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Snapshot of American Jewry

2000-2001

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The National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) 2000-01, a $6 million study undertaken by The United Jewish Communities, is said to give the most comprehensive, reliable picture of American Jewry to date.

Some of the study's key findings are:
  • There are 5.2 million American Jews. This is 5 percent less than the 5.5 million counted in the 1990 population study.
  • 4.3 million American Jews attend Passover seders and light Chanukah candles. This number also includes those more Jewishly committed — people who keep kosher homes, routinely attend synagogue, attend Jewish schools and belong to at least one Jewish organization.
  • The rate of intermarriage is rising, but at a steady pace, with 47 percent of today's Jewish newlyweds marrying non-Jews. This is a 4 percent increase from 1990.
    • Of all American Jews currently wed, one-third are intermarried.
    • Intermarriage runs highest among the young and among men.
    • The greater one’s Jewish education, the less likely one is to intermarry. 43 percent of those who lacked any Jewish education intermarried, 29 percent among those who had one day per week of Jewish education intermarried, 23 percent of those who had part-time Jewish education intermarried, and only 7 percent of those who attended Jewish day school or yeshiva intermarried.
  • Day school enrollment is rising, with 29 percent of youths ages 6-17 saying they have attended day schools or yeshivas.
  • The median Jewish age is 42, compared to 35 for Americans generally, and the birthrate was 1.8, below the 1.9 rate for American women generally.
  • 43 percent of Jews live in the Northeast, 23 percent in the South, 22 percent in the West and 13 percent in the Midwest. There is a migration of American Jews westward.
  • Jews are more affluent than Americans generally. More 33 percent of Jewish households report an annual income of $75,000 or higher, compared to just 18 percent of U.S. households. The median Jewish household income is $54,000, compared to $42,000 for Americans generally.
The picture of American Jewry painted by the study is complex. On the one hand, the American Jewish population is aging and shrinking, as the birthrate is falling and intermarriage is rising, and most Jews do not engage in communal or religious pursuits. On the other hand, a vast majority of American Jews attend a Passover seder and celebrate Chanukah and Jewish education is booming.

One of the most interesting revelations of the study is that American Jewry seems to be moving in two different directions simultaneously. A small group of affiliated American Jews seems to be undergoing a Jewish rennaissance, while unaffiliated American Jews seem to be decreasing Jewish intensity.

The results of this survey will be used by Federations and Jewish communal leaders for policy and planning decisions. In the past, this survey has led to debates on questions such as how much should be invested in reaching out to intermarried families versus in education within the Jewish community. If the ultimate goal is Jewish survival, what does the survey tell us about how to invest our community's limited resources?
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