I’m traveling to South Florida next week for work (and sun exposure), so I was excited to check out a new study of Florida's Jewish demographics.
The study by demographer Ira Sheskin caught my eye when the Berman Jewish Policy Archive tweeted a “quick glance” about its intermarriage findings.
The “quick glance” compares intermarriage rates in 40 North American Jewish communities (created, I assume, to illustrate the Florida communities’ relative position).
I don’t know the source of all the non-Florida stats — although I assume they come from other recent published studies conducted by Sheskin and other researchers — and having not scrutinized the methodology and so on, I can’t comment on the accuracy of any of this.
Nonetheless, for what it’s worth, since we all love a list (unless it’s in Newsweek), here’s some fun top 10 intermarriage-related lists gleaned from the study. Please note that in the case of several communities tying, I sometimes listed more than 10 in total:
10 Communities In Which The Largest Percentage Of Jews Always/Usually/Sometimes Have A Christmas Tree
Columbus, Ohio (39 percent)
Washington, D.C. (27 percent)
10 Communities In Which The Largest Percentage of Jewish Couples Are Intermarried
Seattle (55 percent)
Howard County, Md.
San Diego and Jacksonville, Fla. (tied at 44 percent)
10 Communities In Which the Lowest Percentage Are Intermarried
Palm Springs, Calif. (19 percent)
West Palm Beach, Fla.
South Palm Beach (9 percent)
10 Communities With Highest Rates of Synagogue Membership Among Intermarried Families*
Tidewater, Va. (37 percent)
*Percentage of intermarried families belonging to synagogues, not percentage of synagogue members who are intermarried.
10 Communities With Lowest Rates of Intermarried Synagogue Membership
South Palm Beach, Fla.; Miami; San Francisco; Monmouth, N.J.; Atlanta; Orlando (tied at 13 percent)
West Palm Beach, Fla.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Las Vegas (6 percent)
*See note below previous list.
What I think is interesting here is that having Christmas trees does not correlate directly to intermarriage rate, and communities with high intermarriage rates aren’t necessarily the communities in which high percentages of intermarried families join synagogues.
For example, Columbus, Ohio, is apparently the Christmas tree capital of the Jewish world, whereas Seattle, which has the highest percentage of intermarried Jews doesn’t even make the Christmas tree list. Although, on further inspection, maybe that just means that no one bothered to ask Seattle Jews if they had a Christmas tree.
Meanwhile, Tidewater, Va., and Houston apparently have some very welcoming synagogues — or, being in the South, simply a broader culture of joining houses of worship? Tidewater has the second-highest rate of synagogue membership in general, beaten only by Worcester, Mass.
Indeed, the likelihood that an interfaith family will join a synagogue seems to be most linked to the likelihood that any Jewish family will join a synagogue; Las Vegas, St. Petersburg, Fla., and San Diego, which have the lowest percentages of interfaith families affiliating, also have relatively low rates of synagogue affiliation in general.
Two communities appear on both the high percentage of interfaith families and high percentage of affiliated interfaith families top 10s: Charlotte, N.C. and Essex/Morris, N.J.
In any event, Sin City, home to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire mega-philanthropist (Birthright Israel, among others) and Newt Gingrich-funder, seems to have its Jewish outreach work cut out for it: lots o’ intermarried Jews, few Jews of any kind affiliating with synagogues and a lot of Xmas trees (even if, as I’ve written before, sometimes a Christmas tree is just a Christmas tree). Not that I want to jump back into the Tree Wars again…
Maybe Adelson could fund free synagogue memberships for every Las Vegas Jew. Or, he could at least sponsor a program where, when you recycle/mulch your Christmas tree, you can pick up a free Jewish book.