information gathered from 36 local Jewish community studies, however, shows that the percentage varies from 1 percent to 18 percent. The median for the 36 communities is 7 percent, while 28 of the 36 communities have values between 7 percent and 11 percent. None of the 36 communities even approach the percentage often assumed to be the case by local lay leaders. While a national number cannot be produced from these local data, it is clear that the percentage of Jewish children living in single-parent families nationally is not nearly as high as many believe. This could explain why, in many cases, reduced dues and fees for services and programs available to such households fail to attract the anticipated large numbers of new members or program participants. More importantly, Jewish organizations that attempt to influence federal and state governments, organizations that often have severe time and budget constraints, are informed by these results that they might assist the Jewish community better by prioritizing other needs or by adjusting requests for the allocation of funding.

National Example III: Local Jewish Community Studies Provide Data on National Issues That Cannot be Garnered from a National Study

Currently, United Jewish Communities is involved in a project examining the impact of mobility on the American Jewish community. While data from the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey is certainly invaluable in examining a variety of issues related to this project, the researchers are also focusing on data from the local Jewish community studies in nine large Jewish communities with stable or fast-growing Jewish populations in the West and South. Each of these studies has a sample size of 800 to 1,500. NJPS 2000 had a sample size of about 4,500 respondents nationwide, but was not designed to produce community-level data. Only local Jewish community studies can provide data to examine the impact of national policy on Jewish mobility.

Other examples of the use of local Jewish community studies to gain national understanding can be cited. Although a new national Jewish population survey could certainly contribute further to our understanding of the American Jewish community, it is also true that this resource of local Jewish community studies (available at http://www.jewishdatabank.org)/) is underutilized by those setting national policy.

1.2 Use of Local Jewish Community Studies for Addressing Local Issues

Communities typically spend between $100,000 and $250,000 on a local Jewish community study. Respondents are generally willing to cooperate by donating only a limited amount of time for a telephone survey; usually a 15-20-minute time frame for the questionnaire is the goal. Therefore, the number of questions and the resulting topics that can be covered are limited. Questions included are selected to assist the decision-making process for the Jewish Federation, the major Jewish agencies (such as the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service), and local synagogues. Little, if any, thought is usually given to a local Jewish community study’s potential contribution to addressing national issues.

This section provides examples of the manner in which local Jewish community study results have been utilized by local Jewish communities to shed light upon local Jewish community issues. Examples are provided in ten areas: 1) changing Jewish population size; 2) changing geographic distribution of the Jewish population; 3) place of birth; 4) age distributions; 5) Jewish continuity; 6) intermarriage; 7) synagogue membership; 8) Jewish preschool; 9) anti-Semitism; and 10) Israel.

Local Examples I: Detroit: Planning for a Decreasing Population and Las Vegas: Planning for an Increasing Jewish Population

While the number of Jews in a community does help to determine the types of capital facilities and the number and types of programs that can be offered, perhaps of greater importance to long-range planning is whether the Jewish population of an area is decreasing, stable, or increasing.

Detroit has a large, but decreasing, Jewish population. The 2005 Detroit local Jewish community study[9] found 78,000 persons in 30,000 Jewish households of whom 71,500 persons (92 percent) were Jewish. The previous study completed in 1989 found 105,000 persons in 42,500 Jewish households of whom 96,000 persons (91 percent) were Jewish.

Four other findings also indicate that the size of the Detroit Jewish population has been decreasing and will probably continue to do so. First, an analysis using distinctive Jewish names suggests that the number of persons in Jewish households decreased from 85,000 in 1999 to 78,000 in 2005.[10] Second, compared to about 40 Jewish communities, the 3 percent of Jewish households in Detroit who moved to the local area in the five years preceding the study is the lowest percentage. This figure indicates that an average of 168 households who were living in Detroit at the time of the study moved there each year during the previous five years (the in-migration rate for households). The 5 percent of households who indicated that they would definitely or probably move out of Detroit within the next three years is around average among about 35 comparison Jewish communities. These data suggest that an average of between 40 and 460 households will move out of Detroit each year within the three years following the study (the out-migration rate). Assuming that the prevailing rate of in-migration continued for the next few years, these data suggest that the number of Jewish households in Detroit had been decreasing and would probably continue to decrease during the next few years as a result of migration into and out of Detroit.

Third, 24 percent of persons in Detroit Jewish households are age 65 and over, compared to 16 percent of Jews nationally and 12 percent of all Americans. This age distribution suggests that the annual number of Jewish deaths is greater than the annual number of Jewish births. Fourth, the number of donors to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit Annual Campaign decreased 37 percent from 16,609 in 1995 to 10,474 in 2005.

Thus, planning in Detroit should occur in an environment that assumes a continuing decrease in the Jewish population. The strong attachments of many Jews to this area suggested by other findings in the study provide evidence that the current decrease will probably not continue forever.

Las Vegas presents an entirely different scenario. The 2005 Las Vegas Jewish community study[11] found 89,000 persons in 42,000 Jewish households of whom 67,500 persons (76 percent) are Jewish. From 1995 to 2005, the number of Jewish households increased by 44 percent (from 29,100 households to 42,000 households), while the number of persons in Jewish households increased by 33 percent (from 66,900 persons to 89,000 persons) and the number of Jews in Jewish households increased by 21 percent (from 55,600 Jews to 67,500 Jews). These significant numbers can be touted by national Jewish organizations in an attempt to attract additional Jewish resources to Las Vegas.

Compared to about 40 Jewish communities, the 29 percent of Jewish households in Las Vegas who moved to Southern Nevada within the past five years is the fourth highest. This figure means that an average of 2,428 households who were living in Las Vegas at the time of the study moved there each year during the previous five years (the in-migration rate for households). However, the 5 percent of Jewish households who will definitely move out of the local metropolitan area within the next three years is the fifth highest of about 30 comparison Jewish communities. Approximately 11 percent of households indicated that they would definitely or probably move out of Las Vegas within the next three years. These data suggest that an average of between 672 and 1,526 households will move out of Las Vegas each year within the three years following the study (the out-migration rate). Assuming that the prevailing rate of in-migration continued in the following few years, these data suggest that the number of Jewish households in Las Vegas had been increasing and would probably continue to increase during the next few years as a result of migration into and out of Las Vegas. Thus, planning should occur in an environment that assumes a continuing increase in the Jewish population.

