Haredi Orthodox account for bulk of Jewish population growth in New York City


Most of the growth of the Jewish community of New York over the past decade took place in two neighborhoods of Brooklyn, according to new data from a survey first published last year.

UJA-Federation of New York last week released more details from its 2012 demographic study to show that two-thirds of the rise in the number of Jews living in metropolitan New York City occurred in Borough Park and Williasmburg, two largely haredi Orthodox communities.

“When we examine the geographical profile and see where cohorts of the Jewish community — and their diverse characteristics — are found, we recognize both challenges and opportunities for communal leadership,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation's executive vice president and CEO. “A challenge because more people have more needs and those needs differ from area to area throughout the region. And an opportunity because there are now more people to engage in Jewish life and community.”

According to the survey, the number of Jews living in New York and its environs increased by 10 percent over the past decade, to 1.54 million, cementing its status as the largest metropolitan Jewish community in the world outside Israel.

According to the study's new data, Borough Park, home to the Bobov Chasidic sect and several other haredi communities, the Jewish population rose by 71 percent. In Williamsburg, the seat of the Satmar Chasidic sect, the population increased by 41 percent.

The data offer a glimpse of demographic trends that are reshaping the makeup of the world's most important Diaspora Jewish community. The 469-page study, carried out by a team of sociologists and claiming to be the “most comprehensive and detailed study ever conducted on local Jewish areas,” also shows significant changes elsewhere in the metropolitan area.

The number of Jews living in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights skyrocketed by 144 percent. The Bronx, a former bastion of Jewish life that had seen a long period of decline, is rebounding with the number of Jews rising from 45,100 to 53,900 in the last 10 years. More Jewish families live in a single Manhattan neighborhood, the Upper West Side (43,900), than in all of Cleveland, Ohio (38,300).

The study also addressed patterns of affiliation. In Brownstone Brooklyn –a large swath of Kings County that includes neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Red Hook and Windsor Terrace — Jewish residents reported relatively low rates of affiliation. About half the respondents in the area volunteered at charities, although not necessarily Jewish ones.

The highest proportion of married Jewish couples lives in Great Neck and the Five Towns area of Long Island. Residents of these suburbs on average gave more to Jewish causes, traveled more frequently to Israel and felt a closer connection to the Jewish state than respondents from almost any other county.

The survey also provided information about the religious affiliation of the community. About 40 percent of participants living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan said they identified with Reform Judaism, and more than 30 percent of respondents in the Queens areas of Flushing and Kew Gardens Hills were affiliated with Conservative Judaism.

Last year's findings showed a general decline in the number of those affiliated with both movements. John Ruskay, the executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said the data gathered by his organization had already been put to use in assessing the damage wrecked by Hurricane Sandy.

“Since the data was assembled just a year before the hurricane, we have a baseline that tells us about the character of communities that live in areas affected by the storm,” he said. “In the future, we’ll be able to gauge temporary vs. long-term impact on residents by comparing new data with this baseline.

Researchers interviewed 6,000 people living in 26 primary areas to compile information for the study. The study covered UJA-Federation of New York's catchment including the city of New York, parts of Long Island and Westchester County.

Study: Jewish population is booming in Brooklyn neighborhoods


The Jewish population of greater New York City rose ten percent in the last decade, to 1.54 million, a study found.

Two-thirds of that growth came from two haredi Orthodox neighborhoods, according to data released Friday by UJA-Federation of New York.

The data is part of a second batch of information from the demographic survey UJA-Federation conducted of the local Jewish population in 2012. The full report includes more detailed geographic data on the Jewish residents in UJA-Federation's catchment area, which includes the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. The greater New York City region is home to the largest Jewish community in North America. 

According to the study, most of the ten percent increase since 2002 occurred in the predominantly haredi Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park and Williamsburg.

The number of Jews living in Borough Park, home to the Bobov Chasidic sect and several others haredi communities, rose by 71 percent. In Williamsburg, the seat of the Satmar Chasidic sect, the population increased by 41 percent.

Other parts of the city also saw a dramatic rise in Jewish population. The number of Jews living in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights sky-rocketed by 144 percent.

The Bronx, a former bastion of Jewish life that had seen a long period of decline, is also rebounding. The number of Jews in the northern borough rose from 45,100 to 53,900 in 2012.

“The geographic profile give us essential current information so we can best respond with laser-like focus to regional and communal needs,” said John Ruskay, the executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “We, along with our network of agencies, area synagogues, day schools and many other communal institutions will use this data for planning to meet current and future needs of the Jewish community.”

Israel’s population rises to nearly 8 million


Israel's population is nearing 8 million, up almost 100,000 from the end of 2011, according to data released on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that the population of Israel stands at approximately 7,933,200; at the end of 2011 it was at 7.837 million.

The new figure includes approximately 5,978,600 Jews, or 75.4 percent of the population, and about 1,636,600 Arabs, or 20.6 percent. The 318,000 people categorized as “others” include 203,000 foreign workers, of whom some 60,000 are African migrants.

The Israeli population is considered relatively younger than that of Western countries, according to the statistics' bureau. In 2011, children from newborns to age 14 in Israel comprised 28.2 percent of the population and those aged 65 and over were 10.3 percent, compared to 18.5 percent and 15 percent on average in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Last year, 166,296 babies were born in Israel — nearly identical to the previous year. There were 2.98 children per each Jewish woman, also nearly identical to the most recent figures, and 3.51 children per Muslim woman, down from 3.75.

The population density rose to 347 people per square kilometer, excluding West Bank communities, from 288 in 2000. The Tel Aviv District is the most densely populated; the most densely populated city is Bnei Brak at 22,145 people per square kilometer.

Why counting counts: Who knows who L.A.’s Jews are?


Susan Goldberg, rabbi of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, grew up in nearby Echo Park.

“There were no Jewish families around when I was growing up,” Goldberg, 38, said. Now that these neighborhoods are being gentrified, and a young, creative crowd is moving in, the Jews are coming, too.

Some five years ago, Temple Beth Israel, a nearly 90-year-old congregation, counted 30 individual members. Today, she said, “We’re bursting at the seams with young families, parents in their 30s and 40s who are living here, in Mount Washington, in Highland Park, in Eagle Rock,” Goldberg said.

But for all the anecdotal evidence that Jews are moving eastward, no one knows exactly how many Jews comprise this trend.

“We know they’re out there, because when we have events, they come,” Goldberg said. “But it would be so, so tremendously helpful to know where they are, who they are, how many there are.”

Los Angeles hasn’t done a Jewish community survey since 1997, and with nothing concrete in the works, organizations are “flying blind,” in the words of one demographer.

