National Jewish Population Survey: 2000

A snapshot of American Jewry.

Print this page Print this page

But the study's focus on more connected Jews also sparked some dissent and revived the eternal "who is a Jew" debate yet again.

Egon Mayer, who co-authored the 2001 American Jewish Identity Survey, a City University of New York study that measured Jewish population and behavior, said the NJPS cast too small a net in counting Jews. Unlike the 1990 NJPS, he said, the latest study did not count the non-Jews living with Jews in so-called Jewish households.

"It seems to me that is a dramatic shrinking down of the parameters of the population that is connected to the Jewish community," Mayer said.

In his study, Mayer followed the 1990 NJPS in counting non-Jews in Jewish homes. He found 9.8 million people, in 3.9 million homes, compared to the current study, which found 6.7 million people in 2.9 million homes.

But Vivian Klaff, a co-chairman of the advisory committee and a critic of UJC's postponement of the study's release, defended the decision to narrow the way Jews were identified. "If we had extended the definition of who was Jewish, we could have gotten 7 million Jews," he said. "You can't narrow the definition of Jewishness and still get more Jews.''

The NJPS surveyed 4,523 people, representing 28 percent of all those contacted between August 2000 and August 2001. UJC officials said the response rate was low but met guidelines in an industry where even prominent polling groups like Gallup are eliciting fewer respondents. Overall, the margin of error of the NJPS was plus or minus 2 percent.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Joe Berkofsky

Joe Berkofsky is the United Jewish Community's Director of Communications. He was previously a staff writer at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.