Does this mean that Detroit should not be looking to add capital facilities and programs and services while Las Vegas should? The answer is, probably not. In fact, many other results in these two studies show that Detroit has a population far more connected to Judaism than does Las Vegas, and that any type of Jewish facility or programming may have a better chance of success in Detroit than in Las Vegas. What it does mean is that when community leaders in Detroit plan facilities and programs they must do so with an understanding that the Jewish population is, at best, going to be relatively stable. Community leaders in Las Vegas, on the other hand, can assume that their Jewish population will increase when planning new facilities (as of this writing a major new campus with a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish high school are being planned). Las Vegas planners can also argue that their high rate of in-migration reflects a significant desire by Jews to live in Las Vegas and that by expanding Jewish infrastructure they will probably attract even more Jews.

Were the Jewish communities in Detroit and Las Vegas aware, prior to receiving the results of their studies, that their Jewish populations were deceasing and increasing respectively? Yes, they were. However, the Detroit Jewish community had assumed that their decrease was far more severe than and it was. Las Vegas Jewish community leaders, on the other hand, had been touting that theirs was the fastest-growing Jewish community in the country and estimating a Jewish population in excess of 100,000. These assumptions proved exaggerated. Las Vegas contains only 67,500 Jews and is far from the nation’s fastest-growing Jewish community. For the most part, planners in Las Vegas were aware of the significant in-migration, but were not considering the significant out-migration. Large number of Jews came to the community only to leave it after just a few years.

Local Examples II: West Palm Beach: Planning for a Geographically Shifting Jewish Population and Bergen County: Planning for a Geographically Stable Jewish Population

A significant geographic shift in the location of the Jewish population occurred in West Palm Beach from 1987 to 2005.[12] The percentage of persons in Jewish households in West Palm Beach who live in Boynton Beach increased from 12 percent in 1987 to 37 percent in 1999 and 43 percent in 2005 (from 9,250 persons to 37,300 persons to 58,600 persons). Although, the percentage of persons in Jewish households who live in Lake Worth decreased from 28 percent in 1987 to 23 percent in 1999 and 21 percent in 2005, the number of persons increased from 21,500 in 1987 to 23,000 in 1999 and 28,300 persons in 2005. Together, the two southern geographic areas (Boynton Beach and Lake Worth) increased from 40 percent in 1987 to 59 percent in 1999 and 63 percent in 2005. Over the same time period, and in stark contrast, the percentage of persons in Jewish households who live in the central area decreased from 33 percent in 1987 to 13 percent in 1999 and 8 percent in 2005 (from 25,300 persons in 1987 to 12,800 in 1999 and 11,400 in 2005).

The problem created by this shift in the geographic location of the Jewish population is that the main campus for this community (which includes the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service, the Jewish day school, and various other agencies) is located in the Central Area, where the population is decreasing. Boynton Beach/Lake Worth, where the Jewish population is exploding, has been served by a relatively small facility. Note that a commitment was made concerning the location of the main campus prior to the first community study in 1987. At that time, locating a campus in the Central Area seemed reasonable, given the assumed facts. The community is now in the process of adding infrastructure where it is needed, guided by the results of later studies in 1999 and 2005.

In contrast to the shifting Jewish population of West Palm Beach, the geographic distribution of the Jewish population of Bergen County, New Jersey was shown by their 2001 study not to have changed significantly since 1994.[13] Pascack-Northern Valley showed a small increase in Jewish households and the other geographic areas of Bergen County showed small decreases. In Bergen, therefore, planning should occur in an environment that assumes no significant changes in the geographic location of Jewish households.

Clearly, communities need to be aware of changes in the local geographic distribution of their Jewish population. In fact, concern about the current locations of community facilities or decisions about where to locate a proposed new community facility often prompt a community to undertake a study. If a capital facility is not optimally located then it may be underutilized, while needs remain unmet in other parts of a Jewish Federation’s service area, tens of millions of dollars might be wasted. One Jewish Federation, on the basis of population trends reflected in a community study that was more than 15 years old (significant growth of households with children in the north), built a major new facility in the northern part of their service area. However, the trends that had been present in the late 1980s were no longer applicable and the facility was opened and closed within just a few years.

If a program or a service is offered at the “wrong” location, a Jewish community can more easily move the program to operate from a different location than they can adjust the location of a poorly located capital facility, but the costs may still be significant. Thus, information on the changing geographic distribution of the Jewish population is one of the most important results of a community study.

Local Examples III: Place of Birth

About 40 local Jewish community studies have asked the place of birth of adults in Jewish households. Two statistics derive from this question: the percentage of adults in Jewish households born locally and the percentage foreign-born.

The percentage born locally varies from 0 percent in South Palm Beach, 1 percent in Las Vegas and Sarasota, 2 percent in Broward and West Palm Beach, and 4 percent in Orlando and Phoenix to 50 percent in Baltimore and Chicago, 51 percent in Philadelphia and St. Louis, 57 percent in Cleveland and Detroit, and 59 percent in New York. The median value is 24 percent. Jewish communities with a high percentage of locally born adults, mostly in the Northeast and the Midwest, have an advantage in community building over those in the South and the West. Adults who were born in an area feel more of an attachment to that area and its institutions than do adults who have recently moved to an area. For most in-migrants, the local synagogue is not the one they had attended when they were children, nor might it be the synagogue they expect their own children to attend when they become adults. Their family history and roots are not entwined with the community. In South Florida, many Conservative and Reform synagogues have no preschools, day camps, and Hebrew schools because their membership is composed of older households with no children at home. Likewise, non-native households often have no tradition of donating to the local Jewish Federation. In fact, many households in communities in the South and the West maintain synagogue memberships in the communities of their birth and they also continue to donate to Jewish Federations “back home,” rather than in their new place of residence. The marketing departments in Jewish Federations in the South and the West face the challenge of convincing people that their new home is their home. Many non-natives have the attitude that having contributed to, and built, their prior communities, they have “already done it.”

The percentage of foreign-born adults in Jewish households varies from 4 percent in Atlantic County (NJ) and Portland (ME), 5 percent in Harrisburg (PA), and 6 percent in Phoenix, Richmond, and Tidewater to 17 percent in Bergen, Minneapolis, and St. Paul, 19 percent in San Diego, 27 percent in New York, and 31 percent in Miami. The median value is 10 percent. While some “standard” questions are asked in almost every study, the results from these questions are not equally relevant to all communities. The percentage of foreign-born adults is of little interest to some communities, yet the finding of a high foreign-born percentage was of great importance in Minneapolis and St. Paul and Miami.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the study found that 17 percent of adults in Jewish households were foreign-born, that the overwhelming majority of the foreign-born were from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and that they were in worse health and of lower income than the general Jewish population.[14] These findings led to a proposal being funded by a local foundation to provide assistance for FSU Jews.

