New York Jewish population is growing, according to new study commissioned by UJA-Federation of New York
Largest Jewish community study ever conducted outside of Israel finds increasing ethnic and religious diversity and rising rates of poverty
NEW YORK — The population of the New York Jewish community has grown nearly 10 percent since the previous study in 2002, according to UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011, released today. More than 1.5 million Jews now live in the eight-county New York area, a total that surpasses the combined Jewish populations of the metropolitan areas of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In the five boroughs of New York City, the Jewish population rose to 1,086,000, with 316,000 on Long Island and 136,000 in Westchester.
UJA-Federation’s study also finds that the recent growth in Jewish population largely results from increased birthrates and longevity, rather than from immigration that previously drove the rise in the area’s Jewish population. Increases were also measured at both ends of the age spectrum, including the number of Jewish children and young adults under the age of 25 (which now totals 498,000) and the number of Jewish seniors, particularly those ages 75 and over (198,000).
The New York Jewish community is highly diverse, according to the study. Of the 1.5 million Jewish people in the New York Jewish community, nearly half a million are Orthodox, 216,000 live in Russian-speaking households, and about 12 percent of all Jewish households are biracial or nonwhite. The study also explores the changing nature of Jewish identity and engagement. Nondenominational Jews and Jews with no religion now make up a third of all Jewish households in the New York area. More than half of all Jews feel that being Jewish is very important. And less-engaged Jews are relatively engaged in Jewish activities that one can perform independently of institutions.
“With such an expansive view of the New York Jewish community, our ability to make informed and meaningful planning and policy decisions grows exponentially,” said Jerry W. Levin, president of UJA-Federation. “This new study will be an invaluable tool in shaping how UJA-Federation and others can best respond to the changing needs within the Jewish community.”
The New York Jewish community has also seen rising rates of poverty, with more than half a million people living in poor or near-poor Jewish households. One in four people in Jewish households in New York City is poor, an increase from one in five in 2002, with a large increase reported in poverty in suburban areas.
“This data will not only inform our own strategic planning but also prove helpful to agencies, synagogues, day schools, and other Jewish social service, educational, and grassroots organizations,” said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation.
“UJA-Federation’s role is to think strategically about the future of the Jewish community, and this study, which is an important vehicle for noting the changes that have taken place over the last decade, will further enrich our understanding of the community,” said Scott Shay, chair of the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Committee. “The committee of lay members overseeing the study spent significant time considering each area of inquiry, and indeed each question, resulting in a remarkably thorough mapping of this incredibly diverse community.”
In addition to its demographic findings, UJA-Federation’s study is noteworthy for how it was conducted. Nearly 6,000 interviews were conducted, more than any other Jewish population survey ever conducted locally or nationally, and more than 20 percent of the interviews were conducted via cell phone, a percentage far greater than any other Jewish community study.
UJA Federation engaged Jewish Policy and Action Research (JPAR) to conduct the study. JPAR is a strategic alliance between Ukeles Associates, Inc., and Social Science Research Solutions, and together they have worked on 21 Jewish community studies across the United States. Professor Steven M. Cohen is JPAR’s research team director for the New York study.
“The findings from the New York Jewish community study offer a tremendously rich data set that will have a significant impact on the work of policy analysts, demographers, and sociologists,” said Professor Steven M. Cohen. “The New York area is such an important part of the national Jewish community that these findings will also help illuminate trends taking place nationwide.”
Source: UJA-Federation of New York
The Jewish population in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester is large.
- 694,000 Jewish households in 2011, up from 643,000 in 2002.
- 1.54 million Jews in 2011, up from 1.41 million in 2002.
- Of all households in the area, 1 in 6 is a Jewish household.
The Jewish population in the eight-county New York area is growing.
- High birthrates—66,000 more Jews under age 25 in comparison with 2002.
- Longevity—45,000 more Jews ages 75 and over in comparison with 2002.
- Rising numbers of people who consider themselves “partially Jewish” (12% of respondents).
The Jewish population in the eight-county New York area is very diverse.
- Orthodox Jews (493,000) and Russian-speaking Jews (216,000) together comprise well more than 40 percent of all Jews in the area.
- Of all Jewish households, 12 percent are biracial, Hispanic, or nonwhite.
- In addition to Russian-speaking Jews, other ethnic groups include Israelis (6 percent of all Jewish households) and the Syrian Jewish community (2 percent of all Jewish households).
- Of all Jewish households, 5 percent include LGBT individuals.
