Jewish Community Centennial Study 2006

In just one decade, metro Atlanta has moved from 17th place to 11th place in national Jewish population. That is one of the key findings of JFGA’s Jewish Community Centennial Study, launched in November 2005 and completed in early January 2006.

Preliminary data compiled by Federation and Ukeles Associates, its survey consultant, reveals an astonishing 58% rate of growth for the Jewish community that now outnumbers Miami, MetroWest New Jersey, Detroit, Baltimore and San Diego.

“Moving so quickly to 11th place really puts Atlanta in the big leagues,” said Jack Ukeles, who directed the study. “The ten largest Jewish communities are a mix of old established cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and newer Florida communities with many retirees. Atlanta is unique.”

The nearly 60% increase in just ten years, indicates that Jewish immigration to Atlanta is moving at the same rapid pace as the rest of the population. The study also reveals that a full 31% of newcomers to metro Atlanta hail from New York and New Jersey.

Below are highlights from the study, or you can download the complete study.

Context

  • One hundred years ago, when the forerunner of the Jewish Federation was established, there were approximately 3,000 Jews in Atlanta.
  • In 1996, when the last study was completed by UAI for the Federation, approximately 77,000 Jewish persons lived in an estimated 38,000 Jewish households.

Jewish Household and Population Estimates: 2006

  • In 2006, approximately 120,000 Jewish persons live in an estimated 61,300 Jewish households in the Greater Atlanta area — an increase of 43,000 Jews (56% increase) over the past ten years.
  • Jewish households represent 4.3% of all Greater Atlanta households in 2006; in 1996, Jewish households represented 4.4% of the area total.
    • Thus, Atlanta’s Jewish community has grown at the same rate as the general growth in Atlanta.
    • Atlanta’s Jewish community is the 11th largest in the USA – after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and three counties in Florida: Broward, South Palm Beach and Greater Palm Beach.
    • In 1996, Atlanta’s Jewish community was the 17th largest.
  • Areas of Jewish residential settlement:
    • Intown: 28,100 Jewish persons (1.8 Jews per household);
    • North Metro: 27,500 Jewish persons (2.3 Jews per household);
    • East Cobb (expanded): 17,900 Jewish persons (2.2 Jews per household);
    • Sandy Springs/Dunwoody: 15,300 Jewish persons (2.4 Jews per household);
    • Gwinnett & East of Perimeter: 13,500 Jewish persons (1.6 Jews per household);
    • North & West of Perimeter: 8,700 Jewish persons (1.6 Jews per household);
    • South: 5,400 Jewish persons (1.4 Jews per household).
  • Atlanta is a relatively young Jewish community.
    • Children under age 18 constitute 25% of all Jewish persons in the community, while seniors 65 and older represent only 12%;
  • 19% of all Jewish survey respondents were born in Georgia (primarily in Atlanta); 81% born elsewhere, including 30% born in New York. Over 19,000 Jewish households have moved to Greater Atlanta since 1996 — 31% of all Jewish households in the area.
    • 46% of survey respondents have lived in Greater Atlanta for at least 20 years, or were born in the area.

Income and Employment

  • 14% of Jewish households report annual incomes under $35,000; 20% of all Jewish households report annual incomes of at least $150,000.
    • Subjectively measured, 3-out-of-10 Jewish households are “just managing” financially (at best);
    • 4% of Jewish households fall below 150% of the Federal poverty guidelines (based on household size) – e.g. $24,000 for a three-person household.
    • About one in ten respondents reported that someone in their household had sought assistance in finding a job or choosing an occupation.
    • 11% report having used a Jewish agency for assistance.

Health and Wellness

  • 40% to 50% of all Jewish respondents (depending on age) are involved in a sports league or fitness program.
  • 9% of Jewish respondents report “not good” physical health for 14 or more days during the month.
  • 11% of Jewish respondents report “not good” mental health for 14 or more days during the month.
  • About one-in-six Jewish households has sought help with emotional disorders, stress, drugs/alcohol, or relationship issues during the last twelve months: 6% of households seeking help report having used a Jewish agency for assistance.
  • 7% of Atlanta Jewish households have sought help for someone with a physical or developmental disability during the last twelve months; 29% of those seeking assistance report using a Jewish agency.
  • 8% of Jewish households with children sought help for a child’s learning disability; 12% of those seeking assistance used a Jewish agency.
  • 5% of Jewish households sought help for an elderly relative who lives in Atlanta; of this group, 26% used a Jewish agency for assistance.

