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October 11, 2002 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-11

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Demographic Downturn

A smaller, graying American Jewry poses new challenges for community.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York City
merica's Jewish population
declined by 5. percent dur-
ing the past 10 years,
according to a new survey
that says the shrinkage is likely to con-
tinue. given the community's aging
population and low birth rates.
The National Jewish Population
Survey (NJPS) 2000-2001 said the num-
ber of Jews now stands at 5.2 million,
falling from 5.5 million in 1990, even as
the total U.S. population grew by more
than 12 percent. Jews now represent 2
percent of the American population.
- The picture of a declining, graying
population was unveiled Oct. 8 by the
United Jewish Communities, the
umbrella organization of Jewish federa-
tions that sponsored what is believed to
be the most comprehensive demograph-
ic survey of American Jews to date.
Other parts of the study, which will
address issues of Jewish identity and
affiliation, will be released at the
group's annual gathering in
Philadelphia at the end of November.
The findings are expected to spark new


dren, agencies might examine policy
debates about the numbers and what
questions about Jewish camp fees,
they mean for the Jewish community.
Much of the study pointed to demo- Jewish school costs, even college aid.
And with a increasingly aging popu-
graphic changes that have been emerg-
lation, "we need to proportionately
ing for years, some contained in the
devote more attention to caring for
1990 NJPS.
the elderly," Hoffman added.
For instance, the latest study found
One who welcomed the scrutiny on
that the Jewish population is "skewed"
aging Jewish population was Rabbi
to the Northeast, with 43 percent of
Dayle Friedman, who is currently
Jews living there, while the Midwest,
developing Hiddur: The Center for
with 13 percent of the community,
Aging and Judaism at the
remains the sparsest Jewish area.
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Other findings confirmed what has
"I hope we'll stop viewing this as
been known, but are still seen as sig-
news, but as an invitation to tap
nificant, including the aging popula-
of people who are older
tion and the low birth rates.
and tap their creativity in ways we
The median age of American Jews
haven't imagined," said the
climbed from 37 in 1990 to 41 in
2000, with 19 percent age 65 and older, Philadelphia-based rabbi who has
worked extensively with Jewish elderly.
compared with 15 percent in 1990.
For example, Rabbi Friedman said
At the same time, Jewish women
educators who are Jewish could
approaching the end of their child-
be retrained to help address a shortage
bearing years, ages 40-44, have an
average of 1.8 children, which is below in Jewish school educators.
Referring to the overall demographic
the replacement level of 2.1.
trends, Frank Mott, a professor of
Stephen Hoffman, chief executive
sociology at Ohio State University
officer of the UJC, said the study's
who helped steer the 2000-01 NJPS,
conclusions of an aging population
coupled with low birth rates "raise pol- said: "It doesn't look too good. Unless
there are some significant changes" in
icy questions" about how Jewish agen-
Jewish demographic patterns, Jews
cies should 'spend money.
ultimately "are not going to replace
For example, with fewer Jewish chil-

New York/JTA — The American
Jewish world as revealed in the
just-released National Jewish
Population Survey 2000-2001:
• The Jewish population now
stands at 5.2 million, down 5.45
percent from 5.5 million in 1990.
• Jews represent 2 percent of the
general U.S. population, which
stands at 288 million, an increase
of 33 million from 1990.
• The Jewish population resides
in 2.9 million Jewish households,
with a total of 6.7 million people
in all those households. This means
that 1.5 million of those people —
one out of every five people living
in a Jewish household on average
— are not Jewish.
The United Jewish Communities,
the umbrella organization of U.S.
and Canadian Jewish federations
and sponsor of the study, released
only the demographic findings this
week. Other parts of the study,




which will address issues of Jewish
identity and affiliation, will be
released at the group's annual gath-
ering in Philadelphia at the end of
Among the key findings released
Oct. 8:

• The median age of U.S. Jews is
41, up from 37 in 1990, and in
contrast to the median age of 35 in
the general U.S. population.
• 19 percent are age 65 and
older, up from 15 percent in 1990,
and compared with 12 percent in
the general population.
• 19 percent are age 17 and
younger, down from 21 percent in
1990, and compared with 26 per-
cent in the general population.

• 51 percent of U.S. Jews- are
female, 49 percent are male. The

America's 5.2 million Jews live in
what the NJPS identified as 2.9 mil-
lion Jewish households.
But the study also found 6.7 million
people in those households, which means
that 1.5 million people in these house-
holds are not Jewish. But NJPS officials
are not saying yet how those non-Jews
are related to the identified Jews.
To study America's Jews, the NJPS
surveyed 4,500 Jews from every state
and the District of Columbia, the largest
Jewish demographic study to date.

The Questions

The NJPS relied on four questions to
determine Jewishness. They were:
What is your religion, if any; do you
consider yourself Jewish for any rea-
son; if your religion is not Judaism, do
you have a Jewish mother or father;
and if your religion is not Jewish, were
you raised Jewish?
Those questions remain virtually
unchanged from the last time the
NJPS was conducted in 1990, when it
showed that 52 percent of Jews who
married in the previous five years had
chosen non-Jewish spouses.
That revelation sparked intense
debate and soul-searching and spurred
tens of millions of dollars' worth of
programs meant to solidify Jewish
identity and reach out to Jews.
While the 1990 NJPS became
known mostly as the harbinger of trou-
bling news about the community's via-
bility, the team behind the 2000-01

gender distribution is the same as
the general population and is
unchanged from 1990.
• 54 percent of U.S. Jews.aged
18 and older are married, com-
pared with 57 percent in the gener-
al U.S. population.
• 26 percent aged 18 and older
are single and never married, corn-
pared with 24 percent in the gener-
al population.
• 30 percent of Jewish men are
single, compared with 22 percent
of Jewish women.
• 9 percent of Jewish adults are
divorced, 4 percent are separated
and 7 percent are widowed. All of
these figures parallel those in the
U.S. adult population as a whole.
The NJPS numbers regarding Jews
who live with their boyfriend or
girlfriend have not been released.
• 59 percent of Jewish adults have
married once, 13 percent twice and
2 percent three times or more.

• Jewish women approaching the
end of their childbearing years,
aged 40-44, have an average of 1.8
children, whiCh is below the
replacement level of 2.1.
• 52 percent of Jewish women
aged 30-34 have no children, corn-
pared with 42 percent in 1990 and
27 percent among the general pop-
ulation in 2000.

• 85 percent of Jewish adults
were born in the United States.
• Of the 15 percent of foreign-
born Jews, 44 percent come from the
former Soviet Union (20 percent
from the Ukraine, 13 percent from
Russia, the rest from other parts of
the former USSR) and 10 percent
each from Israel and Germany.

There has been little change in

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