In Miami, the finding of 31 percent foreign-born Jews was advertised to motivate the Jewish community to actively strive to “be inclusive” of its new immigrants, most of whom were recent arrivals from South and Central America, including Argentina, Columbia, and Venezuela, in addition to Israelis and Jews from the FSU.[15] When Cuban Jews had arrived in Miami in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some had perceived the organized Jewish community as being less than welcoming. With sensitivity to that former perception, when the 2004 Jewish community study was published in Miami, this finding was cited in the material distributed to the more than 1,000 attendees at the opening event of the Jewish Federation campaign. The theme of the event was “Into the Tent,” to emphasize inclusiveness.

Local Examples IV: Age Distributions

All local Jewish community studies ask the age of all persons in Jewish households. A population’s age distribution is among the most important demographic indicators and is a major determinant of the types of programs a Jewish community must offer. Age is related to everything from the need for preschools, Jewish day schools, supplemental schools, and nursing home beds to levels of religious observance, synagogue membership, and levels of philanthropy.

The York Council of Jewish Charities in Pennsylvania is the smallest Jewish Federation to undertake a local Jewish community study.[16] They did so as a result of a proposal to alleviate overcrowding occurring at the time (1999) by adding classrooms in the classrooms of the Reform synagogue school in York. The two major donors to the synagogue were concerned about the advisability of the announced fundraising campaign to expand the school. Their concern was justified, as the study reported that 11.1 percent of persons in Jewish households in York were age 10-14; 6.4 percent were age 5-9; and 4.4 percent were age 0-4. Clearly, by the time that the new classrooms would be built, they would be no longer be needed, as future enrollment could be expected to decrease.

A similar situation was found in the 2005 Detroit study.[17] The community was concerned about a recent decrease in Jewish day school enrollment. The study showed that this decrease was likely due to a decreasing number of children: 8.2 percent of persons in Jewish households in Detroit were age 10-14; 6.8 percent were age 5-9; and 4.6 percent were age 0-4. Likewise, in San Antonio,[18] some community members were considering an expansion of the Jewish day school until they were presented with the results of the study showing that 7.0 percent of persons in Jewish households were age 10-14; 5.9 percent were age 5-9; and 3.7 percent were age 0-4.

The age distribution for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (which includes southern Maryland, the District of Columbia, and northern Virginia) provided clear direction for that community in 2003.[19] While 16 percent of American Jews are elderly (age 65 and over), only 10 percent of persons in Jewish households in Washington are elderly. However, this percentage is likely to change significantly over the next 15 years, since 22 percent are age 50-64, compared to 7 percent who are age 65-79. While some portion of the 50-64-year-old population may retire elsewhere, the need for planning for additional nursing home beds, assisted living facilities, and elderly services in this community is clear.

The Bergen County, New Jersey 2001 study showed that only 10 percent of the population in Jewish households were age 20-34, compared to 22 percent age 35-49.[20] No major universities operate in Bergen; the conclusion reached was that Jewish children who leave Bergen to attend college (about 87 percent of Jewish children in Bergen do attend college) do not return home, at least not initially. This is related to two factors. First, many college students secure their first job in the vicinity of the college they attend. Second, the median housing value of homes owned by Jewish households in Bergen in 2008 dollars is $452,000, the second highest of 30 comparison Jewish communities, out of reach for many younger households.

The Westport 2000 study found that 31 percent of persons in Jewish households were age 0-17.[21] This figure was the second highest of about 50 comparison Jewish communities. The community had no Jewish Community Center and one Jewish day camp, located in a synagogue (meaning relatively few, if any, sports facilities). The community’s marketing campaign had stressed the needs of the elderly, who were shown by the study to be healthy, wealthy, and few. The findings pointed to the need for a major shift in thinking, marketing, prioritizing, and program and facilities planning.

Finally, the age distribution in West Palm Beach in 2005 showed that 57 percent of persons in Jewish households were age 65 and over.[22] This figure is the second highest of about 45 comparison Jewish communities. The 9 percent who are age 0-17 is the lowest of about 50 comparison Jewish communities. Thus, while no one would argue that children are not a priority, no matter how small their percentage of the Jewish population, these results clearly indicate that this community must prioritize services for its elderly.

Local Examples V: Jewish Continuity

The most important issue facing the American Jewish community today is that of Jewish continuity. The findings of the 1990 NJPS moved this issue to the forefront of the Jewish national agenda. Jewish continuity commissions were formed and programs were designed to bolster Jewish identity in many communities. All local Jewish community studies indicate that some percentage of any given community is for the most part disassociated. Yet, some communities face a more severe situation than others. This contrast can be seen by comparing the results from the Las Vegas 2005 study with those from the Detroit 2005 study.

Overall, the level of Jewish religious practice in Las Vegas is lower than almost every other comparison Jewish community.[23] Among about 35-50 comparison Jewish communities, Las Vegas has the lowest percentage of households who always or usually participate in a Passover Seder (50 percent) and always or usually light Sabbath candles (11 percent). It has the second lowest percentage of households who have a mezuzah on the front door (55 percent) and keep a kosher home (5 percent), and of respondents who keep kosher in and out of the home (3 percent). It has the third lowest percentage of households who always or usually light Chanukah candles (64 percent). Las Vegas also has the third highest percentage of Jewish households who always, usually, or sometimes have a Christmas tree in their home (34 percent).

Among the comparison Jewish communities, Las Vegas has the lowest percentage of households who are members of a synagogue (14 percent), the lowest percentage of households who are members of a synagogue at some time during their adult lives (65 percent), and the lowest percentage of households with children who are members of a synagogue (16 percent). In addition, Las Vegas has the lowest percentage of Jewish respondents who attend synagogue services once per month or more (13 percent) and the second highest percentage who never attend services, or attend only for special occasions (44 percent).

While 83 percent of Jewish households in Las Vegas are involved in Judaism in some way (either through religious practice, synagogue attendance, membership in the organized Jewish community, or Jewish philanthropic giving in the past year), this is the lowest percentage of about 35 comparison Jewish communities. Thus, significant efforts are needed in Las Vegas to engage Jewish households in Jewish life.

