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September 27, 2002 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-27

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the data, some of which is being
released early next month, more recent
counts have put the Jewish population
New York City
far closer to the 1990 NJPS of 5.5
here are 600,000 more
million than Tobin's calculations.
American Jews than previ-
In 2000, UJC researchers Jim
ously believed, because the
Schwartz and Jeffrey Scheckner relied
U.S. Jewish population has
on local communal counts — lists
been underestimated for years, accord - provided by the nation's 200 Jewish
ing to a new study.
federations, along with figures by
A national survey by the Institute
communal "experts" such as rabbis in
for Jewish & Community Research
less populated Jewish areas, to arrive at
found 6.7 million Jews out of 288
an estimate of 6.1 million U.S. Jews.
million Americans, far higher than the
In 2001, sociologist Egon Mayer,
closest, most recent estimate of 6.1
director of the Center for Jewish
million American Jews.
Studies at the Graduate Center of the
"Jews have been systematically
City University of New York, led a
undercounted for decades," said Gary
team that counted 5.5 million U.S.
Tobin, president of the San Francisco-
Jews, either by religion, by Jewish
based institute. But Tobin cast an even parentage or by upbringing. That fig-
wider net than any other demographer
ure matched the 1990 NJPS, and used
has to date when it comes to measur-
much of the same methodology.
ing people who are "connected"
One key shift in Mayer's findings
Jewishly, capturing a total of 13.3 mil-
from the 1990 NJPS, however, was
lion people with a variety of Jewish
that intermarriage seemed to be
ties and defying what he calls a mis-
increasing and Jewish identification
taken notion of "a shrinking Jewish
shrinking. Mayer found in 2001 that
33 percent of Jews — those raised as
Jews "have deep roots in American
Jews or who identified as Jews — are
society," Tobin said. "Jews are not dis-
married to non-Jews, compared to 28
appearing, they're transforming."
percent in 1990.
But several prominent Jewish
But Tobin insisted previous studies
demographers questioned Tobin's find- have been wrong in several ways. First,
ings and their significance.
these studies undercounted Jews -
Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami
because many Jews deny their identity
professor involved with several Jewish
in phone surveys, out of fears of anti-
population studies, said Tobin painted
Semitism, he said.
too big a picture of American Jewry. "I
could claim my dog, too, if you want
to stretch the net far enough," Sheskin
More Connections
To test that theory, Tobin said his
Tobin's study, which paints a far
study used similar screening questions
more optimistic portrait of American
about Jewish identity to those used in
Jewry than earlier studies, comes on ,
the NJPS in 1990 and 2000 with
the eve of the long-awaited National
"known" Jews, and found that 13 per-
Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001,
cent — which he extrapolates to
which is widely expected to be the
850,000 people — said there was no
benchmark in measuring the U.S.
Jew in the household.
Jewish population.
Second, this latest study, which sur-
Tobin's study surveyed 250 house-
veyed 10,204 randomly selected U.S.
holds. The NJPS 2000 has a sampling
households to get to the 250 homes
of 4,500 households. Final tallies of
with a Jewish connection, used a line
the latest NJPS have been closely
of questioning about people's back-
guarded by officials of the United
grounds that made them "feel much
Jewish Communities federation
more comfortable" before delving into
umbrella in New York, which is over-
Jewish issues, he said.
seeing the survey.
What Tobin found is that 2.5 mil-
While only a few researchers
lion Americans are "socially or psycho-
involved in the latest NJPS have seen
logically connected" with Judaism. ❑


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