2013 Greater Buffalo Jewish Community Study

Sponsor(s): The Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo

Principal Investigator(s): Matthew Boxer, Janet Krasner Aronson, Joshua Davidson, Ellie Aitan

Study Dates: March 15, 2013 to August 13, 2013

Population Estimates:

2013 Jewish population estimate is 12,050, which includes 9,800 Jewish adults and 2,250 Jewish children living in 5,770 households (referred to as Jewish-connected households in the report).

In addition, 1,200 non-Jewish persons (1,000 adults and 200 children) are estimated to live in Jewish-connected households, bringing the total number of people living in study area Jewish-connected households to 13,250.

Please see the discussion under Study Notes below for details on the construction of Jewish population estimates by the research team.

Key Findings:

The 2013 Greater Buffalo Jewish Community Study was conducted for the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo between March 15, 2013 and August 13, 2013 by researchers at Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and Steinhardt Social Research Institute.  The study area included Erie County in western New York State, largely focused in the City of Buffalo.

Respondents to the survey come from a sampling frame constructed from Jewish organizational and ethnic names lists.  Key findings included in the Executive Summary of the report tend to reflect the strong level of connection to Jewish life among those households and respondents who are on lists from Jewish organizations in the study area.

Community Size

As of 2013, there are approximately 12,050 Jewish individuals in Western New York living in 5,770 households (referred to as Jewish-connected households in the report). This number is composed of 9,800 Jewish adults and 2,250 Jewish children (age 17 and under).

•  An additional 1,000 non-Jewish adults and 200 non-Jewish children live in these Jewish-connected households.


Just over 70% of the adult Jewish population of Western North York is aged 50 or older.

•  The median age of the adult population (aged 18 and over) is 60 years old, meaning that half of adults in the Greater Buffalo Jewish community are 60 years old or older.

•  Children aged 17 and under compose 19% of the population.

•  Just under two-thirds (62%) of Jewish-connected households in Western New York include a married couple.

•  Of those who are married, 21% are interfaith couples.

•  About one-third (37%) of households are composed of Jewish married couples
with no children.


20% of Jewish-connected households in Western New York include children.

• 12% of households include Jewish married couples with Jewish children

•  Four percent of all households include Jewish children with single or unmarried

•  In 88% percent of households with children, the children are being raised exclusively Jewish.

•  Nearly half (46%) of the children of interfaith couples are being raised exclusively as Jews, with an additional 19% being raised Jewish and something else and 19% being raised in no religion.

Jewish Education of Children

• 27% of preschool-age children currently attend Jewish preschool, and 56% of all children have ever attended Jewish preschool.

•  47% of school-age children currently attend Jewish supplementary school, and 69% of children have ever attended Jewish supplementary school.

• 20% of school-age children currently attend Jewish day school, and 25% of children have ever attended Jewish day school.

•  Children of in-married couples participate more fully in Jewish education than do children of interfaith couples. The rate of participation is higher for all forms of Jewish formal and informal education.

•  Rates of participation in formal Jewish education for synagogue members exceed those of non-members.

Religious Practice

The largest denomination of Jewish adults is Reform, representing 41% of the community; 21% identify as Conservative and 9% as Orthodox.

•   38% say they attend services at least once a month.

•  88% attend a Passover Seder and light Hanukkah candles, with this behavior nearly universal among synagogue members and households with children.

•  44% observe some degree of Kashrut law.

Synagogue and JCC Membership

•  65% of households include at least one synagogue member.

•  69% of respondents from in-married Jewish households are members of synagogues, compared to 46% of respondents from interfaith households.

•  34% of all households are current dues-paying members of the JCC. An additional 5% consider themselves to be members but do not pay dues. (73% of households are current or past members of the JCC).

•  Over half of currently dues-paying JCC members are aged 60 or older - 73% of JCC member households do not have any children.

General Philanthropy

• Nearly all households (95%) made philanthropic donations other than membership dues in the past year.

• Twelve percent of households have made donations to Jewish organizations via donor-advised funds. Just 5% of respondents have designated a Western New York Jewish organization in their wills.

• 30% donated mostly or exclusively to Jewish causes (40% among synagogue members vs. 13% among non-members; 35% among respondents from in-married Jewish couples vs. 9% among respondents from interfaith couples).

• 33% donated mostly or exclusively to non-Jewish causes (23% among synagogue members vs. 52% among non-members; 27% among respondents from in-married Jewish couples vs. 68% among respondents from interfaith couples).

Connection to Local Jewish Community and to Israel

•   Three-quarters of respondents are “somewhat” or “very much” connected to their Jewish peers, 68% feel connected to their local Jewish community and 82% feel connected to the worldwide Jewish community.

•  Just over three-quarters of respondents are “somewhat” or “very much” connected to Israel. This proportion rises to nearly 90% for synagogue members and respondents who are aged 65 or older, and it drops to about half of respondents who are not synagogue members, who are from interfaith households, or who are under the age of 40.

Social Welfare
Over 90% of households reported that they were living comfortably or were prosperous.

•  74% have household incomes higher than $50,000, greater than the median Erie County household income.

•  26% are uncertain or not confident that they will have sufficient retirement savings.

•  14% of households receive at least one public benefit other than Social Security or Medicare.

 •  23% of adults age 80+ indicated that they were in fair or poor health.

•  66% would prefer social services that are offered through a Jewish agency.


Two sampling frames were constructed, and then merged and deduplicated, for the survey.