The issue of Jewish continuity in Detroit presents a very different picture.[24] On almost all measures of “Jewishness,” Detroit is one of the most “Jewish” Jewish communities in the country. Among about 35-50 comparison Jewish communities, Detroit has the second highest percentage of respondents who keep kosher in and out of the home (14 percent) and who refrain from using electricity on the Sabbath (10 percent). It has the fifth highest percentage of households who always or usually participate in a Passover Seder (82 percent) and keep a kosher home (22 percent). It has the sixth highest percentage of households who have a mezuzah on the front door (77 percent). It has an above average percentage of households who always or usually light Sabbath candles (29 percent) and an average percentage of households who always or usually light Chanukah candles (77 percent). Also, all Orthodox Jewish children and 95 percent of non-Orthodox Jewish children receive some formal Jewish education.

Households under age 35 in Detroit have stronger Jewish identities than is true of most Jewish communities. The 43 percent of respondents under age 35 who attend synagogue services once per month or more is the highest, and the 33 percent of respondents age 35-49 who attend synagogue services once per month or more is the sixth highest of about 35 comparison Jewish communities. The 22 percent of married couples in households under age 35 who are intermarried and the 18 percent of married couples in households age 35-49 who are intermarried are both the lowest of about 35 comparison Jewish communities. The 57 percent current synagogue membership of households under age 35 and the 64 percent current synagogue membership of households age 35-49 are both the highest of about 35 comparison Jewish communities. The 38 percent of households under age 35 who donated to the local Jewish Federation in the past year is the second highest, and the 46 percent of households age 35-49 who donated to the local Jewish Federation in the past year is the seventh highest of about 40 comparison Jewish communities.

However, in many ways, Detroit is a bifurcated community, in which many households maintain a significant degree of commitment to their Jewish identity while others clearly consider their Jewish identity of somewhat marginal importance. Perhaps best illustrating this bifurcation are the following contradictory statistics: 29 percent of respondents under age 35 refrain from using electricity on the Sabbath. On the other hand, 25 percent of households under age 35 always, usually, or sometimes have a Christmas tree in their home and 22 percent of married couples under age 35 are intermarried. While 96 percent of households are involved with Judaism in some way (either through religious practice, membership in Jewish institutions, or Jewish philanthropic giving), for many, the extent of involvement in Jewish activity is low. Thirty-three percent of households under age 35 and 30 percent of households age 35-49 are not associated with the Jewish community via membership in any type of Jewish organization. Efforts in Detroit designed to engage Jewish households in Jewish life should take into account this significant polarization.

Thus, Las Vegas and Detroit show significantly different patterns with respect to Jewish continuity. While both communities will no doubt make Jewish continuity programming a high priority, the case may be more compelling for diverting funds from social service provision (the historic mission of the Jewish Federation movement) to Jewish continuity programming in Las Vegas than in Detroit.

Local Examples VI: Intermarriage

More than 50 local Jewish community studies have asked questions that facilitate the calculation of an intermarriage rate. The percentage of married couples in the Jewish community who are intermarried (the couples intermarriage rate) varies from 9 percent in South Palm Beach, 16 percent in Detroit, Miami, and West Palm Beach, and 17 percent in Baltimore, Bergen, and Monmouth to 50 percent in Atlanta, 55 percent in San Francisco and Seattle, and 61 percent in Portland (ME). The median value is 33 percent. Depending upon its specific intermarriage rate, each community will make its own decision regarding the emphasis it places on efforts to provide outreach to, and integration of, intermarried couples. Portland, for example, with a 61 percent couples intermarriage rate needs to include intermarried couples to even approach threshold numbers for the maintenance of community facilities. Jewish institutions in South Palm Beach at the other extreme, with only a 9 percent couples intermarriage rate, may decide that extraordinary efforts (and, in some cases, compromises of principles) need not be made to include these households.

Local Jewish community studies assist in community-specific policy making and program design. Many communities concerned about their intermarriage rate focus on younger couples. But not only does Portland have the highest overall intermarriage rate (61 percent), it has very high intermarriage rates at every level.[25] Seventy-one percent of married couples in households under age 50 are intermarried. The intermarriage rate for married couples in households age 50-64 (64 percent) is the highest of about 40 comparison Jewish communities, and the intermarriage rates for married couples in households age 65-74 (32 percent) and age 75 and over (30 percent) are the sixth highest and the fourth highest, respectively, of about 35 comparison Jewish communities. Thus, unlike in most other Jewish communities, programs to integrate intermarried couples into the Portland Jewish community should be directed not just at the young, but at all age groups.

For many years, some in the Jewish community maintained that although intermarriage was increasing, many intermarried couples were well integrated into the Jewish community. It was not uncommon to hear synagogue members claim that some of the intermarried couples in the congregation were more involved than some of the in-married couples. While this was (and is) doubtless true, data from local Jewish community studies provide perspective concerning how representative these cases are for the entire intermarried population. Levels of religious practice, membership in the organized Jewish community, Jewish philanthropy, and other involvement in Jewish activity are particularly low in intermarried households. In Portland, 96 percent of in-married households are involved with Judaism in some way, compared to only 82 percent of intermarried households. And while many intermarried couples have at least some Jewish activity evident in their household, on individual measures, intermarried households are generally much less connected to Judaism than are in-married households. For example, 58 percent of in-married households are members of a synagogue, compared to only 20 percent of intermarried households, and 45 percent of in-married households donated to the Jewish Community Alliance (the Jewish Federation in Portland) in the past year, compared to only 13 percent of intermarried households. Finally, 54 percent of Jewish respondents in in-married households feel very much or somewhat a part of the Southern Maine Jewish community, compared to only 26 percent of Jewish respondents in intermarried households.

Each synagogue and Jewish organization needs to develop its own policies and programs for grappling with the issue of intermarriage. Jewish identity initiatives must carefully balance “outreach” to the intermarried population with “in-reach” to moderately affiliated Jews. This balance should no doubt be influenced by the extent of intermarriage in each community and should be informed by the overall lower levels of Jewish involvement of intermarried households.

Local Examples VII: Synagogue Membership

More than 50 local Jewish community studies have asked whether households are current members of a synagogue. Synagogue membership varies from 14 percent in Las Vegas, 21 percent in Seattle, 22 percent in San Francisco, 27 percent in Broward, and 29 percent in Phoenix and San Diego to 54 percent in Minneapolis and Rochester, 56 percent in Essex-Morris, St. Louis, and St. Paul, and 58 percent in Tidewater. The median value is 45 percent. Depending on its specific synagogue membership rate, a community campaign designed to increase membership has more potential to succeed in some communities than in others.