“No other large Jewish community has been without a study for such a long period of time,” said Jacob Ukeles, president of Ukeles Associates Inc., a firm that helped conduct New York’s recently released survey.

And that can have serious implications for how effectively a community responds to needs.

“We need to know who lives where, what they do Jewishly, what diversity exists among Jews, what needs they have, what resources they have and what they think on a variety of issues,” said Sarah Bunin Benor, associate professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. “That’s my take on it, from the perspective of somebody who wants to help Jews have a better life.”

Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said conducting such a study is “rising to the top of our agenda.”

“We really need to do it. We know we need to do it, and I believe we will do it. We have to figure out the resources and how we’re going to pay for it,” Sanderson said in an interview.

A study of Los Angeles’ Jews, who are believed to number between 500,000 and 600,000, would likely cost somewhere around $1 million. In most cities with large and medium-sized Jewish populations, Federation pays for a survey once a decade. Los Angeles conducted community surveys in 1950, 1958, 1968, 1979 and 1997.

When Sanderson took office in 2010, no study was in the pipeline, and he said he had initially hoped to launch one quickly. But as the impact of the recession became more severe, Sanderson said, funds continued to be redirected to such programs as the Emergency Cash Grants, which has provided more than $2.6 million in relief to 5,350 recipients since 2009.

“Now, with everything we’re doing, we’re still trying to put a survey on the front burner,” Sanderson said.

Federation hopes to launch the process in the next year, Sanderson said — if he can figure out where the money will come from.

But the more time that goes by without a survey, the less efficiently the community is spending its dollars, demographers say.

“If you have a Federation that says they are the planning body of the community, where are they getting their information?” asked Pini Herman, a principal at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. Herman was the L.A. Federation’s research coordinator for the 1997 survey; he has also worked on surveys in San Francisco, Houston and Seattle.

“The longer you don’t have a survey, the more you have to guess, and basically you’re snatching ideas and data out of thin air. And without any community study, there is no way to confirm or refute what they say,” Herman said.

Community leaders say they are eager to have current data.

“Synagogues call all the time, wanting to know where the Jews are moving. Are they moving into our area? Out of our area? Are we losing members because Jews are leaving this area, or for some other reason?” said Bruce Phillips, a principal, with Pini Herman, at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research and a professor of sociology and Jewish communal studies at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. Phillips has conducted or published research on more than 20 Jewish community surveys.

Other questions in Los Angeles also need answering. How many Iranian Jews live here, and what is there economic profile? Their Jewish identity? Their integration patterns?

What areas are people moving to and away from? Are nearby cities that are experiencing growth, such as San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas, doing so at the expense of Los Angeles, or along with Los Angeles? How many French and Latin American Jews have moved into the area, and are they being served? Has the Orthodox population increased, and if so, in what sectors?

Anecdotal evidence about subpopulations can be deceiving, Phillips said, as it’s easier to count visible Jews who are frequent users of community resources — for instance, the Orthodox, or immigrant populations. The unaffiliated are more likely to go undetected if you rely on visibility or data from Jewish organizations.

A topic open to debate is how many Israelis are in Los Angeles. While some estimate there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis in Los Angeles, Herman says his own research points to a number closer to a maximum of 25,000, a figure corroborated by the official Israeli count of how many people have left their country.

The Los Angeles Jewish population, once concentrated on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, is migrating toward the East Side and north to areas such as the Conejo, Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys.

Several organizations are investing both money and resources in the East Side, including Federation, which has funded a new staff person at East Side Jews, a nondenominational Jewish community that has attracted hundreds of young, hip Jews to its irreverent monthly holiday celebrations and social events. East Side Jews recently became part of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, an organization that is on a short list to receive significant Federation funding for a renovation and expansion project.

At the same time, Temple Beth Israel’s Goldberg said, Jews in the area remain underserved. When she needs to refer people for social services, she is often told that Jewish agencies don’t extend out to her part of town. In addition to leading Temple Beth Israel, Goldberg serves as rabbi-in-residence for East Side Jews, a position co-supported by Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which is also interested in being part of the East Side Jewish renaissance.

Indeed, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is in the middle of a $150 million project to restore and revitalize its historic sanctuary and campus in Koreatown. Before embarking on that project, the congregation commissioned its own demographic study of the area — roughly from West Hollywood on the west to Eagle Rock and Pasadena on the East, stretching from Adams Boulevard on the South up to Studio City and Glendale.

“I intuitively felt that young Jews were moving eastward, but intuition is not always right,” Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Rabbi Steven Leder said.

Their study, which cost them about $25,000, found around 30 percent growth in the area over the last 10 years, with the most significant increases in the population of childbearing and -rearing age. That information convinced the synagogue’s leadership to buy up the rest of their square block to make room for more parking, an expanded day school, religious school and social service center.

Having data has also made it easier to approach donors, Leder said.

“It’s important to know that there is hard data to support your assumptions when you’re trying to raise money,” he said.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s study was based on Jewish surnames in voter registration listings — a method that may have left out Jews who have a non-Jewish parent or who are married to non-Jews, a population that, anecdotally at least, accounts for much of the growth on the East Side.

Chicago Jewish population sees 8 percent growth


The Chicago Jewish community grew by 8 percent over the past decade, or more than 21,000 people, according to a new demographic study.

The study, which the Jewish United Fund and Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago commissions every 10 years, found that the number of Jews living in the Chicago area increased for a third consecutive decade, to 291,800.

Chicago’s overall population over the same period grew by only 3.5 percent.

The study comes as local Jewish federations have released or are conducting a flurry of demographic studies and the Jewish Federations of North America organization has moved away from surveying the Jewish community on a national level.

A survey released recently by the Portland-area federation in Oregon found a Jewish population of 47,500—more than double the number of Jews that community leaders had believed were living in the city area.

The Chicago study also found that intermarriage had increased from 30 percent in 2000 to 37 percent in 2010, and that more than 90,000 of the 148,100 Jewish households had at least one non-Jewish member.

At the same time, the survey found that half of interfaith families are raising their children only Jewish. Previously only a third had been raising children solely in the Jewish faith.

Among other findings, half of Chicago Jews have been to Israel, 86 percent of children aged 6-18 have had a formal Jewish education and nearly all the respondents said that being Jewish was important to them.

U.S. Jewish Population Rising; California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact


U.S. Jewish Population Rising?

The new American Jewish Yearbook reports that there are 6.4 million Jews in the United States. That’s significantly more than the 5.2 million figure provided by the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Study.

