Related Studies

Jewish Communal Survey of Greater New York

Sponsor(s): Jewish Communal Survey of Greater New York

Principal Investigator(s): Samuel A. Goldsmith

Study Dates: Jewish Communal Survey of New York was published in 1928, reporting on date collected in 1925.

Population Estimates: Jewish Population in five boroughs of New York City estimated at 1,750,000. Brooklyn: 800,000; The Bronx: 390,000; Manhattan: 500,000; Queens: 56,500 and Richmond: 3,500 (?) in original estimate.
Key Findings: 1925 data estimates based on combination of two methods used at the time for Jewish population estimates: the Yom Kippur method (based on the number of children not attending school on Yom Kippur) and a Jewish mortality estimate.
  • Population estimates compared to 1916 study data show an overall Jewish population increase from 1,503,000 in 1916 to 1,750,000 in 1925.

  • From 1916 to 1925, the study estimated a decline in the number of Jews in Manhattan, but an increase in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens.

  • The findings and discussion of a Jewish population study from close to a century ago sound strikingly familiar to themes and issues of today.

  • Jewish birth rates were found to be significantly lower than for other white Americans. The author also expressed concern that the Jewish population would stop growing following the strict limitations on Eastern European immigration which were the basis of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924.

  • The purpose of the study should also sound familiar to those knowledgeable about Jewish community surveys: “Where shall we build hospitals, Jewish educational centres [sic], orphan asylums and other institutions?”

  • The patterns of residential change would be used to address the pressing question in the late 1920s of whether and how to merge the two Federations in the “Greater City”: Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Study Notes: The Jewish Communal Survey of Greater New York is important both for its findings and for its historical significance. The 1925 New York study used the Yom Kippur absence method for estimating the size of the Jewish population. The number of children not attending school on Yom Kippur was used to estimate the size of the total Jewish population. Death certificates were also analyzed to compute the Jewish mortality rate and to document patterns of Jewish morbidity. By comparing Yom Kippur absences for 1916 and 1925, the changing distribution of New York Jews was charted. The authors discuss potential problems with these methods early in the document.

The report contains wonderfully detailed maps showing the size and Jewish density of dozens of New York neighborhoods.

The study was conducted by New York Bureau for Jewish Social Research, which was organized in 1919 as a merger of three organizations: the Bureau of Philanthropic Research, the Bureau of Jewish Statistics and Research of the American Jewish Committee, and the Field Bureau of the National Conference of Jewish Charities. The Bureau of Philanthropic Research was created by Judah Magnes in 1914 as part of the famous “Kehilla Experiment” described by Arthur A. Goren in his book, New York Jews and the Quest for Community.

The “National Conference of Jewish Charities” would later become the Council of Jewish Federations, which sponsored the 1970, 1990, and 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Surveys (in 2000-01 as United Jewish Communities: Federations of North America).

Thus, “Jewish demography,’” as it was called even in 1925, is almost as old the Federation movement itself. The introductory remarks of the authors are still appropriate today: "In view of the fact that census tabulations in the United States do not enumerate Jews, as such, it has always been one of the chief problems in Jewish demography to estimate the Jewish population."


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