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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
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New Study Extrapolates: 6.8 Million Jews Living in US

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JEWISH LIFE IN NEW YORK

Photo Credit: Serge Attal / Flash90

An estimated 6.8 million Jews live in the United States, with 65 percent of them concentrated in six states, according to a new study.

The estimate counts 4.2 million American adults who self-identify as Jews; 1 million Americans who identify as having a Jewish background but do not identify as Jewish by religion; and approximately 1.6 million Jewish children.

The new population estimates are not based on a new survey. Rather they were synthesized from the data of nearly 350 recent surveys of the U.S. adult population, with more than 320,000 respondents and 6,900 Jewish respondents.

Titled “American Jewish Population Estimates: 2012,” the study was conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

The study finds far more than the 5.2 million American Jews counted in the last national study, the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. But because the methodology used was completely different, the newer numbers do not demonstrate an increase in the U.S. Jewish population.

Leonard Saxe of Brandeis, one of the researchers who conducted the study, told JTA there is evidence to show the U.S. Jewish population has grown, though not by the percentage increase between his study and the NJPS. Saxe attributed the growth to the immigration of Russian-speaking Jews, programs to bolster Jewish identity and the shifts in attitude that has enabled many children of interfaith marriages to be raised with a Jewish identity.

“There’s unquestionably been an increase; it’s not a 35 percent increase, however,” Saxe said. “And it’s not quite kept pace with the increase in the overall U.S. population.”

About 65 percent of American Jews live in just six states, according to the study’s estimates: New York (20 percent), California (14 percent), Florida (12 percent), New Jersey (8 percent), Massachusetts (5 percent) and Pennsylvania (5 percent). The other four states in the top 10 – Illinois, Maryland, Texas and Ohio – add another 15 percent. The three most Jewish metropolitan areas are New York, South Florida and Los Angeles.

The new methodology was able to produce “highly reliable estimates,” the study’s authors — Saxe, Elizabeth Tighe, Raquel Magidin de Kramer and Daniel Parmer — said in the study.

“What seemed unfeasible in the past is feasible today, and is manifest in increased interest in mining ‘big data,’ ” they said.

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3 Responses to “New Study Extrapolates: 6.8 Million Jews Living in US”

  1. No real answer to intermarriage RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    I would like to add my thoughts to the debate Jack Wertheimer, professor of American-Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has sparked regarding intermarriage and inmarriage and his assertion that welcoming intermarried families into the Jewish community has been a failure (Editor’s note: Gary Rosenblatt guest column Sept. 19, full article Mosaic online magazine — http://www.mosaicmagazine.com). In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, that the reality is that even the children with positive experiences who excelled in Hebrew school, intermarry. Some come from traditional homes. Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.

    The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. I have heard it suggested that Conservative Judaism accept patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education. I believe this will happen in the future, but I have problems accepting this solution.

    I do not have the answer, and I believe no one does, but I do know that if one does not believe they are halachicly Jewish, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  2. No real answer to intermarriage RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    I would like to add my thoughts to the debate Jack Wertheimer, professor of American-Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has sparked regarding intermarriage and inmarriage and his assertion that welcoming intermarried families into the Jewish community has been a failure (Editor’s note: Gary Rosenblatt guest column Sept. 19, full article Mosaic online magazine — http://www.mosaicmagazine.com). In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, that the reality is that even the children with positive experiences who excelled in Hebrew school, intermarry. Some come from traditional homes. Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.

    The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. I have heard it suggested that Conservative Judaism accept patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education. I believe this will happen in the future, but I have problems accepting this solution.

    I do not have the answer, and I believe no one does, but I do know that if one does not believe they are halachicly Jewish, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  3. many Jews in the US will not register on cenus as Jews,,,,,,,,, fear another holocaust.

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