Jewish demographics study to be shared in September
Source: Jewish Community Louisville
After months of research, the first demographics study of Jewish Louisville in 13 years, will soon be released.
The study, which was done by the Maurice & Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, will be introduced through two community town hall sessions: the first at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 7; the second at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 8 – both at the Trager Family JCC.
Staff members of the Cohen Center who participated in the project will go over the findings and take questions from the audiences. Community will cover both sessions.
“Our hope is that the community takes time to reflect on the findings contained in the study and how it can be used in the years ahead to inform decision making and new programming options,” Jeff Polson, president/CEO of the Jewish Heritage Fund (JHF), said in a statement. “These community meetings are the first step in that process.”
JHF, together with the Jewish Federation of Louisville, commissioned the survey.
While the findings provide an up-to-date look at the state of the community, Sara Klein Wagner, president and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, said time is needed to absorb the data before mapping out how to use it.
“This data is a gift that points to opportunities,” Wagner said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing the report with the community, taking a pause to digest and make meaning of the results, and partnering together to create our future community vision.”
The 100-plus page report includes results that will inform JHF’s and the Federation’s funding initiatives, according to JHF Program Officer Jaime Jorrisch.
“As we seek to support an accessible, inclusive and flourishing Jewish community,” Jorrisch said in a prepared statement, “the data will help organizations broaden their constituent base, better serve the community, and plan for the future.”
The study is the third community assessment of Jewish Louisville over the past two decades. Two others were made in 2006 and in 2009 – both of which were limited in scope and are now considered out of date.
This latest survey, which was conducted from Oct. 18, 2021, to Jan. 24, 2022, randomly selected households in Greater Louisville, including parts of Indiana, from a list developed from those provided by local community organizations and purchased lists of likely Jewish households. Jewish households were defined as ones in which at least one Jewish member resides.
The survey asked questions in three main categories:
- Social and demographic characteristics (age, geography, gender, presence of children, educational level and income).
- Jewish connections (organizational membership, attitudes towards the Jewish community, donations to Jewish causes, travel to Israel).
- Social and human service needs (mental health, employment training, transportation and financial assistance).
The Cohen Center met the targeted number of surveys by January. Since then, it has been working to analyze the data, construct tables and figures, and draft the report.
The final report includes the researchers’ perspective on the data, including recommendations for using it to enhance Jewish life here.
The Cohen Center, and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, both at Brandeis, have deep expertise in research methods, theory, policy and practice regarding U.S. Jewish identity and engagement, according to its website. Its work uses “cutting-edge application” of social science methods and keen attention to the needs of the community.
They also utilize validated methods to collect, analyze, and report accurate and actionable data that informs community planning.
Demographics studies are in great demand by Jewish communities nationwide. As of April, the Cohen Center was working on surveys for 10 communities, according to the national Jewish news entity eJewishPhilanthropy – doubling its workload over just a few years.
Louisville is one of the smaller cities the Cohen Center has surveyed. Still, there are some comparable communities, one being The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.
Derek Gale, vice president & chief operating officer of the Kansas City Federation, said there is an “appetite” in his community to act on the findings right away but that his Federation is taking time to parse the report before moving forward. He predicted some “concrete steps” by fall.
“Our approach from the Federation side is to go about this collaboratively,” Gale said. “We see a lot of opportunities for collaboration, so our process is probably slower than some people would probably like in the community.”
He said his Federation is “in dialogue” with community leaders about the report. “We’re just now getting into the meat of the dialogue, the heart of the dialogue, and we’ll see how this goes.”