Jewish Connections

  • Being Jewish is very important to 56% of Jewish respondents; only 9% felt that being Jewish was not important. This finding has not changed since 1996.
  • Being part of the Jewish community in Atlanta is very important to 30% of Jewish respondents, while only 19% feel “a lot” connected to a Jewish community in Atlanta.
    • 25% of newcomers over the past 10 years say it is very important to be part of the Jewish community, while only 11% feel “a lot” connected.
  • Since 1996, self-identification with Reform Judaism has grown from 34% to 46% and identification with Orthodoxy has increased from 3% to 9%, while identification with Conservative Judaism has declined slightly from 30% to 26%. Fewer Jews in 2006 self-identify either as non-denominational or secular Jews compared with 1996 (18% vs. 33%).
  • 33% of surveyed households report belonging to a Jewish congregation (synagogue or temple), a slight (and statistically non-significant) decline from 37% in 1996.
    • Only 20% of newcomers to Atlanta over the past ten years are synagogue members.
    • 10% of Jewish households report being members of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and 24% of all households report activity/membership with a different Jewish communal organization.
    • Combined, 42% of all Jewish households are communally-connected – they belong to a synagogue, and/or the JCC, and/or are active in another Jewish organization.
  • 46% of all respondents report that a household member had attended a Jewish cultural event or museum in the year preceding the survey.
    • Congregation members (66%) are twice as likely as non-members (36%) to report cultural event-museum attendance.
  • Jewish websites were visited by 38% of households.
  • 27% of Atlanta Jewish households report a household member engaged in Jewish study, but only 12% on a weekly or monthly basis.
    • Chanukah candle lighting is reported (“always” or “usually”) by 74% of the interviewed households in 2006, the same percentage as in 1996. Passover Seder attendance (“always/usually”), on the other hand, declined from 76% in 1996 to 62% in 2006.
    • Keeping kosher increased slightly from 9% to 13% in 2006.

Marriage and Raising Children as Jews

  • 69% of respondents were married at the time that they were interviewed.
  • Half (50%) of currently married couples are intermarried — compared to 37% in Atlanta in 1996.
    • Two-out-of-three (67%) currently married couples who were married since 1990 are intermarried, compared to 35% of those married in the 1980s, 36% of those married in the 1970s, and 25% married prior to 1970.
  • 37% of Greater Atlanta Jewish households have children under age 18 (approximately 39,000 children) — 41% (just over 15,000 children) reside in intermarried Jewish households.
  • In intermarried Jewish households, 39% of children are being raised as Jewish only, 28% in a different religion than Judaism, 15% as Jewish and something else, 14% are “undecided,” and 4% without any religion.
  • Parental attitudes about raising their children Jewishly vary. The percentage of parents in Jewish households who feel it is “extremely/very important” for their children to:
    • Know and appreciate Jewish customs/beliefs — 97% of inmarried couples, 72% of intermarried couples;
    • Feel positive about being Jewish — inmarried couples 99+%, intermarried couples 73%;
    • Marry another Jew — inmarried couples 72%, intermarried couples 1%.
  • Of all children ages 6-17 being raised Jewish (or Jewish and something else), 11% are currently enrolled in a fulltime Jewish day school, 13% are enrolled in a private (non-Jewish) school, and 76% are in public schools.
    • About 25% of all children ages 6-17 being raised Jewish have not had any Jewish education — but 67% of children ages 6-17 being raised Jewish in intermarried Jewish households have not had any Jewish education.

Philanthropy and Israel

  • Half (50%) of Atlanta Centennial study respondents report that the Jewish commitment to charity, tzedakah, is “very important” to them, while another 34% see it as “somewhat important.”
    • Only one-in-six (16%) see tzedakah as not important.
    • Support for tzedakah in Atlanta is almost as strong among younger Jewish respondents as among older Jewish respondents.
    • 74% of parents in Jewish households feel it is “extremely” or “very important” for their children to understand the commitment to tzedakah (60% of the intermarried, 91% of inmarried couples).
  • 93% of Jewish households practice tzedakah – they contribute to charitable organizations.
    • 83% report a Katrina-related contribution, 48% a contribution to a Jewish charity, and 25% to the Jewish Federation.
  • Charitable contributions to a Jewish cause range from 43% of respondents under 40 to 55% of respondents 60 and over.
    • 41% of all Jewish households with incomes of at least $100,000 report that they did not make any Jewish charitable contribution.
    • 76% of respondents who view tzedakah as “very important” report a household Jewish charitable donation compared to only 17% of those who see tzedakah as not important.
    • 43% of those who view tzedakah as very important report a Jewish Federation donation, compared to 4% of households where the respondent views tzedakah as not important.
  • 40% of Atlanta Jewish respondents report having been to Israel.
    • 50% of Jewish respondents who have been to Israel report a Jewish Federation contribution, compared to 15% of those who have not been to Israel.
  • 40% of Jewish respondents report that they are very emotionally attached to Israel (68% of those who have been to Israel, 23% of those who have not).
    • 71% of Orthodox, 48% of Conservative, 34% of Reform and 30% of non-denominational/secular Jews report being very emotionally attached to Israel.
  • 91% of Jewish respondents agree that Jews have a special responsibility to take care of Jews in need around the world, compared to 71% of NJPS 2000-01 respondents.