I was pleased that The Jewish Week recognized that the 2017 Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study asked some of the right questions about Jewish engagement (“New City Surveys Affirming Lower Engagement,” March 2).
Some of the people interviewed for the article mentioned important ways that Jewish engagement today (i.e., independent minyans, having Jewish friends, reading about Israel) differs from Jewish engagement 15 years ago (i.e., going to synagogue, lighting Shabbat candles). The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, the authors of the Pittsburgh study, relied on community input in designing the survey to ensure that they addressed exactly those differences.
We included all Jewish organizations, across political and denominational spectrums, encouraging their input as to what they wanted to learn and what data would impact their strategic plans. These organizations, including Chabad, were participants in helping us build the survey so that it could drive action in the community and enable better-informed decision-making.
The Pittsburgh Community Study saw very interesting changes in patterns of engagement, not all of which suggest lower engagement as the article title suggested. The Jewish federation has committed time and resources to following up on areas we uncovered — areas of both increases and decreases in engagement — because we recognize the importance of continuing to keep Jews engaged in the ways they want to participate in their Judaism.