Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Tishrei 5764 - October 8, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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NJPS Sparks Controversy
by Yated Neeman Staff

Among the conclusions of an independent review of the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, which was conducted by the United Jewish Communities federation umbrella group, was that it may undercount the number of Jews and overestimate their Jewish activity.

While the NJPS said the U.S. Jewish population declined 5 percent to 5.2 million since the last NJPS in 1990, a period when the overall U.S. population grew by 11 percent, that number is "slightly lower" than those found in similar studies, says Mark Schulman, founding partner of Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas, a prominent polling firm.

The NJPS, a $6 million, five-year project, has been beset by controversy.

Most demographers say there is little dispute over the fact that the U.S. Jewish population, depending on how you define a Jew, has remained relatively stable.

Egon Mayer, who co-authored a 2001 study called the American Jewish Identity Survey, found 5.3 million people born or raised Jewish, down 200,000 from 1990.

The real problem is not numerical, said Steven Bayme, national director of the American Jewish Committee's contemporary Jewish life department. For half a century, Bayme said, most social scientists have agreed that the Jewish population has been relatively stable, between 5 and 5.5 million. The problem, he said, is that the majority of Jews have "no connection" to actual Judaism.

From a chareidi perspective, all the numbers are much too high. Millions of those counted in all surveys are not Jewish by any standards. Even ten years ago, only about 4 million Jews said that their mothers were Jewish or that they underwent any kind of conversion. While the underlying criteria for all those who work in the study was to identify people who are considered the client base of traditional secular Jewish organizations, the number of Jews who can be considered part of the Am Hashem, even using the broadest criteria, is less than 2.5 million.


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