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June 26, 1992 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-06-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Gary Tobin: A travelin' salesman for
population studies. Grooves on numbers.
Makes the Count on "Sesame Street"
seem numerically illiterate.

Jay Broadbar-Nemzer, the Toronto fed-
eration's assistant director for communi-
ty planning and allocations, said the
Canadian census' query about religion
does not provide the same microscopic pro-
file of Jewish communities that comes
from population studies done by Ameri-
can federations.
Yet, despite the high premium the or-
ganized community puts on these studies,
most troublesome to just about everyone
involved with them is the lack of money
to analyze them.
To remedy this, Brown University's
Prof. Goldscheider has urged that the sur-
veys be released at a slower, more schol-
arly pace. But federations, he exclaimed,
"say, We can't wait. We have immediate
problems and we want immediate an-
swers.' "
Critics cite the National Jewish Popu-
lation Survey as the latest in a string of
under-analyzed surveys. The Council of
Jewish Federations spent $370,000 for the
study – then cut corners by not budgeting
any money to analyze its data. Instead, it
asked almost 30 academics around the
country to write – for free – monographs
on aspects of the study. These will be pub-

"We have
immediate
problems and we
want immediate
answers."

-Prof.Calvin Goldscheider

lished by the State University of New York
Press – but not for another two to three
years.
What the professionals have done is pro-
vide the Jewish community with more in-
formation about itself and, as Steve Bayme
of the American Jewish Committee said,
"knowledge is power.
"Until about 1980, the Jewish commu-
nity made its decisions on the basis of

guesses and hunches," he noted. "These
studies now shape Jewish communal plan-
ning. Their limitation is that they can only
tell you what's out there. Only Jewish com-
munal leaders can decide how to forge the–
future."
"Sure, there's power in knowledge,"
agreed Gary Tobin, "but that, by the way,
is a very Jewish idea."
"In some respect," said Egon Mayer,
"the demographers have become the wise
men and women of contemporary Jewish -
life. Ours is an important voice, and, hope-
fully, an honest voice. As the community—,
becomes more fragmented, these studies
are more and more important. Who do you
talk to to find out what's going on? The\--
butcher? The grocer? The milkman? Those
days are over. Sometimes it's even hard
to find a rabbi who knows what's hap-
pening."

This article was made possible by a
grant from the Fund for Judaism on
Jewish Life, a project of the CRB Foun-
dation of Montreal, and the Jewish Tele-
graphic Agency. Any views expressed
are solely those of the author.

Federation Demographers Find
Jewish Population Studies Necessary

AMY J. MEHLER

Staff Writer

I

Calvin Goldscheider: Academic. Traditional.
Wants peer reviews and more analysis. Says
there's too much of a rush to judgement.

24

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 1992

f she could wave a magic wand, Patri-
cia Becker would conjure a Jewish pop-
ulation study of metropolitan Detroit
every five years.
The demographer who wrote the sum-
mary report for the Jewish Population
Study of Metropolitan Detroit said sur-
veys like Detroit's help Jewish commu-
nity leaders meet the needs of a changing
Jewish community.
"People with better information make
better decisions," she said.
Results from the 1990 Jewish Popula-
tion Study, the first demographic Jewish
population study of Detroit's Jewish com-
munity in almost 30 years, surprised the

community by announcing there were
96,000 Jews in the metro Detroit area—
a number at least one-third higher than
anticipated.
The last population study, in 1963,
showed 85,000 Jews living in metro De-
troit. However, by 1972, community lead-
ers began assuming the population had
plummeted. The commonly accepted fig-
ure for the last decade had been 70,000.
`There was never any hard data to sup-
port the 70,000 figure," said Mrs. Beck-
er, senior research associate with the
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan De-
troit. "The numbers of other Jewish com-
munities, like Cleveland's, were
decreasing — so people just began as-
suming Detroit's Jewish community was
following suit."
Federation Planner Larry Ziffer said

information garnered from Detroit's sur-
vey helps plan strategy for the future of
the Jewish community.
The upcoming $2 million renovations
for the Jimmy Prentis Morris Jewish ,
Community Center in Oak Park are, in
part, a result of the Jewish population
study, Mr. Ziffer said. "We use the data
as a guide," he said. "It helps us track this
community's development. The study
showed that almost half the Jewish pop-
ulation still lives within walking distance
to JPM. Federation presents this kind of
information to the agencies so they can
plan for the community accordingly."
The population study found nearly 80
percent of the community lives in 12 core,
or south Oakland County, suburbs, with
the heaviest concentrations in Southfield,
Oak Park-Huntington Woods and West

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