The yearly survey, published by the American Jewish Committee, is based on a tally of individual Jewish communities across the country. According to the survey, 2.2 percent of the American population is Jewish. New York has the largest Jewish population of any state with 1,618,000, followed by California with 1,194,000, Florida with 653,000 and New Jersey with 480,000, the AJCommittee said in a release.

California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact

The state of California and the state of Israel have jointly established a commission to encourage their citizens to visit each other, proving again that the Golden State is big enough to conduct its own foreign policy. At a recent ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, signed an agreement launching the California-Israel Tourism Commission. Both credited Los Angeles-based media mogul Haim Saban for the initiative to establish the commission.

During the ceremony, Schwarzenegger recalled that he has visited Israel three times, first as a body builder, then to open his Planet Hollywood restaurant in Tel Aviv and last year for the groundbreaking of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.

No breakdown was available on the number of Californians visiting Israel, or Israelis visiting California, however, the latest figures from Israeli tourism officials showed that between January-September of this year, 1.5 million tourists came to Israel, of whom 400,000 were Americans. In 2005, Israel had 2 million visitors, among them 533,000 Americans.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Iran Hosts Holocaust Deniers Conference

The Iranian government held a conference of Holocaust deniers and skeptics this week, a discussion of whether 6 million Jews actually were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

A report in The New York Times quoted the opening speech by Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which organized the event, saying that the conference would allow discussion “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”

Speakers at the event include David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in France over his denials of the Holocaust, the Times reported.

— Staff Report

Seattle Rabbi Regrets Xmas Tree Removal

A Chabad rabbi in Seattle expressed regret that his request to add a menorah to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s display of Christmas trees resulted in the trees’ removal.

“I am devastated, shocked and appalled at the decision that the Port of Seattle came to,” Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Pacific Northwest said in Monday’s Seattle Times.

Last week, Bogomilsky’s attorney Harvey Grad threatened the port with a lawsuit after not receiving a response to a request, first made in October, to install an 8-foot menorah, which Bogomilsky offered to supply.

Port Commissioner Pat Davis told the Times that the commission had not heard about the request until Dec. 7, the day before Grad was to head to court.

An airport spokesperson said it was decided to take down the trees because the airport, preparing for its busiest season, did not have time to accommodate all the religions that would have wanted a display.

The removal resulted in a firestorm of criticism, much of it directed at Bogomilsky, who said he never wanted to see the trees removed.

Thousands March for Hezbollah

Hundreds of thousands of protesters led by Hezbollah marched in downtown Beirut Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora either cede some government power to the terrorist group and its allies or resign, The Associated Press reported.

Hezbollah has been pressing for increased power since its war with Israel over the summer. Lebanese troops Sunday sealed off Siniora’s compound, as well as the roads nearby. Siniora and most of his ministers have stayed in the complex since Dec. 1, when Hezbollah launched massive protests aimed at toppling Lebanon’s Western-leaning government.

Senate Approves Red ‘Crystal’

The U.S. Senate certified the Red “Crystal,” paving the way for Magen David Adom’s acceptance into the International Red Cross’ bodies. The Red Cross approved the symbol which resembles a playing card diamond earlier this year, ending a decades-long shutout of non-Muslim and non-Christian groups such as Israel’s first responder, which rejected using the Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols as inappropriate. The Red Cross had also rejected the Star of David symbol used by MDA.

The Senate’s certification last Friday, the last day of Congress, protects the symbol’s copyright and follows similar legislation passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Israeli Hostages Said Wounded

Two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah since July were seriously wounded during their capture, security sources said. Israeli security sources last week quoted a declassified military report that said bloodstains and other evidence gathered at the site of the July 12 border raid in which Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were seized showed the hostages were seriously wounded.

To survive, the sources said, the two army reservists would have required immediate medical attention, something that may not have been available in the custody of the Lebanese terrorist group.

Hezbollah has refused to provide information on the captives’ condition, saying it would only release them as part of a swap for Arabs held in Israeli jails. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out a swap on Hezbollah’s terms unless the terrorist group provides information on the soldiers’ health. The captives’ families criticized the release of forensic details from the raid.

“I think this may be an attempt by the Prime Minister’s Office to lower pressure to get the kidnapped soldiers freed,” Regev’s brother, Benny, told Israel Radio.

Aging: A Jewish Community Issue


When I first met Sarah, she was bent over her walker intently making her way through the gardens of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA). While her steps were merely a shuffle, her brown eyes were lively.

I often walk through our Grancell Village and Eisenberg Village campuses to visit with our 800 residents. I frequently ask the question: “What makes the Jewish Home Jewish?”

Sarah had a ready answer.

“I am the daughter of a rabbi and the wife of a cantor,” she said. “I have outlived all my brothers and sisters. My husband is gone. And now I have outlived my children, too. What makes this home Jewish is that when I outlive this [she taps her temple] then I trust this home and the community to take care of me.”

Sarah died peacefully last year at age 101. Her words stay with me. This simple story sums up our home’s mission — taking care of our elderly — and how crucial it is to involve the entire community in their support.

We are reminded daily through advertising and news stories of the “graying” of America. With increasing life spans and a growing population of those older than 65, our politicians debate budget allocations and changes in governmental programs without sufficient consideration of Sarah and the millions she represents. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) programs are stretched beyond capacity to meet the present and future needs. Somewhere in focusing on the numbers of the elderly, they lost sight of Sarah. We are Sarah.

A phenomenon in the graying hair of America is the whitening hair of our Jewish community. Jews are living longer than other groups in our nation. Currently, one in every eight Americans is “older” (65+). As the baby boom generation begins to turn 65, projections are that one in five people will be older than 65 by 2030. Surprisingly, our population of 85+ is growing even faster than the 65+-ers. The 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey reported that Jews older than 85 were already almost 2 percent of the population — nearly twice that of the general population.

Each year of increasing age brings challenges. Acute illnesses hit harder and long time “chronic” conditions (like arthritis or diabetes) are more difficult to manage. Walking is often dependent on a walker, cane or wheelchair. Eyesight and hearing are affected. The fear and risk of cognitive impairments grows. Isolation becomes a daily habit, loneliness an ache and the only companion television or a caretaker/housekeeper. Safety and personal security concerns limit evening outings and inhibit trying “new” activities. Ninety percent of seniors use Social Security as their primary income, and one-third of our most elderly live on less than $10,000 each year. Government resources are already inadequate. Remarkably, almost half of our oldest seniors live independently. But others, like Sarah, need help — either around the clock, or intermittently — to enjoy a life that can be enriching and fulfilling. At JHA, the average age is 90 and, like Sarah, one-third of our 800 residents have outlived spouse, siblings and children. Seventy-five percent of our 800 residents are able to receive the care of the JHA only because of welfare programs supplemented by the generosity of individual donors.

