The Jewish community in New York has grown 10 percent in the last decade, according to a recent UJA-Federation survey. The trend shows a departure away from a slow but steady decline over previous decades.
Historically, the high number of Jews in New York could be traced to immigration. That’s no longer the case. Now, research shows the increased Jewish population is due to high birth rates in the Orthodox community, longer life spans and an upsurge in the number of people who identify as at least partially Jewish.
The Jewish population in the eight-district area of New York—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester—fell below a million in 2002. Today, the number is at 1.54 million.
“The growth of the community represents a challenge and opportunity for communal leadership,” the study, the first of its kind, concluded. “A challenge, because more people means more needs; and an opportunity, because there are now more people to engage in Jewish life and community, and potentially more resources to meet needs here and abroad.”
The survey also showed diversity within New York’s Jewish community, not extraordinary considering the area’s diversity as a whole. Half a million belong to Orthodox households and 220,000 belong to the Russian-Jewish community. About 12 percent are biracial or non-white and 50,000 come from Jewish LGBT homes.
“All of this diversity adds richness and texture to Jewish life in New York. Community-building strategies in New York need to be as variegated and multidimensional as the community itself,” the study read. “At the same time, diversity significantly complicates efforts to build an overall sense of Jewish community and Jewish peoplehood. Particularly, the largest groups — Orthodox and Russian-speaking Jewish households — function both as part of, and separate from, the larger Jewish community.”
Some disturbing findings were gathered, as well. The survey showed a decrease in certain religious practices, like a decline in the number of Jews participating in a Passover seder. Also, nearly one in four Jews qualifies as poor based on national standards, an increase over 2002’s figure of one in five.