(JTA) — For the first time in four decades, Miami Jewry is growing.
That’s the official finding of the new Miami Jewish population study released Monday by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
The Jewish population of Miami-Dade County increased 9 percent over the last decade, to 123,000 from 113,000 in 2004, according to the survey. That makes it slightly larger than the Jewish community of Atlanta and slightly smaller than West Palm Beach, Fla.
The findings confirm trends long suggested by anecdotal evidence, as Miami has become a magnet in recent years for Latin Americans, including Jews from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. Many have come to the United States seeking greater economic or political security, finding in Miami a U.S. city with a strong Latin identity and not too far from home.
Miami has a higher proportion of foreign-born Jewish adults than any other American Jewish community, at 33 percent, according to the study; 51 percent of all of Miami’s 2.6 million residents are foreign-born. Researchers also found a 57 percent increase over the last decade in Hispanic Jewish adults in Miami.
The survey, titled “2014 Greater Miami Jewish Federation Population Study: A Portrait of the Miami Jewish Community,” represents the first concrete evidence of Jewish growth in Miami since 1975.
“In the past decade, we have seen a flow of new Jewish residents, as well as an increase in the length of residency in Miami,” Michelle Labgold, the federation’s chief planning officer, said in a statement. “This is significant news because Miami’s Jewish community experienced a steady decline in population between 1975 and 2004.”
Miami remains the smallest of the three heavily Jewish South Florida counties – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. A 2005 survey counted 256,000 Jews in Palm Beach County, and a 2008 study found 186,500 Jews in Broward. Together, the three counties’ 550,000 or so Jews make up the third-largest Jewish metro area in the nation, behind New York and Los Angeles.
Of Miami’s foreign-born Jews, the largest group by far is Israelis. Some 5,180 Miami Jews were born in Israel, and approximately 9,000 adults consider themselves Israeli. About 3,700 Miami Jews were born in Cuba; 2,854 in Argentina; 2,643 in Venezuela; 2,537 in Colombia; and 2,220 in Canada.
Part of Miami’s recent growth is Orthodox. Compared to the last federation study, in 2004, the number of people residing in Orthodox Jewish households grew by 41 percent – “mostly due to a significant increase in the average size of Orthodox households,” the study reported. The survey also found the overall percentage of Jewish Miami households identifying as Orthodox up to 11 percent from 9 percent in 2004; the number of Reform Jewish households up to 31 percent from 27 percent; the number of Conservative households down to 26 percent from 32 percent; and “just Jewish” households steady at about 32 percent.
Miami has about 47,000 Jews under age 35; 43,000 Jews aged 35-64; and 40,000 age 65 and older. The largest growth since 2004 was in the 18-34 age range and the 65-74 range (the baby boomers); both grew by 26 percent in the last decade.
The numbers weren’t all good for the Jewish federation. The study found that giving to Jewish causes had decreased among Miami Jews, with a steep decline in gifts to the federation: Only 32 percent of respondents said they gave to the federation, down from 42 percent in 2004.
Miami’s Jews live mostly in North Dade, South Dade and the Beaches, with North Dade growing fastest – up 19 percent since 2004. The study also found about 7,000 Jews living in the downtown area, mostly young adults.
The survey found relatively high rates of Jewish attachment. Only 16 percent of couples reported being intermarried, 74 percent said being Jewish is “very important to them” and eight in 10 children have had some type of formal Jewish education, such as Jewish day school, Hebrew school or private tutoring. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” attached to Israel.
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they cannot make ends meet or are just holding on financially. Thirty-five percent of households said they needed some kind of social services in the past year.
The study interviewed 2,020 Jews and had a margin of error of 2.2 percent. It was conducted by Jewish demographer Ira Sheskin, a professor of geography at the University of Miami who has authored 43 Jewish federation population studies.