- The Jewish spectrum includes Hasidic, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Yeshivish Jews, as well as nondenominational Jews, Jews with no religion, people who consider themselves “partially Jewish,”and Jews with another religion.
- In terms of social, demographic, and Jewish-engagement patterns, the Modern Orthodox differ markedly from the Haredi Orthodox (Hasidic and Yeshivish).
- This area is also home to the largest population of single (never-married) Jewish adults in the country, a large number of single-parent families, as well as many large families with four or more children.
There is a significant amount of poverty in the New York Jewish community.
- More than half a million people live in poor and near-poor Jewish households.
- Across the area, 20 percent of people in Jewish households are poor.
- In New York City alone, 1 in 4 people in Jewish households is poor.
- At least 294,000 people in Jewish households draw on such public-assistance programs as food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing.
Intensification of Jewish education is deepening for most of the community.
- Nearly half of those ages 18 to 34 went to day school, compared with just 16 percent of those ages 55 to 69.
- In contrast, levels of Jewish education have been low and falling for the nondenominational population: 54 percent of nondenominational respondents ages 55 to 69 received no Jewish education whatsoever, compared with 70 percent of those ages 18 to 34.
Intermarriage has been stable overall but is increasing among non-Orthodox couples married within the last five years.
- The intermarriage rate for all married couples remains 22 percent, identical to 2002.
- By respondent age, intermarriage appears to have stabilized at about 2 in 5 couples for the non-Orthodox; but among all non-Orthodox couples married in the last five years, intermarriage has reached a new high of 50 percent.
There are many challenges and opportunities regarding Jewish engagement.
- More than half of all Jews feel that being Jewish is very important, give to Jewish charity, attend a Passover seder, light Chanukah candles, and fast on Yom Kippur.
- Overall, measures of Jewish engagement are lower than they were a decade ago for Jews who are not Orthodox.
- Less-engaged Jews are relatively engaged in Jewish activities that one can perform independently of institutions: having Jewish friends, marking Passover and Chanukah, attending Jewish cultural events, and talking about Jewish matters with Jewish friends.
- From 1991 to 2011, the proportion of nondenominational and no-religion households more than doubled, from 15 percent to 37 percent of all Jewish households.
- The number of Conservative and Reform Jews in the eight-county area each decreased by about 40,000 over the past decade.
- The Orthodox now compose 20 percent of all Jewish household, 32 percent of all Jews, and 64 percent of all Jewish children in the eight-county area.
New York’s Jewish community dates back to 1654, when 23 Jewish refugees arrived in New Amsterdam, establishing the first Jewish community in North America.
In the mid-1800s, those with Spanish and Portuguese ancestries were joined by a large influx of Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Poland, bringing the Jewish population up to 3% to 4% of the city’s population. By 1880, Jews numbered 80,000 out of 1.9 million people.
Explosive growth occurred from 1880 to 1920. The great migration from Eastern Europe brought more than a million Jews to these shores along with far smaller numbers of Jews of Syrian, Turkish, and Greek extraction. By 1920 or so, the Jewish population expanded twentyfold, to more than 1.6 million, fully 29% of the city’s population. These largely Yiddish-speaking, often impoverished immigrants and their Americanborn children were markedly different both culturally and socioeconomically from their predecessors — so-called German Jews who constituted the community’s elite in the first part of the 20th century.
Through the 1930s, New York City was home to the vast majority of Jews in the area. In 1940, fully 90% of New York State’s 2.2 million Jews lived in the city, with fewer than 100,000 Jews in the immediately surrounding suburban counties.3 After World War II, suburbanization in the New York area (and around the country) began in earnest. In the 1950s, the city’s Jewish population peaked at around 2.1 million; by then, Nassau housed
329,000 Jews, Suffolk 20,000, and Westchester 117,000, bringing the eight-county total to more than 2.5 million. Between 1950 and 1970, Jewish suburbanization intensified such that Jewish residence in New York City began a decline. In just 20 years, the city’s Jewish population had dropped by 43% (to 1.23 million in 1970), while the surrounding counties grew by 17% (to 545,000), for a total of 1,775,000 in the eight-county area.
In 1981, the area’s Jewish population had fallen to 1,671,000,5 and as we report in Exhibit 1-1, by 1991 the area’s Jewish population stood at 1,420,000, a drop of 20% from 1970. In 2002, the population total equaled 1,412,000, pointing to stability since 1991.
Source: Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 | UJA-Federation of New York
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