N.Y. Jewish Population Grows to 1.5M: Study

Orthodox Drive 9% Rebound; More Diversity Than Ever

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 12, 2012.
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The Jewish population of the New York City area grew to 1.5 million in the past decade, driven by rapid growth among the Orthodox that is quickly transforming the face of the biggest Jewish community in the country, according to a landmark study released on June 12.

More than six out of ten Jewish children in New York are Orthodox, according to the report, which marks the first comprehensive accounting of the community in a decade.

The study, sponsored by the UJA Federation of New York, covered the five boroughs of New York City plus Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island and Westchester County to the north. It found most of the growth centered in the city’s Orthodox populations.

The survey calculated the Jewish population in the area at 1.54 million, up from 1.4 million a decade ago. Of those Jews, 32% identify as Orthodox, up from 27% in 2002.

Among the Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews are the largest group, at 16% of the Jewish population of the eight counties counted in the survey. They outnumber both Modern Orthodox Jews, at 10% of the total Jewish population, and non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews, at 6% of the population.

Ultra-Orthodox households are far bigger than non-Orthodox households. The mean number of Jewish members of a Hasidic household is 4.8, compared to 1.8 in a non-Orthodox home.

The study found rising poverty rates among Jews. In New York City, 27% of all people living in Jewish households are poor, compared with 20% a decade ago. More than one in ten Jewish households is on food stamps.

Poverty rates are high among older Jews, and among the Orthodox. Hasidic Jews are the poorest Orthodox group – a full 43% of Hasidic households qualify as poor.

The proportion of seniors who are poor has dropped since 2002 to 24% from 35%.

While Jews make up a slightly smaller proportion of the population in New York than they did a decade ago, they are way up in Brooklyn. Now, 22% of Brooklynites are Jewish, compared to 18% a decade ago.

The study found some markers of Jewish engagement among unaffiliated Jews were down. The proportion of Jewish households that never Hanukkah candles is up to 19% from 12% a decade ago.

According to the report, half of the non-Orthodox marriages between 2006 and 2011 included non-Jews. About 1 in 6 Jewish households include biracial or non-white people, the study said.

Of particular interest to the backers of the study, the UJA Federation of New York, the proportion of Jews who reported a donation to the UJA was down from 28% in 2002 to 24%. Hope for a reversal looks dim: Only 11% of the Ultra-Orthodox give to the UJA, and only 9% of the Jews with no religion give.


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