Sarah’s story, along with the sobering statistics, is a wake-up call. We cannot assume the government or someone else will take responsibility for our elderly; it is up to us. Supporting the frailest and most dependent of our seniors also demands a commitment to excellence in the quality and quantity of services provided. An old Chasidic quote rings true today: “The prosperity of a country is in accordance with its treatment of the aged.”

Choices we make now can assure that our Jewish elderly live lives of dignity and respect. We learn well from our elders, as from JHA resident Sylvia Harmatz, age 105: “How wonderful that there were people who had the foresight to build the Jewish Home. They have created a home where old people can go and spend the last years of their lives without worry. This is truly a haven.”

From another resident: “A reason to get up in the morning! Companionship, friendship. This is what I’ve found.”

Action is the next step and, like Sarah’s, it can be a small one. If you want to learn more about the needs and how to help, come and visit the JHA. Together with us, determine what you can do to make a difference today and tomorrow. Talk about aging with your peers and your children — it’s an important issue for us all and we all need to be involved. Life does not end because we get older, life ends when we stop living it.

Jewish Home for the Aging will break ground on its new residential medical center on Sunday, Feb. 8. For more information, call (818) 774-3000.


Molly Forrest is CEO of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging.

Why Be Jewish?


The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story, “A Clouded View
of U.S. Jews” (Oct. 9, 2002), which related the results of conflicting polls taken
to determine Jewish population numbers in America. One study claimed numbers
dipped slightly to 5.2 million, while a second poll claimed the Jewish
population increased to 6.7 million.

Reactions to the Times’ numbers were as diverse as the
respondents. Some called for an increase in Jewish education and outreach,
while others proposed we should increase our numbers by abandoning the
traditional reticence to proselytizing and put more resources into embracing
potential Jews. I couldn’t disagree more.

At a time when more than half of Jews marry non-Jews and
assimilation rates continue to skyrocket, I believe that the focus of Jewish
outreach programs should be to our very own people. Rather than focus on how
many we are, we should concentrate on who we are, what we represent and making
the smallness of our numbers pale in comparison to the might of our actions.

Our sages tell us that before the Jewish people received the
Torah at Mount Sinai, God offered the Torah to the other nations of the world.
Each nation asked God what was in it. Once they heard about all they would be
asked to give up, they said “no.” Whether it was the prohibition against
murder, adultery or stealing, each nation found a reason to refuse God’s gift.

Finally, God turned to the smallest nation on earth and
asked if they wanted the Torah. Without even asking God what was in it, the
Jews said “yes,” and a covenant was formed. And in the centuries since, the
Jews — more than any other people on earth — have been mercilessly persecuted
and hated beyond contempt. Why are we so hated?

Perhaps an even more important question: In this day and
age, why care? As more and more Jews live assimilated lives, marry non-Jews and
raise their children with little understanding of what it means to be Jewish,
one could ask, why even be Jewish?

As terrorism threatens to engulf the globe, as rampant drug
use by the younger generation threatens the quality of our futures, and as
greed replaces compassion, I say that today more than ever, the world needs the
Jews.

The Talmud asks why God chose Mount Sinai of all places on
which to give the Torah. In Hebrew, the word for hate is “sin’a.” When God gave
the Jews the Torah at Sinai, hatred came down to the Jews. The world hates us
because we received the Torah, the very thing they rejected.

Since then, the reasons for Jew hatred have been many and
varied. We keep ourselves separate, and we’re hated for being different.
Assimilation is no guarantee either.

Assimilation in Germany led Jews to consider themselves
Germans first, Jews second. They dressed like their neighbors, ate like them,
worshipped on the same day, even married them. Instead of stemming the
anti-Semitic flow, this only served to change its course. History clearly
proves that whatever the Jews happened to be doing, became the reason for
anti-Semitism.

What then is the real reason we are hated? To understand the
fundamental motivation is to understand what it means to be Jewish. So it is to
our greatest enemy that we turn to discover the true reason we are reviled and,
therefore, who we truly are.

Hitler hated us because of the “curse of conscience” imposed
upon western man by the Jews. The central balance of human existence is good
vs. evil, as we see so clearly in the world today. The function of the Jews is
to represent good. What the Jewish people do for good or evil determines the
amount of good or evil in the world.

If Jews do that which is called good (e.g., following the
Torah), we increase our relationship with God and thereby bring His presence
more into the world. When God’s presence is more readily felt, the acceptance
of evil decreases. People become more careful of their actions and do less to
harm others.

To the extent that we reject Torah, however, and become more
like the nations of the world, we move away from God and allow more evil into
the world. This is what Hitler understood. Those opposed to good are opposed to
the Jewish people. And so he set out to destroy the messengers of good in the
world — the Jews.

What we need to realize is that there is no point in
abdicating to our enemies the determination of why they really don’t like us.
We would be much better off if we determined who we are and what we can
accomplish in the world, and not twist ourselves into pretzles trying to become
something we were never meant to be.

By understanding the role of the Jew in the world, we can
have a proper sense of self. One’s sense of self is rooted, among other things,
in one’s heritage and one’s history. When you erase your heritage, you rob
yourself and your children of self-knowledge. The beliefs of your ancestors are
part of you. They shaped you. To not know what shaped you is to not know your
true self.

This is definitely a case where quality is much more
important than quantity.

The Ground Floor


A lot of the problems and promise of Los Angeles Jewish life were on display last Tuesday evening in Bob and Marcia Gold’s living room.

The Golds live in a envy-inspiring home high upon a bluff in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The greater Los Angeles Jewish community, all 4,000 square miles of it, pretty much ends here, where the lights of Portuguese Bend disappear into the dark beyond of the Pacific Ocean. Next stop, Catalina — or Kauai.

The South Bay extends from Westchester to San Pedro. According to a 1997 population study by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, it is home to 45,000 Jews. Most of them live in the seaside cities, such as Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, and in the suburban aerie of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. People at the Golds’ house believe the actual number of South Bay Jews to be far less than 45,000, perhaps half as many. But they agree with the survey that the South Bay is among the Southland’s fastest-growing Jewish communities. Along with the young urban professionals moving into the coastal towns, there is a vast infrastructure moving into El Segundo and environs to support the burgeoning film production facilities there. "Manhattan Beach is Hollywood," said Rabbi Ron Shulman of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay.

Most of the dozen or so men and women who came to the Golds’ house that evening were members of Shulman’s shul, which is on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. They gathered to brainstorm ideas for the future of the larger South Bay Jewish community. Decades old, it is, like many similar communities, facing a time of growth and change. "We have a strong synagogue community," Shulman said, "but not a strong Jewish cultural community."

