JEWISH STUDY: 134k Jews Live In South PBC, Just Ten Percent Pay A Synagogue

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BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Source: Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County) — The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County announced the completion of a major demographic study that the organization conducted in partnership with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. The 2018 South Palm Beach County Jewish Community Study creates a comprehensive portrait of characteristics, attitudes and behaviors of the South Palm Beach County Jewish community, which includes Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach.

Jewish Federations throughout the United States traditionally engage in a demographic study of the community every decade, to address the current needs of the community, and to enable the Federation and its service agencies to plan for the future. The last Jewish Community Study of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach was conducted 13 years ago, in 2005. Conducting this new study aligns with the Jewish Federation’s overall mission to address and plan for current and future needs of the Jewish people locally, in Israel and around the world.

“As an organization and community of our size now entering our 40th Anniversary Year, the scope of this study is essential to guide our planning, and to ensure that we are supporting our entire community and prioritizing specific areas based on the findings,” said Matt Levin, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. “In late 2017, our leadership recognized that updated data was needed, given the passage of time and a belief that changes had occurred in our community, which made a new survey and report essential.”

With the financial support of the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation and encouragement from agencies throughout the community, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County engaged the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, a leader in the field, to conduct the survey and to report on its findings. Brandeis has organized studies in Jewish communities, such as Boston, Greater Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Nashville, among others.

The Brandeis team used the state-of-the-art and technologically advanced research techniques to provide the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County with a high-quality survey, which produced reliable findings. Statistically sound with more than 2,100 respondents, the study provides important insight into contemporary Jewish life – the beliefs, practices, values and rituals that add meaning for our core constituencies and the many subgroups of our community.

“By conducting this research study with Brandeis, we are in a much stronger position to serve our current and future constituents for the next forty years,” added Levin. “The findings and results from this very important study will inform and guide our decision making for years to come.”

The top 10 findings of the study are the following:

  1. The Jewish population of South Palm Beach County consists of 134,200 adults and children living in 69,000 households. This represents approximately a 3% increase in population from 2005.
  2. The Jewish community in South Palm Beach County is undergoing a demographic transition. The community still has a significant population of retirees and senior citizens (44% of which are ages 65 and up) but is getting younger and includes more families than it did in 2005.
  3. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish children in our community since 2005: Jewish children living in Jewish households has increased from 11,000 to 17,300 (57%).
  4. While the rate of intermarriage has increased from 9% in 2005 to 16% in 2018, the current rate is far less than the national rate of intermarriage (44%). Moreover, nearly two-thirds of intermarried parents are raising their children exclusively Jewish.
  5. Overall, 34% of Jewish students in grades K-12 participated in some form of Jewish education in the past year. Twenty-six percent of students in grades K-12 were enrolled in some type of formal Jewish education, including day schools, part-time Hebrew schools, or private Jewish classes. Nineteen percent participated in an informal Jewish education program (day and overnight camps, youth groups, or peer Israel trips).
  6. Twenty percent of Jewish households identify with a synagogue in South Palm Beach County. Of that 20%, approximately half pay dues to a “brick and mortar” synagogue.
  7. Seventy-one percent of our Jewish community identify with a Jewish denomination: Orthodox (8%), Conservative (25%), Reform (37%), Other (1%). The remaining 29% refer to themselves as “secular/just Jewish.”
  8. More than two-thirds (69%) of Jewish adults have been to Israel at least once. Moreover, 91% of Jewish adults feel a connection to Israel. This indicates a strong demand for community education and programming focused on Israel.
  9. Twenty-eight percent of Jewish households include at least one person who has some sort of health issue, special need, or disability. Two percent of Jewish households include a member with a cognitive or developmental disability.
  10. There is financial vulnerability within the South Palm Beach County Jewish community. Nearly one in five Jewish families are living on the economic edge. Seventeen percent say they are just getting along, while 2% say they are either poor or nearly poor.

The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County held a series of briefing sessions yesterday and today for social services agency leaders, school and synagogue professionals as well as lay leaders, board members and major donors from the community. The full results of the study are posted online at http://jewishboca.org/news/demographic/.