The most significant flaw in the recent demographic surveys in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh was not properly explored in your article (“New City Surveys Affirming Lower Engagement,” March 2).
Each survey was structured in fashion to falsely measure the expanding role of Chabad in these communities. By using the flawed methodology of denominational self-identification, the reports dramatically undercounted Chabad’s role in the community. This in contrast to studies done by the federations in Miami, Broward County and Houston that asked: “Are you active in Chabad?” and “Do you support Chabad?”
In Miami, the federation survey reported 27 percent of all Jews said they were involved in Chabad, and an astonishing 47 percent of Jews 35 and younger. In Broward and Houston the numbers were a bit lower. These surveys reveal the historical shift of Jews towards Chabad, in particular amongst younger Jews. Eighty percent of those involved in Chabad are not Orthodox, and many involved in Chabad are also federation donors.
The recent studies consulted extensively with local academics, but they did not seek the input of the rabbis and rebbetzins of Chabad who have a vast knowledge of the reality on the ground of modern Jewish life. Today there are more Chabad Centers in the D.C. area than Reform or Conservative synagogues. In the Bay Area, Chabad has 45 centers and over $30 million of locally supported capital campaigns. In Pittsburgh, Chabad has an outstanding educational center and a local network of centers impacting all aspects of the community.
The failure of both the federations and their consultants directing the surveys to create a line of inquiry as was done in the studies in Florida and Texas is troubling. The fact that Chabad shluchim [emissaries] were not included in the committees planning the surveys creates serious questions of the desire of inclusivity. The false statistics created by the survey about Chabad raises serious questions concerning the use of these surveys in planning a Jewish future.
Yorba Linda, Calif.