Study: Orthodox Community Boosts New York City's Jewish Population

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There are 1.54 million Jews living in 694,000 Jewish households in New York City and three suburban counties, an increase of 9 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011. The figures in the study, released Tuesday morning, show the New York area with the largest Jewish population anywhere outside of Israel.

The study, sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York, was conducted from February 8, 2011 to July 10, 2011 by Jewish Policy & Action Research, led by Dr. Steven Cohen. Some 5,993 self-identifying Jewish adults from New York City and suburban Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties were interviewed by telephone. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent. 

In a telephone press conference from New York on Tuesday, UJA New York Federation CEO John Ruskay extolled the "extraordinary" diversity of New York's Jewish community, which includes such diverse groups as ultra-Orthodox, Conservative and Reform but also Israelis (127,000), LGBT members (50,000) and no less than 12 percent of the Jewish households that defined themselves as "bi-racial."

The study points to a significant increase in Jewish poverty levels, from 240,000 in 2002 to 361,000 in 2011, the year of the new research. Demographer Steven Cohen who carried out the new study says that there are three main reasons for the growth in poverty: including increase in the number of families with small children, higher longevity and 'fluidity of households" that is the increasing number of Jewish families that come from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Of the Israelis, who together comprised about 7 percent of the city's total Jewish population, only 3 percent of New York's Jews were sabras, or people born in Israel, the study said.

Altogether, the city has 1.77 million Jews if you include the non-Jewish halves of intermarried couples, or 1.54 million if you don't.

Of the Israelis, more than one third are Orthodox or Haredi (ultra-Orthodox). These two groups also comprise 40 percent of New York's total Jewish population, up from 33 percent in 2002, when the last Jewish Community Study of New York was published. But the Orthodox account for 64 percent of Jewish children.

Presumably because it is heavily Haredi, the Israeli community has less education, less wealth and more children than New York's overall Jewish population. Fully 39 percent lack a college education, compared to 23 percent of Jews overall; the same proportion lives under or near the poverty line, compared to 28 percent overall; and 42 percent of Israeli families have children (24 percent overall).

The Israelis are less likely to be intermarried (only 9 percent, compared to 23 percent overall), more likely to send their kids to Jewish schools (72 percent versus 45 percent), and more likely to attend synagogue.Among the general Jewish population, 44 percent feel "connected" to Israel. But the proportion, as many other studies have shown, varies with religious affiliation and age: While 69 percent of Orthodox Jews and 46 percent of people 65 or older feel such a connection, only 38 percent of the non-Orthodox and 25 percent of young singles do.

The study found that while the number of Orthodox and nondenominational Jews both increased by more than 100,000 over the last decade, the number of Conservative and Reform Jews dropped by about 40,000 each.It also found that while the overall intermarriage rate was 23 percent, the rate soars to 50 percent among non-Orthodox Jews married in the last five years.

To read the summary of the report, click here.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a rally in Queens, New York.Credit: AP