(1) The first sampling frame was constructed by combining the lists of Jewish organizations in the Greater Buffalo area - including households on the membership and mailing lists of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, the Bureau of Jewish Education, Congregation Beth Abraham, Congregation Shir Shalom, the Holocaust Resource Center, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, the Jewish Discovery Center, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, Kadimah School of Buffalo, Kehillat Ohr Tzion, Ohr Temimim, Temple Beth Tzedek, and Temple Beth Zion. This frame “constituted that part of the Jewish community of Western New York known to Jewish organizations in the area." (Appendix A: Methodology, p. 2)

(2) The second sampling frame was a commercially-purchased "ethnic names" list consisting of households that were identified as ethnically or religiously Jewish or of Russian,  Belarussian or Israeli nationality.  The researchers used this sampling frame “[i]n order to find any Jewish-connected households not already known to the Jewish community” (Appendix A: Methodology, p. 2) and noted that “[t]hese households represented the “unknown” Jewish community—households that are not affiliated with any participating Jewish organization but that may nevertheless have some Jewish members." (Main Report, p. 7). The ethnic names list was purchased from AccuData.

The Jewish organizational and ethnic names lists were cleaned, deduplicated and divided into six strata. Five strata included households from Jewish organizational lists; the sixth strata included households on the ethnic-names list that did not appear on any of the organizational lists.  The final sampling frame was comprised of 21,202 households.  From this frame, a "stratified random sample of 2,600 households was selected for the survey” (Appendix A: Methodology, p. 4). Of these, 1,225 households completed the screening interview, including 680 with at least one Jewish adult who lived in Western New York for at least part of the year and who qualified for the full survey.   The final Jewish household survey size was, therefore, 680.

No RDD (random digit dialing) landline or cell phone interviewing was conducted for the survey due to cost considerations.  Households not on the organizational or ethnic names lists were not covered by the sampling frame and had no chance of being interviewed. The number of Jewish households that were not "covered" by the Jewish organizational lists and the ethnic names list is unknown.

Sample Size: 680

Sample Notes:

Given the sampling design, the researchers noted: 

“Every effort to create a representative sample was made in order to prevent bias or, where bias was unavoidable, to identify and reduce it. Nevertheless, some groups are particularly likely to be underrepresented in the sample. Most significant among these are unaffiliated Jews (including new residents and intermarried families); residents of counties other than Erie County; and young adult Jews. Young adult Jews are also likely undercounted. Young adults in general are notoriously difficult to reach for telephone surveys, in part due to the increasing rate of cell phone only households and in part because they tend to move more frequently than older adults; both conditions render young adults harder to track. Newcomers who are not known to the community are very likely undercounted, though they may have appeared on the ethnic names list. Interfaith families may also be underrepresented to the extent that they are unaffiliated and reside in households with directory listings that do not fit the selected ethnic name parameters."  (Appendix A: Methodology, pp. 5-6).

As noted, a total of 1,225 households in the Greater Buffalo area completed the screening interviews from the original sample of 2,600 households.  Appendix Table A2 (page 83 of the PDF) lists the distribution of screened households by sampling strata.  Eighty-eight percent (88%) of screened households came from the Jewish organizational strata; 12% of screened households came from the ethnic names stratum.  The report does not indicate the proportions of the 680 households that completed the full survey that came from the organizational list strata and the ethnic names stratum.  

The overall response rate (AAPOR Response Rate 2) to the survey was 48%, varying between 37% for Strata 6 (the ethnic names list) and 70% for Strata 1 (one of the Jewish organizational list strata).

Study Notes:

The Jewish population estimate of 9,800 Jewish adults (plus 2,250 Jewish children) was derived from two sources. 

First, a meta-analysis project conducted by Brandeis University's Steinhardt Social Research Institute  -  based on hundreds of RDD-based national studies which contain data on the religion of the respondent, including some respondents from the Buffalo area -  was used to estimate the number of adult Jews-by-religion (JBR), yielding a best estimate of 7,900, with a potential range of between 3,700 and 12,000.  To estimate the number of adults who are Jews-not-by-religion [called JNR in some studies], the 7,900 estimate was multiplied by 25%, " a standard estimate" of  the proportion of JBR and JNR adult Jewish persons, yielding a total Jewish adult population estimate of 9,750.

Second, an estimate of the number of Jewish adults in the Greater Buffalo area was made through the local survey responses themselves. "Due to the imprecision of this [meta-analysis] estimate, we also developed population estimates based on the response to the entire survey, using the Ethnic Names Frame to represent the unaffiliated Jewish population. This method produced an estimate of 9,800 Jewish adults, nearly identical to the meta-analysis derived population estimate. For the analysis in this report, weights used were derived from the survey response rates." (main report, p. 7, page 17 PDF).  The weights derived from the local survey and used in the report analysis included both design and non-response components. See Appendix A: Methodology, p.  8 for further details.

The report does not provide information on how the estimate of 2,250 Jewish children was calculated. 

The 95% confidence intervals around estimates of the number of Jewish-connected households, Jewish adults, Jewish children, non-Jewishs adult and non-Jewish children are presented in Appendix A: Methodology, Table A5, p. 9.

The margin of error around percentages for analyses including all 680 respondents is +/- 8%.  The margin of error is higher for smaller subsamples of respondents.

Data collection for the local survey was multi-mode and included online, phone and mail.  The online and phone instruments were identical; the mail version was abridged. 


The Methodological Appendix begins on PDF page 79 in the report available for downloading on the right side of this Overview Study page.  The screener begins on page 91 of the PDF and the Questionnaire/Codebook begins on Page 94.

Language: English


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