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Grandparents and More: the Jews of Palm Beach County

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Florida’s Palm Beach County now has 255,000 Jews, making it the fourth-largest Jewish community in the nation. It ranks behind only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and ahead of Broward County — just to the south — and traditional Jewish strongholds such as San Francisco, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia.

The population ranking is one of many findings released Wednesday by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. A comprehensive study commissioned by the two federations found that:

Forty-two percent of South Florida’s 603,000 Jews now live in Palm Beach County, compared to 40 percent in Broward and 18 percent in Miami-Dade County. In addition, 11,250 Jews from Miami-Dade and 19,800 from Broward have migrated north to Palm Beach.

Twenty-five percent of Palm Beach households are Jewish, a ratio that rises to 48.6 percent for the county’s southern half. This compares to 22.3 percent for Broward, 15 percent for New York City, 7.6 percent for Los Angeles, 6.5 percent for Miami-Dade, 2.5 percent for Detroit and 1.7 percent for Houston.

Only 1 percent of Palm Beach County’s Jews were born there, among the lowest in the nation. This compares to 2 percent for Broward, 13 percent for Miami and 57 percent for Cleveland.

Twenty-three percent of Palm Beach County’s Jews have lived in the county 20 years or more, a lower ratio than that of Broward (31 percent), Miami-Dade (62 percent) and Detroit (87 percent).

Palm Beach County has 18,902 Jewish children younger than 17, just behind Miami-Dade (19,765) and significantly fewer than Broward (30,000), Washington (46,655), Los Angeles (95,285) and New York City (310,640).

Palm Beach County has 163,000 elderly Jews (defined as age 65 or older), the second highest elderly Jewish population in the nation after New York City (around 300,000).

Fifty-nine percent of Palm Beach County’s Jews are age 65 or older, while 36 percent are 75 or older.

Of all Palm Beach County Jews, 36 percent identify as Reform, 34 percent Conservative, 3 percent Orthodox, 1 percent Reconstructionist and 27 percent “just Jewish.”

The intermarriage rate among Palm Beach County Jews is 13 percent, the lowest in the nation. At the other end of the spectrum are San Francisco and Seattle, each with 55 percent.

Fifty-eight percent of Jewish households in Palm Beach County have at least one member who has visited Israel, a proportion exceeded only by Los Angeles (60 percent) and Bergen County, N.J. (62 percent) and Miami (62 percent).

Approximately 4,800 Holocaust survivors live in Palm Beach County, the third-highest number in the nation after Broward (7,400) and Los Angeles (14,000).

Only 9 percent of elderly Jews in Palm Beach County have adult children also living in the county, while another 12 percent have an adult child living elsewhere in South Florida.

The proportion of elderly households in which one household member is ailing jumped from 11 percent to 22 percent in the last six years.

The median income of Jews in South Palm Beach County is $59,000, though 19 percent of Jews living there have incomes of under $25,000, and 13 percent are classified as having “very low income.”

University of Miami researcher Ira Sheskin’s survey was conducted in January and February 2005, with data gleaned from 3,045 telephone interviews. To reach those Jews, more than 110,000 random phone calls were made; 94 percent of eligible Jewish households agreed to be interviewed.

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