The Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation announced yesterday a $1 million grant for the purposes of conducting a national Jewish population study next year, which would be the first such study since the one conducted in 2000-2001.
The grant, awarded to the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Policy, is a challenge grant, meaning the research team must raise the rest of the study’s budget of about $2 million by Sept. 1. The foundation also supports the policy archive.
The North American federation movement sponsored the last national survey but did not commission a new one although the community has been conducting such studies about once a decade since the 1950s.
In a 2011 Jewish Week interview, Jerry Silverman, the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federations of North America, laid much of the blame for the lack of a new study at the feet of Jewish demographers who criticize each other publicly.
Mandell Berman, a builder and developer in his 90s who chairs the foundadtion, has made support of research efforts a hallmark of his philanthropy. In 2009, he was allocating more than 20 percent of the foundation’s budget to Jewish research.
Berman designated a five-member research team: Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive; David Dutwin, vice president of Social Science Research Solutions; Melissa Hermann, president of Social Science Research Solutions; Ron Miller, vice president of Ukeles Associates and associate director of the North American Jewish Data bank and Jacob Ukeles, president of Ukeles Associates.
“Every year, our national federation system, our foundations, our public affairs organizations, our national religious and educational organizations influence the spending of billions of dollars in communities across America,” Berman said. “Yet, as we haven’t had a national study since 2000-1, we know little or nothing about the people we seek to serve at the national level – how many Jews there are, where they live, how old they are, how they engage in Jewish life, what services they use and how they connect to Israel.”