August 22, 2019

Setting the Record Straight

As authors of the oft-cited research study titled “Will Your Grandchild Be Jewish?” we have more than a passing interest and familiarity with the Jewish demography of Los Angeles and America. The following points outline some of the fundamental flaws in the L.A. Jewish Population Survey of 1997 not reported by other respondents:

  • The L.A. survey shows an increase of Orthodox population from a maximum of 25,030 in 1979 to at least 27,878 in 1997. This increase of at least 12 percent is never directly referred to in either the L.A. survey or in demographer Pini Herman’s many public statements defending the survey. Instead, the demographic comparisons were always made by households. This allowed both the L.A. survey and Herman’s representations to obscure the growth of large, young Orthodox families that the L.A. survey itself had uncovered.

  • No previous population study (whether targeting the general population or the Jewish population) based its findings primarily on house-holds rather than individual people. Orthodox Jews generally have more people per household, but they have fewer households per person. The L.A. survey results and Herman’s defenses seemed to have been designed to mask the growth of Orthodox Jews whose numbers grew between the last two community surveys. The 1979 survey, as is typical, reported the total number of individuals, not households.

  • Additionally, the figure used to illustrate the average size of Orthodox families in the L.A. survey (2.7 persons per family) is well below what has been found elsewhere as the average size of Orthodox families.

  • The upcoming CJF 2000 national population study took pains to include Orthodox activists and scholars (including ourselves) in order to ensure an accurate count. No such efforts were made in con-nection with the L.A. survey. Besides the lack of intellectual honesty displayed, clearly the Ortho-dox denomination was placed at a disadvantage.

  • Both the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey and the 1991 New York Jewish Population Study, as well as every significant population survey over the past 20 years, have made both the raw data as well as methodologies available to interested parties after the results have been published. True social scientists have nothing to hide. In spite of repeated requests to share the raw data and methodology of the L.A. survey, Herman refused to release any information. Moreover, several calls to him remain unanswered.

The L.A. survey, spearheaded by Herman, went out of its way not to consult leaders of the Orthodox community; utilized at best an unconventional method of counting so-called respondents; and hid the growth of numbers of Orthodox Jews by counting families, not individuals. Then, to add insult to injury, Herman refused repeated requests from baffled members of the Orthodox community to check the supposed figures by examining the raw data and methodology.

Who is really trying to fool whom?

Expanded synagogues and day schools, new construction, sold-out events, mushrooming of kosher stores versus a flawed study with obscured conclusions. The question is only the rate of growth of the Orthodox community, not whether it is in fact growing.

We strongly encourage those who invested funds in the apparently flawed L.A. survey to produce, in conjunction with the CJF 2000 population study, an accurate assessment of the Los Angeles Jewish population spearheaded by a nonbiased source so that our community can deal with the real composition of Los Angeles Jewry.