In Tucson, the 32 percent of households who reported current synagogue membership is the eighth lowest of about 50 comparison Jewish communities.[26] Households with children have a current synagogue membership of 41 percent, which is the seventh lowest of about 45 comparison Jewish communities. Current synagogue membership is particularly low for households under age 35 (17 percent) and for households age 35-64 (30 percent), as well as for households in the West/Northwest area (19 percent) and new residents (21 percent). The 70 percent of lifetime synagogue membership, which is defined as the percentage of households who are or have been members of a synagogue at some time during their adult lives, is the third lowest of about 30 comparison Jewish communities. Attracting Jews to join synagogues in Tucson, where only 9 percent of adults in Jewish households were locally born, represents a significant challenge. Yet, based on comparative data with other communities, it is probable that synagogue membership could be increased in Tucson, and the study results suggest population subgroups that might well be targeted in a campaign to increase that membership.

While a membership campaign might prove fruitful in Tucson, Tidewater (Norfolk and Virginia Beach) is less likely to benefit from such an effort.[27] The 58 percent of Jewish households in Tidewater who are synagogue members is the highest percentage of more than 50 comparison Jewish communities. Synagogue membership in Tidewater is high despite relatively low to average levels of home religious practice and synagogue attendance. Tidewater, being a typical southern community, is highly “churched.” In Tidewater, joining the “Jewish church” is a form of “assimilation.” San Antonio exhibits a similar pattern.

The extent to which intermarried households join synagogues also varies significantly among communities. Another reason for the high synagogue membership rate in Tidewater is that 37 percent of intermarried households are synagogue members. The percentage of intermarried households who join varies from 6 percent in Las Vegas, 7 percent in Atlanta, 9 percent in St. Petersburg, and 10 percent in San Diego and West Palm Beach to 30 percent in Essex-Morris, 32 percent in Charlotte, 35 percent in St. Louis, and 37 percent in Tidewater. The median value is 19 percent. Clearly, if a community with a low percentage synagogue membership among intermarried couples wishes to significantly increase that rate, then contacting synagogues in more successful communities for guidance might prove fruitful.

The relationship between household income and synagogue membership suggests that cost may be an important factor limiting membership. In Washington, synagogue membership increases from 15 percent of households earning an annual income under $25,000 to 22 percent of households earning $25,000-$50,000, 29 percent of households earning $50,000-$100,000, 40 percent of households earning $100,000-$200,000, and 66 percent of households earning $200,000 and over.[28] Similar relationships are seen for almost all of the comparison Jewish communities, suggesting that the “cost of being Jewish” is a significant barrier for many and that policies to reduce this cost might prove fruitful.

Local Examples VIII: Jewish Preschool

More than 30 local Jewish community studies have asked whether children age 0-5 in surveyed households were enrolled in a preschool or child care program and, if so, whether it was a Jewish program. The Jewish Preschool/Child Care Market Share (market share) is defined as the percentage of Jewish children age 0-5 in a preschool/child care program attending a Jewish preschool/child care program. Market share varies from 5 percent in Seattle, 25 percent in Philadelphia, 26 percent in Las Vegas, 33 percent in Rhode Island, and 35 percent in St. Paul to 79 percent in Miami, 80 percent in Charlotte, 81 percent in Jacksonville and Tucson, and 92 percent in San Antonio. The median value is 55 percent.

Enrollment of Jewish children in preschool/child care programs within the Jewish community is often utilized as an entry opportunity to involve young families in Jewish life, and particularly in synagogue life, prior to enrolling their children in a religious school. Yet, at the time of the Rhode Island study, none of the synagogues in Rhode Island offered large preschool/child care programs.[29] Thus, the market share in Rhode Island was only 33 percent, the fourth lowest of about 30 comparison Jewish communities. As Rhode Island is a community much more connected to Judaism than San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Charlotte, all of which have considerably higher market shares, the potential for growth existed. This led to the conclusion that Rhode Island needed to add more Jewish preschool programs.

The preschool example illustrates the importance of comparing local Jewish community studies with one another. Without the comparison with 30 other Jewish communities, planners in Rhode Island might have concluded that a 33 percent market share was good. After all, only the Jewish Community Center offered a preschool program that enrolled more than ten children. With the realization that 26 other Jewish communities had higher market shares, it became clear to planners that Rhode Island should be doing far better in this area.

Local Examples IX: Anti-Semitism

Fourteen percent of Jewish respondents in San Antonio personally experienced anti-Semitism in the local community in the past year, which is about average among about 30 comparison Jewish communities.[30] The 26 percent of San Antonio respondents who perceive a great or moderate amount of anti-Semitism in the local community is the second lowest of about 30 comparison Jewish communities. The 4 percent of respondents who perceive a great deal of anti-Semitism in the local community is the third lowest of the comparison Jewish communities, and the 16 percent of respondents who perceive no anti-Semitism at all in the local community is the third highest of the comparison Jewish communities.

The percentage of children age 6-17 experiencing anti-Semitism in the past year varies from 8 percent in Washington and 9 percent in Miami, South Palm Beach, and Tucson to 28 percent in West Palm Beach, 29 percent in Sarasota, 30 percent in St. Petersburg and York, and 34 percent in San Antonio. The median value is 18 percent. Given the results in the previous paragraph for adults, the 34 percent result for children in San Antonio was surprising and suggested that the Jewish community should consider discussing this issue with local school boards. The local Jewish day school should also make parents aware of this result, as it provides an additional reason for parents to send their children to a Jewish day school.

Anti-Semitism also shows itself to be a major factor motivating donations to Jewish organizations. This motivation derives not so much from respondents personally experiencing anti-Semitism, but from a perception that anti-Semitism is extant in the local community. The percentage of adults who personally experienced anti-Semitism in the past year varies from 7 percent in South Palm Beach, 9 percent in West Palm Beach, and 11 percent in Atlantic County, Broward, and Sarasota to 24 percent in Milwaukee and York, 30 percent in St. Louis, and 31 percent in Orlando. The median value is 17 percent. While data on this question are not available for previous generations, it is probably fair to say that during the first 70-80 years of the twentieth century an overwhelming percentage of Jews probably would have reported personally experiencing anti-Semitism.

Thus, the motivation for donating as a result of anti-Semitism is almost certainly derived from the perception of anti-Semitism as a significant problem. Respondents to about 35 local Jewish community studies were asked if there was a great deal, a moderate amount, a little, or no anti-Semitism in the local area. The percentage of respondents who perceived a great deal or moderate amount of anti-Semitism varies from 24 percent in Tucson, 26 percent in San Antonio, 28 percent in San Francisco, and 29 percent in Washington to 58 percent in Milwaukee, 61 percent in Detroit, 63 percent in Orlando, 67 percent in Cleveland, 69 percent in York, and 74 percent in St. Louis. The median value is 36 percent.

