Many Claim Membership But Few Pay Shul Dues

People Claim To 'Belong' to Congregations But Aren't Members

They ‘Belong’ Without Belonging: Many more Jews say they belong to synagogues than actually pay dues to any congregation, surveys suggest.
thinkstock
They ‘Belong’ Without Belonging: Many more Jews say they belong to synagogues than actually pay dues to any congregation, surveys suggest.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 10, 2012, issue of August 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Both the 1993 churchgoing study and the URJ figures found twice as many people claiming religious involvement as were actually involved.

According to Steven M. Cohen, one of the authors of the UJA-Federation study and a leading sociologist of the Jewish community, the Reform membership discrepancy is a related but distinct phenomenon from church attendance overreporting.

“We have both social desirability factors at work, as well as confusion and fluidity of definitions” of Jewish denominations and congregational membership, Cohen said. “They’re all in play.”

The UJA-Federation survey, which counted Jews in the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester and Long Island, determined the number of Reform households belonging to synagogues by analyzing the weighted responses to a question asking the denomination of a household, and another asking whether anyone in the house belonged to a synagogue, havurah or minyan.

The URJ’s data is based on reports from member synagogues, which share membership data with the umbrella group.

The discrepancy between the figures could theoretically point to an error in the weighting of survey responses, which were used to project an overall figure. But Cohen said he stands by his work. “This is not a weighting problem. It’s definitely an issue of the respondents’ interpretation of the questions,” he said.

The apparent discrepancy between the figures in the UJA-Federation survey and the Reform movement’s own numbers was first noted by Rochelle Rudnick, an administrator of a Conservative synagogue in New Jersey who holds a master’s degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Despite repeated requests, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism could not provide the number of households paying dues to Conservative synagogues within the counties surveyed by the UJA-Federation. The movement collects membership figures from individual synagogues each year in order to charge dues from those synagogues. The USCJ said it relies on the UJA survey and others like it for numbers about its membership and lacks resources to fund its own study.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis on twitter @joshnathankazis or at nathankazis@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.