Poverty on rise among New York Jews

By Melissa Jacobs, June 14, 2012
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A study released on Tuesday has found that the New York Jewish community has grown by nearly ten per cent since the last survey in 2002, but intermarriage remains a challenge.

The survey found that intermarried couples lag behind in almost every measure of Jewish engagement, and the gap has widened since 2002.

“This presents a challenge to Jewish life with which we are grappling with and are concerned about.” said Dr Steven Cohen, research team director, Jewish Policy & Action Research (JPAR).

Another striking feature of Jewish life in New York is the growing amount of Jewish poverty, with 361,000 now living in poor Jewish households, up from 244,000 in 2002.

The community is very diverse, with almost a third, around 0.5 million, living in Orthodox households. Well over 200,000 are Russian-speaking, hailing from the FSU, and 12 per cent of households said that they had someone who is non-white, largely reflecting the long history of intermarriage in the US. Six per cent of households are Israelis and five per cent are LGBT.

“The data provides a snapshot of the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, at 1.5 million, as it navigates living in one of the most open and generous societies in which Jews have ever lived,” said Dr John Ruskay, executive VP and CEO, UJA-Federation of New York. “Our community continues to be challenged to develop the muscle which will be needed to strengthen Jewish identity in the open society.”

“Overall, we found that we have a community that is large, that is growing, that is diverse, that is challenged by poverty, by elements of disengagement and also strengthened by diversity, by growing areas of Jewish involvement,” said Dr Cohen. “It truly is an incredibly complex, rich, challenging and extraordinarily exciting community to have studied, and to be a part of.”

Last updated: 1:25pm, June 14 2012