2010 Survey of Reform and Conservative Congregations

Sponsor(s): Synagogue 3000

Principal Investigator(s): Steven M. Cohen

Study Dates: 2010 Internet Survey

Population Estimates:

Final report, "Conservative & Reform Congregations in the United States Today: Findings from the FACT-Synagogue 3000 Survey of 2010," was issued August 20, 2012 by Professor Steven M. Cohen, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman and Dr. Jonathon Ament (BJPA) in collaboration with Dr. Ron Miller of the North American Jewish Data Bank.

Key Findings:

Final revised survey report available below:

Report data have been adjusted after initial, preliminary analysis to compensate for over-responding to original survey by officials from larger congregations and from Conservative congregations (see Study Notes below).

Report Conclusion notes that "A major strain of thinking among observers of Jewish life sees Conservative and Reform congregations becoming increasingly alike, perhaps to the point where the two major denominations will merge."

"In point of fact ... these two movements exhibit significant and important variations."

 

"As compared with the Reform temples, Conservative synagogues are somewhat smaller and more often located in the Northeast and older suburban areas.""[Conservative]...congregants attend services more often, even though their rabbis are less upbeat than their Reform colleagues in their evaluation of their religious services.""Conservative congregants are somewhat older, and their congregations are more financially stressed with somewhat emptier sanctuaries.""Reform Temples are more likely to be growing, to exhibit worship creativity, to show higher morale, to be staff-driven, and to emphasize social justice and attitudinal issues (like egalitarianism) than their Conservative parallels."

"In addition to denominational differences, congregations also differ substantially in terms of size. For example, smaller congregations generate higher rates of service attendance, but sponsor a narrower range of programming."

Report provides detailed analysis of (a) congregational membership, (b) congregant age patterns by denomination and congregation size, (c) service attendance patterns, (d) self-perceived financial status of congregations, (e) the impact of the economic recession on congregations (including staff cuts, congregant increases in reported unemployment, impact on fund-raising), (f) self-assessments of congregation welcoming efforts for newcomers, and (g) self-assessments of religious service innovations (and the lack thereof).

A few sample quotes:

"The economic downturn was felt more profoundly in such smaller congregations which had little elasticity with which to weather the economic blow.....Smaller congregations in 2010 were in more serious difficulty than larger congregations."

"...more Conservative leaders reported [financial] difficulty than did their Reform counterparts. As many as 21% of Conservative congregants belonged to congregations in serious difficulty as compared with just 8% of Reform congregants."

Sample:

All Conservative synagogues and Reform temples in the United States.

Sample Size: 1,215 initial responses to the surveys. After multiple respondents from the same synagogue to the survey were adjusted, final Internet survey count: 945 congregations, 464 Conservative and 481 Reform.

Sample Notes:

Survey of Jewish Reform and Conservative Congregations was part of the larger Faith Communities Today (FACT) study of American religious congregations (see LINK below).

The Synagogue 3000 survey is a modified version of the questionnaire used by Faith Community Today (FACT).

 

FACT surveys are conducted by the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership, a multi-faith group of religious researchers and faith leaders of which Synagogue 3000 is a member and the provider of Jewish data.Congregational leaders, including rabbis, cantors, educators, presidents and synagogue executives completed the surveys.Steven M. Cohen, research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion analyzed the initial survey results.Weighting adjustments to account for multiple responders from the same congregation and higher response rates among Conservative congregations and larger congregations (both Reform and Conservative) were implemented during the summer of 2012 by Professor Cohen and Dr. Ron Miller. See Study Notes below.

Final data analyses, report writing, etc., were completed by Professor Cohen and Dr. Jonathon Ament.

Study Notes:

Data file available below in SPSS SAV and POR formats (zipped, syntax included) based on original data file provided by Professor Cohen and revised by both Professor Cohen and Dr. Miller to adjust the data for multiple-and-over-responding issues.

WEIGHTS:

 

Unweighted number of cases is 1,215: 647 Conservative and 568 Reform (variable = "denom").Weighted number of cases = 945 congregations (464 Conservative, 481 Reform) when adjustment was made for multiple responders from the same congregation (v397, "multiplerespadjust" weight).Adjusted congregation weight (v398, "wtcongadjusted") was based on national data available to Professor Cohen and Dr. Ament on congregation denomination and size of congregation - it compensated for over-responding by larger congregations and Conservative congregations. Final adjusted-congregation sample: 945 congregations - only 388 are Conservative and 557 are Reform, reflecting national proportions.Final weight used for most analyses is "wtpeople" (v399), the default weight in the downloadable files below. This weight multiplies the adjusted congregation weight by the number of congregants ("memunit") - and is used as the basis of all survey data in the Final Report (after page six).

As the report notes, the data presented reflect the number of congregants in Reform and Conservative synagogues and temples.

RESPONSE RATES

The overall survey response rate was approximately 66% after multiple responses from the same congregation were adjusted - however, the response rate was 79% of Conservative Congregations and 57% of Reform Congregations, partly reflecting multiple sources of Internet lists which were more available for the Conservative congregations.

The congregation-adjustment weight maintained the overall 66% response rate, but re-weighted the data so that the Conservative congregations represented the 41% of all congregations in the data file as they do nationally of all Conservative-Reform congregations. (Adjustments essentially modify data so that 66% of each movement's congregations responded to the survey).

The final weight ("wtpeople") was then calculated by multiplying the number of congregants reported by each congregation by the congregation-adjusted weight; this lowered the Conservative congregants to 38.5% of all Conservative or Reform congregations, given the larger size of Reform congregations nationally.

 

 

Please note that the vast majority of significant analyses use "wtpeople" within simultaneous comparisons of congregation size and movement identification.


Downloads

Survey Reports

» Main Report
(PDF)

Documentation, Questionnaires and Frequencies

» Questionnaire
(PDF)

Data Files and Data Definitions

» Zipped SPSS Data File
(ZIP)

Publicity Material

» Cover Letter to URJ Respondents
(PDF)

» Cover Letter to USCJ Lists
(PDF)

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