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Misunderstanding of Religious Bodies Figures Clarified by Dr. Linfield

A few of the misunderstandings which have arisen with regard to the figures of the Jewish population in the United States, in connection with the report of the United States Department of Commerce giving a preliminary result of the Census of Religious Bodies in 1926, were cleared up yesterday in a statement made to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Dr. H. S. Linfield, Director of the Statistical Department of the American Jewish Committee.

The original release of the Department of Commerce, giving the number of 2,948 permanent Jewish, congregations located in urban and rural areas where a population of 4,087,357 Jewish men, women and children is to be found, was greatly misunderstood by some of the Jewish newspapers. The impression was gained that the report of the Department of Commerce conveys the thought that the 2,948 congregations have a membership of 4,087,357 persons. This is not the case.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has directed an inquiry to Dr. T. F. Murphy, in charge of the Division of Census of Religious Bodies, as to (1) what is, according to the census of religious bodies, the actual membership of all Jewish congregations in the United States, and (2) what method was employed to ascertain the number of 4,087,357, mentioned in the Department’s report. Dr. Murphy suggested to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to direct this inquiry to Dr. Linfield, who acted as special agent for the Government in the collection of statistics of the Jewish congregations. No reply to these two questions was made but the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learns that complete data, answering these questions, will be made available in a subsequent report which will be made public in the fall. “The information contained in the report of the Department of Commerce is based upon report received from the individual congregations, rabbis, social workers and representative Jews in the cities, towns and villages all over the country,” Dr. Linfield stated.

Dr. Linfield in his statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, declared:

“In the issues of July 20 and 25, 1928, you published the report of the United States Department of Commerce on the census of the Jewish congregations which was made as part of the United States decennial census of religious bodies. I acted as the government’s agent in the collection of the statistics of the Jewish congregations and beg to make the following explanation:

“The canvas of the Jewish congregations shows that there are 2,948 permanent congregations in the country; 2855 congregations are located in urban places (incorporated places of 2,500 inhabitants or more) and 93 in rural areas. The figure of 2,948 congregations does not include the so-called High Holidays congregations. Ten years ago, the census of Jewish congregations showed 1,901 congregations.

“The urban places and the rural areas in which the 2,948 congregations are located contain a combined number of 4,087,357 Jewish men, women and children. The above statement does not mean that so many Jews are corporate members of 3,000 odd congregations. In former years reports were published of the number of persons on the membership books of the Jewish congregations; the present preliminary report of the Department of Commerce does not deal with this matter. Nor does the statement intend to convey to the reader that the total number of Jews in the country is 4,087,357 persons. All that the report says is this: In the cities, towns and villages in which the 2,948 congregations are located there reside 4,087,357 Jewish men, women and children. There are of course, Jews scattered all over the country in groups too small to maintain a congregation in the places where they reside, but the preliminary report of the Department of Commerce does not deal with the number of such persons. Thus in the State of New York, for example, the report states that there are a number of cities and villages having a combined number of 1,126 congregations and these cities and villages, in which those congregations are located have a combined number of 1,896,593 Jews, men, women and children; but the last mentioned figure does not include those Jews scattered over the state in places not having congregations. It may be noted however, that the number of Jews thus scattered in the State of New York or throughout the country is comparatively small.

“Generally speaking, there exists, in the cities and villages having congregations, one permanent congregation to serve every 1,385 Jewish men, women and children (one congregation for every 1,426 Jews in the urban places and one congregation for every 166 Jews in rural areas).

“Of the 2,948 congregations, 1,335 reported their expenditures during their last fiscal year, and these reported that they spent a total of $16,445,235 for running expenses and improvements; 1,202 urban congregations reported $16,344,214 or an average of $13,589 for the year, and 35 rural congregations, $111,021 or an average of $3,364 for the year.

“Of the 3,000 odd congregations, many reported that they own their synagogue buildings, others that they hold services in rented places. Of those that have synagogue buildings, 1,131 gave the value of their synagogue buildings, totaling $100,890,669; 1,100 urban congregations valued their synagogue buildings at $100,317,169. an average of $91,197; and 31 rural congregations. $573,500. an average of $18,500.

“Many congregations reported that they had Sabbath schools, or weekday schools, or both and others reported that they had none. Of those that reported in the affirmative, 554 congregations reported that they had Sabbath schools with 69,439 pupils and 604 congregations reported weekday schools with 64,863 pupils.

“The information contained in the report of the Department of Commerce is based upon a thorough canvas; but it is not claimed the results are absolutely complete. The figures for the congregations are thus minima.”

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