American-Jewish Population Rises to 6.8 Million

New figures put U.S. Jews ahead of Jewish Israeli population, which according to Central Bureau of Statistics totaled 6.1 million at the start of the Jewish New Year earlier this month.

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A new survey reveals that the American Jewish population is significantly larger than previously estimated.

The survey, published Monday by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, found that an estimated 6.8 million Jews lived in the United States in 2012, constituting nearly 2.2 percent of the total population in the U.S.

That would put the American Jewish population once again ahead of the Jewish Israeli population, which according to Central Bureau of Statistics figures totaled 6.1 million at the start of the Jewish New Year earlier this month.

According to the SSRI survey, 4.2 million American adults self-identify as Jews when asked about their religion. Nearly 1 million others consider themselves Jewish by background and other criteria. Another estimated 1.6 million American Jews are children. The estimates were compiled from data supplied by hundreds of government, academic, and private surveys that monitor religious and ethnic trends.

"The study refutes the bleak narrative of Jewish life that has been suggested by earlier surveys,” said Professor Len Saxe, the director of SSRI. "But it poses a challenge for the Jewish community. What's clear is that even though levels of engagement with Jewish life in America may be increasing, there's a gap between the number of Jews and those who participate in Jewish life."

A survey published in the 2012 American Jewish Yearbook and undertaken by Israel’s leading demographer, Sergio DellaPergola, estimated the total number of American Jews at a much lower 5.4 million.

The Pew Forum on Religion is expected to publish its own separate survey on American Jewry on Tuesday.

According to the estimates published by SSRI, American Jews are relatively older and far more educated than the rest of the country’s population. Among those who identified as Jews, almost a quarter were 65 and over. The adults among them more than twice as likely as other Americans to be college graduates.

The survey found that more than 40 percent American Jews are concentrated in six of the 50 states: New York (20 percent), California (14 percent), Florida (12 percent), New Jersey (8 percent), Massachusetts (5 percent), and Pennsylvania (5 percent).

Roughly 13 percent of all American Jews reside in New York City, making it the largest population center in the country. Next in line is Southern Florida (Miami, Palm Beach and Broward counties), with 8.6 percent. The New York suburban areas of Long Island and Westchester account for 7 percent of the total, and just over 7 percent live in the greater Los Angeles area.

Israel’s new, hip breed of emissaries. Credit: The Jewish Agency for Israel
A screenshot of the Steinhardt Social Reasearch Institute's poll.

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