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Survey Paints New Picture of New York Jewish Community

June 18, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Among the highlights of the Jewish Community Study of New York, released this week, are:

The number of Jewish households — defined as those with at least one self-identified Jewish adult — fell 6 percent to 455,000 in New York City and its boroughs, accounting for 71 percent of all New York-area Jewish households.

The number of Jewish households rose by 24 percent, to 188,000, in Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties and in Westchester County. In those same areas, the number of Jewish people rose 12 percent, to 440,000, or 69 percent of all Jewish homes.

Only two city boroughs saw major Jewish growth during the decade. The Jewish population of Brooklyn jumped 23 percent, to 456,000, making it second in size nationally only to Los Angeles, while Staten Island jumped 27 percent, to 42,000, the smallest Jewish population in the eight boroughs and counties surveyed.

Manhattan has 243,000 Jews in 155,000 households, down 5 percent in a decade.

Among New York Jews, 22 percent are age 18 or under, and 20 percent are 65 or older. Of the elderly, 11 percent are age 75 or above.

The majority of New York’s Jews, 73 percent, were born in the United States, with 54 percent born in New York City. Of non-natives, 31,000 were born in Israel.

There are 92,000 households with 202,000 Russian-speaking Jews, 94 percent of which are in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens. Of these homes, 76,000 include an adult born in the former Soviet Union, while the remainder hail from Eastern Europe.

Nineteen percent of the area’s Jews identify as Orthodox, a sharp rise from 13 percent in the 1992 study.

Most Orthodox Jews, 37 percent, reside in Brooklyn, followed by the Bronx and Queens with 20 percent each, and Manhattan and Nassau County with 11 percent each.

The percentage of Reform Jews in the population fell from 36 percent to 29 percent, while Conservative Jews dropped from 34 percent to 26 percent;

Synagogue affiliation remained comparable to figures nationally, at 43 percent, up from 38 percent a decade ago. Synagogue membership is highest in Nassau and Westchester counties, at 56 and 51 percent respectively. It is 47 percent in Brooklyn, and down to 33 percent in Staten Island and 30 percent in Manhattan.

The rise of Orthodoxy was “enormous,” said Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami demographer who has compared Jewish community studies in a book, “How Jewish Communities Differ.”

If affiliation rates are accurate, Sheskin said, it would mean that New York Jews are above-average synagogue- goers, as membership rates in other cities range from 20 percent in places such as Seattle to as high as 50 percent elsewhere.

But Sheskin cautioned that synagogue membership should be verified with individual institutions. Other studies had shown discrepancies between synagogue membership lists and what people claim, he said.

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