This perception of a great deal or moderate amount of anti-Semitism probably explains why, in about 20 comparison Jewish communities, when presented with a list of reasons that Jewish households donate to Jewish organizations (providing social services for the Jewish elderly; combating anti-Semitism; providing Jewish education for children; supporting the people of Israel; helping Jews overseas who are in distress; providing Jewish individual and family counseling; providing social, recreational, and cultural activities for Jews; and supporting educational trips to Israel), combating anti-Semitism is usually ranked as the number one or number two motivation. For example, in Rhode Island, 67 percent of respondents in households who donated $100 and over to Jewish charities in the past year indicated that providing social services to the Jewish elderly and combating anti-Semitism were very important reasons for donating to Jewish organizations. Providing Jewish education for children (64 percent regarded as very important), supporting the people of Israel (60 percent) helping Jews overseas who are in distress (52 percent), providing Jewish individual and family counseling (34 percent), providing social, recreational, and cultural activities for Jews (33 percent), and supporting educational trips to Israel (28 percent) all garnered less support.[31]

These results suggest that Jewish Federation marketing might do well to emphasize those aspects of its mission related to exposing and combating anti-Semitism.

Local Examples X: Israel

About 35 Jewish community studies have asked if any household member has visited Israel. The percentage of households in which a member visited Israel varies from 26 percent in York, 33 percent in Las Vegas, and 35 percent in Martin-St. Lucie, Orlando, Portland (ME), and St. Petersburg to 60 percent in Los Angeles, 61 percent in South Palm Beach, and 62 percent in Bergen and Miami. The median value is 43 percent.

On most measures of Jewish identity (such as religious practice, synagogue attendance, membership in the organized Jewish community, and Jewish philanthropy and volunteerism), all local Jewish community studies show a significant positive correlation with visits to Israel, particularly if the Israel trip was sponsored by a Jewish organization, although cause and effect cannot be attributed to these relationships. For example, in the Lehigh Valley (Allentown and Bethlehem, PA), 82 percent of households in which a member visited Israel on a Jewish trip are synagogue members, compared to 56 percent of households in which a member visited Israel on a general trip and only 37 percent of households in which no member visited Israel.[32] Given such relationships between trips to Israel and Jewish behavior, communities have concluded that trips to Israel, particularly for teenagers and young adults, should continue to be promoted and supported. The Jewish community will benefit from capitalizing on the transforming experience that a trip to Israel can offer. In addition to results from NJPS 2000, these types of results from local Jewish community studies were used, in part, as justification for Birthright Israel.

In Las Vegas, the 36 percent of Jewish respondents who are extremely or very emotionally attached to Israel is the third lowest of about 30 comparison Jewish communities.[33] Fundraising efforts to support Israel programming should consider the relatively low level of emotional attachment in Las Vegas, and efforts are needed to promote greater levels of attachment to Israel. Organized programs should be considered that bring together emotionally attached participants who have visited Israel in the past with less involved Jews.

The percentage of households containing a child who has visited Israel varies in about 40 comparison Jewish communities from 4 percent in Charlotte, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach and 6 percent in Atlantic County, Los Angeles, and Wilmington to 18 percent in Monmouth and St. Paul, 20 percent in Detroit, 27 percent in Miami, and 33 percent in Bergen. The median value is 11 percent. Communities toward the lower end of this range can be seen as having a mandate for expanding programs to increase the percentage of children who have visited Israel.

In about 20 comparison Jewish communities, when presented with a list of motivations for Jewish households to donate to Jewish organizations (providing social services for the Jewish elderly; combating anti-Semitism; providing Jewish education for children; supporting the people of Israel; helping Jews overseas who are in distress; providing Jewish individual and family counseling; providing social, recreational, and cultural activities for Jews; and supporting educational trips to Israel), supporting the people of Israel is usually shown to be a moderate motivator, while supporting educational trips to Israel is invariably the lowest. This suggests to the Jewish Federation campaign departments that motivating donations by emphasizing the Federation’s role in funding educational trips to Israel is not as effective as emphasizing the Jewish Federation’s roles in local needs or its support for the people of Israel (see discussion of factors motivating donations in Example IX above).[34]

Part 2: Further Arguments about the Utility of Local Jewish Community Studies

Hundreds of additional examples of the uses of local Jewish community studies on both the national and local level could be cited in order to demonstrate that the Jewish community studies completed over the past 15-20 years have proven fruitful. However, such was not always the case. A good number of the studies completed in the 1970s by American Jewish communities languished on the shelves of community planners. This early problem with these studies could be traced to two causes.

First, many researchers completing these studies in the 1970s were academics who completed only one study. They tended to produce academically competent results, but ones which were of little utility to the Jewish community, such as showing the relationship between the level of secular education and household income. However, since the 1980s, most local Jewish community studies have been completed by researchers who have specialized in producing scientifically valid and useful data. Since 1993, 44 of the 54 local Jewish community studies were conducted by one of two research teams, both of which have progressively refined their methodologies to ask a better set of questions and to analyze data to provide useful results for the Jewish community. Second, Jewish Federations have become more sophisticated in the methods of social science, business, and planning and are better able to make use of the resource provided by a quality study.

Twelve further points should be made in support of the utility of these studies:

1. Fifty-four local Jewish community studies have been completed since 1993 (an average of more than three per year), a testament to the fact that satisfied Jewish Federation executives have communicated to each other the value of conducting such studies for their contributions to the Jewish Federation’s and the Jewish community’s decision-making process.

2. The Council of Jewish Federations 1990 National Jewish Population Survey and the United Jewish Communities 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey provided a wealth of national data about the Jewish population. The 1990 study clearly changed the agenda of the American Jewish community, focusing attention on the issues of intermarriage and Jewish continuity. Communities began to wonder if the national findings applied locally and the value of conducting local Jewish community studies became more evident.

3. Jewish community studies have provided information that has assisted in the complex decision-making that is the responsibility of Jewish Federations and Jewish agencies concerning the location of new facilities and relocation of existing ones, the implementation of new programs and the curtailment of others, and the investigation of new methods for financial resource development, facilitating Jewish continuity, community building, and effective marketing. As the usefulness of the information gleaned from a local Jewish community study has increased beyond just the Jewish Federations’ planning functions to their marketing and campaign departments, the expenditure of the necessary funding for the studies has become easier to justify.

