The New York City area has more Jews than anywhere else in the world save Israel and, according to a new study, that number is growing again. More than 1.5 million Jews now live in the eight-county New York area. To put that in context? That's more than the number of Jews living in the metropolitan areas of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. combined.
According to the study, which was done by at the behest of the UJA Federation of New York, the latest rise in the city's Jewish population was, for the first time, more about increased longevity and the increased birthrates in the city's more Orthodox families. "Nearly half a million Jewish people (493,000) live in Orthodox households—with significantly higher levels of Jewish engagement than others, much larger households, and somewhat lower incomes." In fact, the Orthodox now make up roughly 20 percent of all Jewish households, 32 percent of all Jews and 64 percent of all Jewish children in the eight-county New York City area.
But the population isn't all Hasidism. New York Jews are a very diverse bunch with a spectrum that "includes Hasidic, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Yeshivish Jews, as well as nondenominational Jews, Jews with no religion, people who consider themselves 'partially Jewish,' and Jews with another religion." And that goes for economics, too. In part because of the city's large Orthodox population, 20 percent of people in Jewish households here are poor, with at least 294,000 of them drawing on public-assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid and public housing.
The study is chock full of stats for those who want to dive in (here's a link to the full PDF) but two other ones stood out to us. One is that outside of the Orthodox community, the amount of intermarriage among Jews has remained steady at about 22 percent in the past decade. And the second is that the number of Jews sending their children to Hebrew day schools or yeshivas is going up—except when it isn't. While "Nearly half of those ages 18 to 34 went to day school, compared with just 16 percent of those ages 55 to 69." At the same time, among nondenominational Jews the already low numbers for Jewish education is dropping: "54 percent of nondenominational respondents ages 55 to 69 received no Jewish education whatsoever, compared with 70 percent of those ages 18 to 34."
Luckily for tradition, even those less-engaged Jews still enjoy religious activities that can be performed independently of institutions. Holidays like Passover—because who doesn't like matzoh balls and a good story?