Shulman’s Conservative congregation has 600 families and boasts the largest United Synagogue Youth group in the Southland. Other synagogues, like Temple Menorah and Congregation Tifereth Jacob, are also flourishing. But outside of synagogue life, when it comes to a sense of a larger community, there is no there there. As symbolic proof, they pointed to two buildings, one that exists, one that doesn’t. The Jewish Federation’s South Bay headquarters on Palos Verdes Boulevard has long stood underused. Expected to be the center of Jewish communal life when it was acquired over a decade ago, it is now a reminder of the lack of organized South Bay Jewish life outside synagogues.

The other symbol: "There’s no deli here!" one of the woman said to loud agreement. "We can’t even keep a good deli open."

The people at Tuesday’s meeting want a deli — who doesn’t? — but more importantly they want to expand and enrich Jewish life in their part of Los Angeles. The catalyst, they hope, will be about $1 million coming their way. At the meeting, Federation President John Fishel and South Bay Federation rep Margy Feldman told the group that the Federation plans to sell the old Federation building and invest the proceeds of about $1 million into South Bay Jewish life. The question that this group and groups from a variety of synagogues are gathering to discuss over the next year is how to take a small windfall and create community.

The challenges they face are familiar to anyone in Jewish life these days: How do you get Jews who are uninvolved or marginally involved out of the house? How do you do triage among all the communal needs: teen services, eldercare, recreational needs, Israel advocacy, Jewish education? How do you reach across ages and denominations and — even in a single geographic area like the South Bay — distance?

Fishel said that as well as being dispersed, the Jewish community throughout Los Angeles is diverse — "concentric circles of communities, which sometimes intersect and often don’t." A single solution, he said, will never suffice for everyone.

He said one possibility, in these lean times, is to think in terms of programs rather than capital. The Federation has been very successful in creating community by engaging in social service programs like KOREH L.A., which sends volunteers to area school to teach English literacy. It’s true that software is cheaper and more adaptive than hardware, but some in the group still gravitated toward the model of a come-one-come-all Jewish community center. In places like Orange County and Austin, Texas, where people pursued dreams of major multiuse Jewish community centers, they were able to inspire donors and bring those uninvolved Jews out of the woodwork. Then again, there are no guarantees.

But this group has at least two things going for it, beyond the million bucks. One, the people who turned out to discuss their community’s future are young men and women. They were very conscious of picking up the mantle of leadership from the previous South Bay Jews who had built up the successful synagogues. Two, this city’s Jewish community is relentlessly entrepreneurial. The Wiesenthal Center, the Skirball Center and the Shoah Foundation are just three examples of Jewish enterprises that were created from the ground up, based on an idea and a plan, right here in Los Angeles. They are proof positive that once the Jews of the South Bay set their sights on what their community needs, they can create whatever it is they want.

And maybe even get a deli.

Jewish Survey Missing Data


Much-anticipated parts of the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) will not be released as expected next week because some of the data has been lost.

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), which is funding the $6 million study, is canceling all events pertaining to the 2000-01 NJPS at the Philadelphia gathering of its General Assembly, which begins next Wednesday.

And the UJC, the umbrella of the North American federation system, is launching an independent investigation into the lost data, JTA has learned.

“It is true we are delaying the release of the study,” Stephen Hoffman, UJC’s president and chief executive officer, said on Wednesday. “The reason is there have been some questions raised that I don’t believe we have adequate time to get answers to.”

The revelations could cast doubt on the entire NJPS, the most extensive and costliest demographic study ever conducted of the American Jewish community. The lost data apparently concerned methodological details about who was surveyed, rather than their responses to survey questions.

“Some people with serious reputations believe the study is sound and it could have gone forward and will stand up to the test of time,” Hoffman said. “That could be the case — but I didn’t feel comfortable with these questions to go forward [with releasing further NJPS data next week as planned].”

Last month, the UJC released initial findings from the NJPS, showing the American Jewish population declined 5 percent to 5.2 million since the last study in 1990, and that birth rates were dropping and the community was aging.

Hoffman said that had he known of the missing data before the release of that information, he would not have approved the release of those initial conclusions.

“There may be aspects of it [that are inaccurate],” he said, referring to the initial data released. “I don’t know.”

Hoffman said he only learned of the missing data Tuesday, one week before the information from the NJPS about Jewish identity and intermarriage was due to get released at the annual UJC gathering, which brings together much of the organized American Jewish world.

“I feel it would be irresponsible to go ahead and release the study while these questions are still unresolved,” Hoffman said.

“There will be some people who will be disappointed,” Hoffman said of the implications for the General Assembly. “I’m personally disappointed.”

But there “are other things in Jewish life,” he said that delegates will focus on.

At the heart of the mystery was that Hoffman only learned Tuesday that the firm conducting research for the NJPS, Roper Audits & Surveys Worldwide, lost some data for the study two years ago during initial telephone calls.

Meanwhile, “other issues like that have been coming up in recent days,” he added, though he declined to elaborate.

One source familiar with the NJPS said the missing data concerned lists of those people telephoned for the survey, their phone numbers and how often they were called.

Two-thirds of that data was lost, according to the source.

But the source maintained that while this information was important in determining the accuracy of the survey’s methodology, he did not think that it would undermine the ultimate conclusions, specifically those relating to Jews and Jewish identity.

“I don’t know how much has been lost,” Hoffman said. “The issue is 29 hours old. All I’ve had time to do is make the decision to not have the data be released.”

However, Hoffman said that Jim Schwartz, UJC’s director of research for NJPS, “was aware” of the missing data at some earlier point, though Hoffman said he hadn’t spoken directly with Schwartz yet about the matter. There were no plans affecting Schwartz’s position at this point, he added.

“It would be unfair to jump to conclusions about anybody’s particular role,” he said. “I’m not casting any aspersions at the moment.”

Schwartz could not be reached Wednesday for comment, despite several attempts.

After the General Assembly, the UJC will secure “an outsider” who is “totally objective” to launch an investigation into the missing information. The investigative team might include UJC staffers as well, Hoffman said. Such a probe would presumably attempt to learn exactly what information is missing, how it got lost, how significant it is, who knew about the missing information and why they did not inform senior UJC officials.

“I want to know if there are any other issues they haven’t told me about, either from staff or the technical team” or Roper researchers, Hoffman said.

June Wallach, a spokeswoman for Roper, said the company would have no comment at this time.

Hoffman said he had no idea whether the UJC would take action against Roper, which apparently lost the information from its computer system.

