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.

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