4. This author’s personal experience has shown that although much of a local study’s findings could have been guessed by astute observers of the Jewish community, in every study completed, there are always some surprises. In some cases, a Jewish community is actually forced to re-evaluate its very nature and the study results are used to establish new community priorities. The study results affect, in numerous subtle ways, the manner in which the Jewish community conducts its business. In some cases, Jewish community studies corroborate anecdotal evidence. In other cases, they reveal that simply because the community leaders have been assuming certain “facts” about their community for years, this does not make those facts true.

5. In some cases, a reasonable argument can be made that the need for some of the actions taken after a study should have been obvious even without a study. For example, it should have been obvious in South Broward that additional emphasis on endowment giving was needed. But it took the study, and the finding that the Jewish community was, in fact, getting very old, to provide the necessary impetus to adjust priorities. Seeing it in black and white led to changes.

6. Jewish community studies should be utilized to provide guidance that not only suggests to a Jewish community what should be done, but also what should not be done. Jewish Federations are often “under pressure” to change and add programs and build new capital facilities. Sometimes these requests are driven by various population subgroups within a Jewish community. A local Jewish community study can be used effectively to resist such pressure by demonstrating to the lobbying group, when appropriate, that the “facts” do not support its request. Conversely, relevant data may be presented in support of a proposal, when, for example, a Jewish Family Service applies for Federal grants to help in the funding of needed services or facilities.

7. It has been argued that some Jewish communities that have completed studies made no significant resultant changes in the manner in which they conducted business. One should simply not confuse a lack of change with a lack of utility of a study. When study results confirm that a community is “on the right track,” a lack of change is a positive result of the study, and this verification does not mean that the study is not useful. Rather, it reflects positively on the community’s leadership and justifies the continuation of their policies and priorities.

8. Jewish community studies show donors that the Jewish community has “done its homework.” Obviously, changes made by a Jewish community are more readily embraced if it is believed that the decisions were rendered based on solid, scientific evidence. Jewish community studies provide the data necessary to support decisions and actions taken. The annual report handed out at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Annual Campaign Opening Dinner in 1995 informed the major donors that a local Jewish community study had been completed so that the Federation could plan more effectively how to spend donations. The marketing studies that this researcher completed in Miami and Atlanta both suggest that donors, particularly donors of the baby boom generation, desire to know where their money is going and that it is being spent effectively.

9. Jewish community studies provide opportunities for community building and bonding. The questionnaire development process provides an opportunity for diverse groups within the Jewish community to work together. The study results, which often reveal serious problems with Jewish continuity, help to remind all Jewish organizations of the need to work together for a common goal. The circulation of the study reports throughout the Jewish community leads to a greater awareness of the availability of the programs and services currently offered. The results should help to clarify directions for various Jewish organizations and to unify their efforts.

10. While almost all local Jewish community studies have been sponsored by local Jewish Federations, the information is made available to the public, and is of great use to Jewish agencies, synagogues, JCCs, Jewish day schools, Jewish day camps, and other Jewish organizations. Businesses with ties to the Jewish community, such as funeral homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, Judaica shops, newspapers and other publications, and kosher and kosher-style restaurants, butchers, and caterers, will also be assisted. All such entities will appreciate those responsible for providing this informative resource.

11. Data from Jewish community studies can be instrumental in the Certificate of Need process and in the development of grant proposals. A Certificate of Need is, in most states, a requirement for justifying the addition of Jewish nursing home beds. This researcher has provided expert testimony on several occasions in support of applications for Jewish facilities. The Jewish nursing home in St. Petersburg, Florida is the only nursing home in Florida that has been allowed to add beds in recent years. Convincing arguments were made to the State of Florida using data from the St. Petersburg Jewish community study.

Likewise, some government-funded programs are administered by Jewish Federation agencies, such as Jewish Family Service. Funding for these programs is often obtained through a competitive bidding process. Jewish Family Service, in particular, finds citing demographic information essential to its ability to secure grants. It is much more impressive to inform a funding agency that there are “x” number of Jewish elderly in a county based upon a scientific study, than if a statement simply indicates that there are “many” Jewish elderly in a county. The Jewish Family Service of Broward County, for example, used the information from the Broward Jewish community study to become a home health care provider through the local United Way.

12. A number of ancillary benefits accrue to a community undertaking such a study. Many Jews in the community will be contacted by the Jewish community for the first time to elicit information about themselves, their households, and their involvement in the Jewish community, as well as their opinions on certain matters. The vast majority of respondents will be pleased to receive such a call, which, on the whole, results in good public relations. Additionally, at the end of each interview, respondents are provided with the telephone number of the local Jewish Federation so that they may follow up if they need any information or have a referral need. Thus, the interviewing process actually provides a personal outreach effort by the Jewish community, particularly in most studies completed by this researcher, in which local (almost all Jewish) residents anonymously call other residents. Many respondents, simply through the act of answering the questions, will be provided with an opportunity to examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to the Jewish community. The interviewers themselves also learn quite a bit about the Jewish community, and some increase their involvement with the Jewish community.

Conclusion

This paper has suggested that local Jewish community studies have much to contribute. Part 1 presented a series of concrete examples of the use of the findings of such studies at both the national and local levels. Part 2 presented a series of twelve additional arguments supporting conducting these studies.

No doubt these studies will continue, as will the questioning of the expenditures involved. The argument is often made that money allocated to fund a study could instead be spent on the provision of social, educational, cultural, and other services to the Jewish community. However, imagine the scenario of a community with a Jewish Federation Annual Campaign of about $5 million. Over the decade that the study data will be used, without accounting for inflation, it is likely that the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign will raise $50 million. The $200,000 spent on the study would be 0.4 percent of the decade-long Federation Annual Campaign. During that decade, additional Jewish community fundraising campaigns for specific agencies, synagogues, and programs are likely to occur. The percentage of funds spent on the survey to try to make certain that funds are properly spent then appears even more minuscule. In fact, one could argue that for a Jewish community to spend millions in donated dollars responsibly, it should take all necessary steps to ensure that the money will be spent properly to meet the needs of its population.