Several lead members of the National Technical Advisory Committee of demographers and social scientists that consulted with UJC’s staffers working on the NJPS said they were participating in a conference call Wednesday about the survey, though they declined to comment further.

Hoffman said he did not know if the co-chairs of the advisory panel, Vivian Klaff of the University of Delaware and Frank Mott of Ohio State University, knew about the missing data. Reached Wednesday, Klaff would only say he would be joining the conference call on the NJPS. Mott did not return calls.

Egon Mayer, director of the North American Jewish Data Bank at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he had heard about the delay this week though he didn’t know the reasons for it.

“I think some very important conclusions were reached by the UJC management that led them to this decision, which I’m sure they reached very reluctantly,” he said.

Stephen Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life for the American Jewish Committee, said he had heard of the delay but preferred waiting until the UJC got to the bottom of the issue.

“I’d rather not have the data than have data that is mistaken,” Bayme said.

Surveying ‘America’s Jewish Freshmen’


When Adam Bergman researched colleges toward the end of his senior year at Milken High School, he looked very closely at the quality of their soccer teams and not so closely at the size of their Jewish populations.

"I don’t consider myself religious at all. I have never chosen a faith," said Bergman, the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. As he approaches his freshman year on the soccer team at UC Santa Cruz, Bergman is not looking to have a Jewish experience.

Bergman, however, is not alone in his religious neutrality. "America’s Jewish Freshmen," a survey recently released by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, reveals a surprisingly low level of Jewish identification among students raised in interreligious families. The study, which asked incoming college freshmen to identify their religious preference, found that 40.2 percent of students raised in families where only the mother was Jewish identified their religion as "none," and 40 percent raised in families where only the father was Jewish identified their religion as "none." Of the students who were raised by two Jewish parents, only 6.2 percent claimed "none" as their religious preference.

"America’s Jewish Freshmen" profiles this rapidly growing segment of the student population who, like Bergman, have never chosen a faith, but have at least one Jewish parent. The study labels this category of students NR/JP (no religious preference/at least one Jewish parent), and compares them to self-identified Jewish students in areas such as their academic and family backgrounds, degree and career aspirations, and leisure activities. The study also compares Jewish and non-Jewish students in the same categories.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life sponsored "America’s Jewish Freshmen," in hopes of assisting Jewish educators to address student needs.

The study was conducted by Linda J. Sax, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA, and is based on data from CIRP’s Freshmen Survey, which has tracked more than 10 million students at more than 1,600 baccalaureate institutions for the past three decades. "America’s Jewish Freshmen" represents the first analysis of the CIRP survey’s Jewish sample, both by analyzing the 1999 CIRP Freshmen Survey and comparing it to the past 30 years of data.

"There’s a lot of stereotypes about Jewish students, but I wanted to see in reality how they compare," Sax said.

The study compares the responses of 8,000 Jewish students, 232,000 non-Jewish students, and 2,000 NR/JP students. It gives insight into one finding of the CIRP Freshmen Survey, which shows that while 5.4 percent of the student population identified themselves as Jewish in 1970, the figure dropped to 2.6 percent in 2001.

Among other things, "America’s Jewish Freshmen" found that NR/JP students were more often raised in homes where their parents were divorced or separated, compared to Jewish students. NR/JP students were also more likely to earn B averages in high school and less likely to earn A averages. They were more likely to aspire toward doctorate or masters in education degrees, but were less likely to aspire toward medical degrees.

"This is one category that Hillel will try to engage on campus," said Jay Rubin, executive vice president of Hillel. Rubin emphasized the importance of Jewish Campus Service Corps fellows reaching out to this group of students in particular, rather than waiting for them to come to Hillel. The survey notes that "although NR/JP claim to have no religious affiliation, Hillel looks to engage them in Jewish campus life because they have at least one Jewish parent and have not affiliated with any other religion." Additionally, despite differences, NR/JP students typically resembled Jewish students more than they resembled non-Jews.

"These students lack a traditional Jewish home life. We have an important opportunity, maybe an obligation, to provide them with the Jewish experiences that they failed to get at home and to provide them with a warm environment that will inspire them Jewishly…. We have to create programming with that in mind," said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel.

"We’re at the beginning stages of learning what the research tells us," Rubin said. He does, however, offer several suggestions for program implementation based on some of the statistics, which he derives mainly from the part of the survey comparing Jewish and non-Jewish students. For instance, Jewish students have a stronger intention to participate in community service while in college. Rubin suggests "alternative spring breaks," such as one where students from USC Hillel helped build health clinics in Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

Additionally, the study found that Jews are more likely than non-Jews to be interested in business, medicine, law and the arts. Rubin suggests Hillel internship and mentor programs and highlights several arts programs, including an a capella choir.

While the survey will undoubtedly be a valuable tool in aiding efforts of Jewish educators, Sax emphasizes that the data does not represent college students, but rather students who are about to enter college. She hopes that the study is a steppingstone to follow-up studies. "The ultimate goal is to see how they [Jewish students] develop throughout college," Sax said.

Israeli Jews to Outnumber Those in U.S.


Jews in Israel will outnumber Jews in the United States in two decades, part of a shift in Jewish population by which Israel will become home to a majority of the world’s Jews by 2050, says a study in the new edition of the “American Jewish Year Book.”

The study concludes that trends indicate rapid growth in Israel, home to a younger Jewish population than anywhere else. It says that a few other nations will see short-term growth in their Jewish populations but that decline will set in outside Israel after 2020.

The study, titled, “Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000-2080,” was written by three Israeli demographers, Sergio Della Pergola, Uzi Rebhun and Mark Tolts, and will appear as a chapter in the year book. The 2000 edition is to be published this month by the American Jewish Committee.

The study may lend itself to ongoing discussions among Jewish organizations in the United States on how to increase communal identity and commitment among American Jews, especially in the face of a high rate of marriage between Jews and non- Jews, a trend seen as threatening to Jewish numbers.The study says the current global Jewish population is 13.1 million, of which 5.7 million live in the United States and 4.9 million in Israel.

The authors base their assumptions on a “medium” rate of fertility and continued emigration by Jews from the nations of the former Soviet Union, and they project the world Jewish population will rise by 2020 to 13.8 million with 5.6 million in the United States and 6.2 million in Israel.

The relative youth of Israel’s Jewish population plays a part in the projection. “Already today, approximately 48 percent of all Jews 15 years old or younger live in Israel, a figure expected to rise, depending on fertility, to 57 to 62 percent of the world total by the year 2020,” the study says.Still, some cautioned against placing too much weight on such population projections.

