In 1991, there were 1.42 million Jews in the city, Long Island and Westchester. How many there are today? Where are they concentrated? What is their attitude toward Israel?Are Holocaust survivors more or less likely to be poor than other Jews in the city?
UJA-Federation of New York will learn the answers to these and other questions beginning this week as it launches a telephone survey that will seek to conduct in-depth interviews with members of 4,000 Jewish households.
The interviews are to finished in June and will form the basis of the 2002 New York Jewish Population Study, slated to be released in December.
“We are going to learn about intermarriage and about conversion, the size of families and the number of Jews in each denomination,” said Jack Ukeles, president of Ukeles Associates, the principal investigator for the study.
Ukeles said half of the households would be called using random-digit dialing of phone numbers in the eight-county area. The other half would be randomly selected from a list of UJA-Federation donors. All of the interviews would be confidential and those interviewed would be anonymous.
Each interview consists of 70 questions and should take about 25 minutes to complete.
Calls will be made from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Calls are to be made by employees of International Communications Research in Media, Pa. The cost of the survey is being borne by a select group of donors.
Besides providing a demographic picture of the Jewish community, Alan Siskind, executive vice president of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, said the information is crucial to assist UJA-Federation agencies in providing for the community’s needs.
“How many of us are there and what kinds of family configurations are we living in?” Siskind asked.
Ukeles said the typical American household of a father, mother and children appears to be disappearing, but he wondered whether that was so in the Jewish community. He said that did not prove to be the case in several other Jewish communities for which he recently conducted population surveys.
Ron Miller, director of research for Ukeles Associates, expected about 200,000 phone calls to be made to complete the 4,000 questionnaires. Miller said participants would be asked questions whose answers would be useful in making policy decisions.
“People will be asked what programs should be supported by the Jewish community, about programs to support Israel, Jews at risk and families in crisis,” he said. “You could say all are important, but sometimes people differentiate and say these things are not as important.”
Miller, noting that the 2000 U.S. Census revealed that the non-Hispanic white population in the eight counties declined between 1990 and 2000 by 8.3 percent, wondered whether the Jewish population decreased by a similar number. There had been 838,000 Jewish households in 1991, according to the Jewish population survey conducted by UJA-Federation that year.
From 1980 to 1990, Miller said, the non-Hispanic white population in the eight-county area fell 10.7 percent compared with a decline of 13.5 percent in the Jewish population during that same period.
Because the Jewish population survey will be structured in such a way that it provides data on each of the eight counties, Miller said particular attention would be paid to Queens because of a 22 percent drop in the non-Hispanic white population there in the last 10 years.
“Queens has had an incredible Asian spurt, but also a big Jewish spurt [in the last decade],” he said.
Ukeles said also of interest will be the Jews who arrived from the former Soviet Union in the last 10 years. The vast majority did not begin arriving here until after the 1991 survey was completed, he said.
The New York Association for New Americans knows where it settled these Jews, Ukeles said, but does not know if they have remained there.
Russian-speaking surveyors will conduct those interviews.
David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, a technical adviser to the study, said the U.S. Census data does not include information about religion but it does provide block-to-block information. That information can be matched with data about the Jewish community.
“We have already developed data that can tell us about Jewish neighborhoods and the demographics of each neighborhood,” he said.
Thus, a community like Bensonhurst in Brooklyn is known to have a large number of Jews and Italians.
The new survey will tell UJA-Federation how many are Jewish.