Finally, it should be noted that sometimes the objections to local Jewish community studies are made by community leaders who simply do not want to know the truth about a particular situation and want to proceed with their plans regardless of the facts. They may want a Jewish Community Center opened in a particular neighborhood because their children live there or they may want programming for the intermarried because their children are intermarried. A community leader is not likely to admit this and will often make his/her objections to a study in terms of money and the perceived inaccuracy of surveys. Yet, as evidenced by the numerous communities who have completed studies, including almost all of the large communities, arguments about cost and accuracy do not win the day. Rather, American Jewish communities are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sound planning based upon a scientific assessment of the environment in which they operate.

Table 1. Jewish Communities Completing Studies since 1993

Community Year of Study
Atlanta

2006

Atlantic County

2004

Baltimore

1999

Bergen

2001

Boston

2005

Broward

1999

Buffalo

1995

Charlotte

1997

Chicago

2000

Cincinnati

2008

Cleveland

1996

Columbus

2001

Denver

2007

Detroit

2005

Essex-Morris

2008

Harrisburg

1994

Hartford

2000

Howard County

1999

Jacksonville

2002

Las Vegas

2005

Lehigh Valley

2007

Los Angeles

1997

Martin-St. Lucie

2004

Miami

2004

Middlesex

2008

Milwaukee

1996

Minneapolis

2004

Monmouth

1997

New York

2002

Orlando

1993

Palm Springs

1998

Philadelphia

1997

Phoenix

2002

Pittsburgh

2002

Portland (ME)

2007

Rhode Island

2002

Richmond

1994

Rochester

1999

San Antonio

2007

San Diego

2003

San Francisco

2004

Sarasota

2001

Seattle

2000

South Palm Beach

2005

St. Louis

1995

St. Paul

2004

St. Petersburg

1994

Tidewater

2001

Tucson

2002

Washington (DC)

2003

West Palm Beach

2005

Westport

2000

Wilmington

1995

York (PA)

1999

*     *     * 

Notes

[1]. Sidney Goldstein, “American Jewry, 1970, a Demographic Profile,” American Jewish Year Book 71 (1971): 3-88.

[2]. Barry A. Kosmin et al., Highlights of the CJF 1990 National Jewish Population Survey (New York: The Council of Jewish Federations, 1991).

[3]. United Jewish Communities, The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, Strength, Challenge, and Diversity in the American Jewish Population (New York: United Jewish Communities, 2003).

[4]. One of the predecessor organizations to United Jewish Community, the Council of Jewish Federations, sponsored both the 1971 and 1990 National Jewish Population Studies.

[5]. NJPS costs have been estimated at $6 million.

[6]. As of writing, the latest versions of tables comparing all studies completed from 1993 to 2008 can be found in Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of the Lehigh Valley (Allentown: The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, 2008). For an earlier version of these comparison tables, see Ira M. Sheskin, How Jewish Communities Differ: Variations in the Findings of Local Jewish Demographic Studies (New York: City University of New York, North American Jewish Data Bank, 2001).

[7]. Ira M. Sheskin, “Comparisons between Local Jewish Community Studies and the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey,” Contemporary Jewry 25 (2005): 158-192 provides a full explanation of the reasons that make comparisons among Jewish communities difficult. However, none of these reasons obviates our ability to make meaningful comparisons.

[8]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Greater Miami Jewish Community Study (Miami: Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 2005).

[9]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Detroit (Detroit: The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, 2007).

[10]. Ira M. Sheskin, “A Methodology for Examining the Changing Size and Spatial Distribution of a Jewish Population: A Miami Case Study,” inShofar, Special Issue: Studies in Jewish Geography, special guest editor Neil G. Jacobs, 17:1 (1988): 97-116.

[11]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas: The Milton I. Schwartz Hebrew Academy and United Jewish Communities of Las Vegas, 2007).

[12]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach: The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, 2006).

[13]. Ira M. Sheskin, The UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson Community Study (River Edge, NJ: The UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, 2002).

[14]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul: Minneapolis Jewish Federation and United Jewish Fund and Council of Greater St. Paul, 2005).

[15]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Greater Miami Jewish Community Study (Miami: Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 2005).

[16]. Ira M. Sheskin, Jewish Community Study of York Council of Jewish Charities (York, PA: The York Council of Jewish Charities, 1999).

[17]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Detroit (Detroit: The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, 2007).

[18]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of San Antonio (San Antonio: The Jewish Federation of San Antonio, 2007).

[19]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Greater Washington (Rockville, MD: The Kaplan Foundation, 2004).

[20]. Ira M. Sheskin, The UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson Community Study (River Edge, NJ: The UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, 2002).

[21]. Ira M. Sheskin, The United Jewish Appeal/Federation of Westport-Weston-Wilton-Norwalk Community Study (Westport: The United Jewish Appeal/Federation of Westport-Weston-Wilton-Norwalk, 2001).

[22]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach: The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, 2006).

[23]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas: The Milton I. Schwartz Hebrew Academy and United Jewish Communities of Las Vegas, 2007).

[24]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Detroit (Detroit: The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, 2007).

[25]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Southern Maine (Portland: The Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, 2007).

[26]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Community Study (Tucson, AZ: The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, 2003).

[27]. Ira M. Sheskin, The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater Community Study (Virginia Beach: The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, 2002).

[28]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Greater Washington (Rockville, MD: The Kaplan Foundation, 2004).

[29]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island Community Study (Providence: The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, 2003).

[30]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of San Antonio (San Antonio: The Jewish Federation of San Antonio, 2007).

[31]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island Community Study (Providence: The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, 2003).

[32]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of the Lehigh Valley (Allentown: The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, 2008).

[33]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Community Study of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas: The Milton I. Schwartz Hebrew Academy and United Jewish Communities of Las Vegas, 2007).

[34]. Ira M. Sheskin, The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island Community Study (Providence: The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, 2003).

*     *     *

PROF. IRA M. SHESKIN is associate professor of geography and regional studies and director of the Jewish Demography Project of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. He has completed or is currently working on forty-three major demographic studies for Jewish federations throughout the United States. Prof. Sheskin has been a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee of United Jewish Communities, which completed both the 1990 and 2000 National Jewish Population Surveys. His publications include the book Survey Research for Geographers (Washington, DC: Association of American Geographers, 1985) as well as numerous articles on Jewish demography. His latest book, How Jewish Communities Differ (New York: City University of New York North American Jewish Data Bank, 2001), compares the results of forty-five Jewish demographic studies.

About Prof. Ira M. Sheskin

Prof. Ira M. Sheskin is associate professor of geography and regional studies and director of the Jewish Demography Project of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. Prof. Sheskin has been a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee of United Jewish Communities, which completed both the 1990 and 2000 National Jewish Population Surveys.