“The Diaspora is not disappearing and it’s not going to disappear,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Reform synagogue organization.

This article appears courtesy of The New York Times.

The Jewish Future


I have seen the Jewish future and, to my surprise, it still belongs to the Baby Boomers. By now I’d guess that Boomers would happily cede attention and civic responsibility to Gen Xers and Gen J but nothing doing. One in three Jews today are between ages 35-53, and the needs and demands of this group will dominate Jewish life well into the coming decades.

In fact, Pini Herman, research coordinator of the Planning and Allocations department at the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles, tells me that the Boomer demographic is so strong that we can expect Boomers, their children and grandchildren to dominate Jewish life for most of the next century, perhaps as long as 60 years.

“There will be a population decline, eventually,” he told me. “But you won’t see it.”

What we will see, instead, is a Jewish population that actually continues to grow, despite on-going predictions of its demise. An American Jewish population of now 5 million will grow to 5.5 million through the first and second decades until, sometime after 2020 it begins, slowly to ebb.

In the meantime, get ready for more of the well-intentioned experimentation and improvised earnestness that Boomers are known for.

By now it’s an old story. After three decades of social upheaval, starting with the civil rights, Vietnam and women’s movement, American Judaism is by now almost unrecognizable both in form and feel from the religion which our grandparents brought over from Europe.

“Most Boomers have no ties to the old country,” Pini Herman says. Without direct experience of the shtetl and the limitations which have guided Jewish life for most of its history, the Boomers had no compunction in applying contemporary American standards to Jewish life. They take for granted that whatever they need, whether child care, or assistance with fertility, or support for their aging parents, the Jewish community will be there for them. And if they can’t find it in their local synagogue, then there’s one down the block.

From my standpoint, the Boomer creative approach to Judaism, however trivial or idiosyncratic it may at times appear, have been largely for the good. Judaism has been opened up, and as a result, the old angers at exclusion by now dissipated. The adult bat mitzvah, chief among rituals, has brought healing across the generations. Jews-by-choice, gays, women among the outsiders now brought in have each added flavor and power to Jewish life. We are a fuller richer people for their energies.

Democracy and voluntary participation are not Jewish values, but by now that point is moot. The American Jewish community “voted” for inclusion at the time when its members were fleeing.

Much as the Baby Boomers have changed Judaism, Judaism and all its options has changed the Boomers, too. They are almost unrecognizable from their former selves, softened, like a weathered rock, over time. The generation that notoriously postponed responsibility is today sandwiched between their children and their parents, creating supportive communities to help them get by.

That’s why it’s unfair to think of them any longer as the “Me Generation.” Today, Boomers think of “Us.” If it is true that the nuclear family is not what it once was, at least the generation gap has healed. The first generation to pay for children’s private education from kindergarten through college are in debt to their parents, who are glad to help out. Today, the fastest growing group is 85+, and the Boomers know that this is their obligation; unlike their narcissistic reputation, they don’t flee.

And where does all this leave Jewish leadership? Jewish community and its resources are in flux while trying to meet Boomer needs. All the infrastructure needs, for new pre-schools, day schools, basketball courts and social halls for b’nai mitzvah and weddings, will continue at least for decades hence. Jews in the coming years will continue their push from the central city and the suburbs for the new exurbs, the growth areas like Calabasas, California, where three new synagogues are under construction. Look about you: American Jewish life is undergoing a building spurt unlike anything since the post-war swing to the suburbs.

Is it good news when Jewish men outnumber women? You be the judge. My conversation with research analyst Herman suggests that the “gender mismatch” which have plagued women over 40 for many years may be ending. Analyzing the 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey, Herman found the following:

Among those 50-64, 56 percent are women, 44 percent men.

For those 40-49, 53 percent are women, 47 percent men.

But among those age 30-39, and the men, miraculously, return: 38 percent are women, 62 percent men.

The shortage of men over 40, and the overabundance under 40 is going to make Jewish heads spin. What will it mean when men outnumber women 2:1? Is there a precedence for it in contemporary Jewish life?

I’m eager for the future.



Join Marlene Adler Marks, senior columnist of the Jewish Journal, for a conversation with actor Edward James Olmos on “Minorities in the Media: Where are they?” at the Skirball Cultural Center this Sunday at 11 a.m.

Her website is www.marleneadlermarks.com.

Her e-mail address is wmnsvoice@aol.comHer book, “A Woman’s Voice” is available through Amazon.com.

Up Front


 

Counting Jews

 

By 2003, Israel will finally have fulfilled thedreams of its founders when it overtakes the United States to becomehome to the largest number of Jews in the world.

This, according to the Institute of the WorldJewish Congress, which is to publish the new Jewish populationstatistics in its updated “Jewish Communities of the World.”

Since the last survey, published two years ago,the United States’ Jewish population has decreased by 200,000, whileIsrael’s has grown by 300,000. Today, according to the institute,there are around 700,000 more Jews living in the United States thanin Israel.

The WJC institute puts today’s world Jewishpopulation at 13.8 million. Fifty years ago, after the Holocaust,that number was estimated at 11 million.

The following eight countries have Jewishpopulations in excess of 200,000. Together, they total 92 percent ofthe world’s 13.8 million Jews:

 

 

United States 5,600,000

Israel 4,900,000

France 600,000

Russia 450,000

Canada 360,000

Ukraine 310,000

England 300,000

Argentina 230,000

50 Years of Aliyah: Countries Yielding the Most,1948-1998

Soviet Union (and successor states) 915,713

Romania 274,572

Morocco 268,093

Iran 76,915

United States 75,075

Turkey 61,505

Tunisia 53,289

Yemen 51,168

Ethiopia 51,136

Information from JTA

Graph by Carvin Knowles

Great Digs

If you missed the first two parts of the SkirballCultural Center’s excellent series “Archaeology of Ancient Lands,”you won’t won’t to miss the last two. On Feb. 19, Dr. Bruce Zuckermanwill discuss how high-tech methods have unlocked hidden meanings inthe Dead Sea Scrolls (see 7 Days in the Arts for more). On Feb. 26,Dr. Giora Solar, Getty Center conservationist, will discuss effortsto preserve the great remnants of the past. Call (310) 440-4500 formore information.

Making the Grade

Bad news comes with a bang, good news with awhimper. So it was last December, when KCBS news reported withfanfare and portent that Canter’s Deli received low marks from countyhealth inspectors.

So where was KCBS when that venerable Los Angelesinstitution, whose south exterior wall displays an expansive mural ofthe history of Jewish Los Angeles, recently received the highestgrade possible from the health police? On Feb. 3, Canter’s got an”A.” The restaurant also hired an independent health auditor andprovides ongoing classes in Spanish and English, taught by afood-safety expert, to all food handlers. For more information, callCanter’s at (213) 651-2030.

Does Israel Matter?

Amid the hoopla and whoopee surrounding Israel’s50th birthday, you might be relieved to know that somebody, somewhereis using the milestone as an opportunity for serious reflection.”Israel at 50: A Nation Like All Other Nations” is the title of anupcoming lecture series at UCLA Hillel, featuring leading analystsand rabbis. First up, on Feb. 18, is Dr. David Hartman, who discusses”Israel: State of the Jews or a Jewish State.” Hartman, who will beprofiled in The Jewish Journal this month, is one of Israel’s mostinfluential and outspoken thinkers. On Feb. 25, Stuart Schoffman,associate editor of the Jerusalem Report and occasional JewishJournal contributor, will speak on “Which Promised Land? The NewRelationship Between Israel and the Diaspora.” On March 4, RabbisShlomo Riskin, Elliot Dorff and Richard Levy will discuss “Pluralismin Judaism: What Unites Us, What Divides Us.” All lectures take placeat 7:30 p.m. at UCLA Hillel, 900 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. Call (310)208-3081 for tickets and information.


The Results Are In


Rumors of the imminent demise of theJewish population of Los Angeles are a little premature. For yearswe’ve been hearing that the rate of intermarriage in Los Angeles islikely among the worst in the nation — probably more than 50percent, perhaps as high as 70 percent in some areas.

Preliminary statistics from a new demographicstudy conducted by the Jewish Federation seem to show that our worstfears are not true. Among couples who married during the five yearsending in1997, the rate of intermarriage is 41 percent — nothing toboast about, but not as bad as we’d heard. The percentage ofintermarried couples among all existing married Jewish households(from newlyweds to long-married) in the region is 22 percent,compared to 20 percent in the Federation’s last study in 1979. Thisapplies to the area that runs from the Simi and Conejo valleys in thenorth to the border of Long Beach and from downtown to the PacificOcean, including an estimated 519,000 Jews the Federation serves.

Surprisingly, the intermarriage rate (during afive-year period between 1985 and 1990) measured by the NationalJewish Population Study of 1990 was higher — 52 percent.

The results came as a surprise to Dr. Pini Herman,research coordinator of the Federation’s Planning and AllocationsDepartment, which oversaw the study. The western part of the countryis often considered a hotbed of intermarriage, Herman said. “Peoplehere tend not to be as observant of their religion, so you wouldexpect to see a higher intermarriage rate in Los Angeles.”

Since the area surveyed is not precisely the sameas in the 1979 study (the increasingly Jewish Simi/Conejo area wasnot included then and the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, now servedby another Federation, were), intermarriage may be higher in theareas the report doesn’t cover, Herman hypothesized. But still, hesaid, at the current rate of intermarriage, the Los Angeles Jewishpopulation is unlikely to disappear for another 500 to 600 years. “Myimpression is that [intermarriage] is a long, slow trend, even thoughit’s a trend that exists,” Herman said. “It’s a kitchen fire, not ahouse fire.”

Dr. Bruce Phillips, a professor of Jewish CommunalStudies at Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion, andthe author of a 1993 study on Jewish intermarriage, was somewhat moreskeptical than Herman. He questioned what the current data would showif analyzed in terms of generational differences. “Immigrants andchildren of immigrants don’t intermarry very much,” he said. LosAngeles’ large number of immigrants, may have affected theintermarriage rate, Phillips suggested. The survey results still meanthat more than half of couples being formed are intermarried, sincethe approximately six Jews in 10 that marry other Jews would formthree couples, while the four out of 10 who marry non-Jews wouldcreate four intermarried couples, he added.

Herman’s research corroborated with Phillips’study on one matter: among children of two Jewish parents,intermarriage has slowed down somewhat. Phillips theorized that thismight be the result of the growing immigrant population, ofintermarrieds migrating out of the Los Angeles area or of a slowdowncaused by the increasing outcry in the Jewish community againstintermarriage.

When broken down by regions, areas with thelargest concentration of Jews tend to have the lowest numbers ofintermarried Jews, and those with the least Jews have the highestnumber. San Pedro, with a very small Jewish population, has thehighest concentration of mixed marriages: 62 percent among allmarried Jewish households. Beverly Hills has the lowest number ofmixed marriages: 4 percent. In central Los Angeles, which includesHollywood and has a low Jewish density, the percentage ofintermarried and couples in which the non-Jewish partner hadconverted were equal at 38 percent each, with only 23 percent of Jewsmarried to other Jews. In areas where younger Jews have settled, suchas the Conejo and Simi valleys and the South Bay beach cities, thenumber of intermarried households is higher (29 percent and 32percent, respectively). “It’s a known phenomenon that the youngergeneration tends to marry out,” Herman said.

Data from the population survey was collected in1996 and 1997. It included random calls to more than 69,000 phonenumbers and completed interviews with 2,641 Jewish households. Forpurposes of the study, a Jew was defined as one who was born a Jew,raised a Jew and not converted out, or a person with one parent whowas Jewish. A more detailed report, including statistics onaffiliation, education and other topics, is expected to be releasedin March.

Jewish Households in Los Angeles

Another part of the study dealing with household size uncoveredseveral trends. Among these are:

  • The average Jewish household size has declined slightly from 2.27 to 2.1 persons per household, less than both the 2.91 figure for all Los Angeles households and 2.27 for non-Hispanic white households.
  • Orthodox Jewish households average 2.7 persons; Conservative Jewish households average 2.3 persons; and Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish households average 2.1 persons. Among Jewish households that don’t identify themselves with any denomination, the average is 1.8 persons per household.
  • Surprisingly, the study points out, “in a community that has always considered two-parent families with minor children as its basic building blocks, it is interesting to note that 77 percent of Jewish households are not of this type.”
  • Jewish fertility is also lower than the surrounding non-Hispanic white population at 213 children ages 0 to 4 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, compared to 449 for all Los Angeles women and 312 for non-Hispanic white women in that age group. The number is expected to decline further as baby boomers age beyond their childbearing years until the children of baby boomers start having their own children.
  • Almost half — 48 percent — of Jewish households contain only unmarried persons, compared to 42 percent in 1979. More than a quarter of households — 28 percent — contain only one person, of which one-third have never married, about a quarter are divorced or separated and more than a third are widowed.
  • There is a growing number of never-married Jews. The proportion of never-married persons over 18 has increased from 18.2 percent of households to 21.2, as the number of married persons has declined from 64.2 percent to 61.3.

 

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