2018 South Palm Beach County Jewish Community Study
It is customary for Jewish Federations throughout the United States to engage in a demographic study of the community every 10 years or so. This is done to address the current needs of our community, and to enable Federation and other Jewish service agencies to plan for the future.
The last Community Study of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach was conducted 13 years ago, in 2005. In late 2017, Federation leadership recognized that updated data were needed, given the passage of time. Changes had occurred in our community which made a new survey and report essential.
First and foremost, the 2018 Community Study is in keeping with Federation’s Mission:
“…to address and plan for current and future needs of the Jewish people locally, in Israel and around the world.”
With the financial support of the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation and encouragement from agencies throughout the community, our Federation engaged the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University to conduct the survey and to report on its findings.
The Brandeis team used advanced research techniques to provide us with a high quality survey, which produced reliable findings. More than 2100 respondents participated in the study, far more than the number required to deem the study statistically sound. It allowed us to gain important insight into contemporary Jewish life – the beliefs, practices, values and rituals that add meaning for our core constituencies and the many subgroups of our community. These data will enable our own strategic planning, and prove helpful to agencies, synagogues, day schools, and other Jewish service and funding organizations.
We view the 2018 study report not as a final document but as the starting point for an ongoing community dialogue.
According to Brandeis, significant findings include the following:
The Jewish population of South Palm Beach County consists of 134,200 adults and children living in 69,000 households. This represents approximately a 3% increase in population from 2005.
The Jewish community in South Palm Beach County is undergoing a demographic transition. The community still has a significant population of retirees and senior citizens (44 % of which are ages 65 and up) but is getting younger and includes more families than it did in 2005.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish children in our community since 2005: Jewish children living in Jewish households has increased from 11,000 to 17,300 (57%).
While the rate of intermarriage has increased from 9% in 2005 to 16% in 2018, the current rate is far less than the national rate of intermarriage. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of intermarried parents are raising their children exclusively Jewish.
Overall, 34% of Jewish students in grades K-12 participated in some form of Jewish education in the past year. Twenty-six percent of students in grades K-12 were enrolled in some type of formal Jewish education, including day schools, part-time Hebrew schools, or private Jewish classes. Nineteen percent participated in an informal Jewish education program (day and overnight camps, youth groups, or peer Israel trips).
Twenty percent of Jewish households identify with a synagogue in South Palm Beach County. Of that 20%, approximately half pay dues to a “brick and mortar” synagogue.
Seventy-one percent of our Jewish community identify with a Jewish denomination: Orthodox (8%), Conservative (25%), Reform (37%), another denomination (1%). The remaining 29% refer to themselves as “secularly, culturally, or ‘just’ Jewish”.
More than two-thirds—69%—of Jewish adults have been to Israel at least once. Moreover, 91% of Jewish adults feel a connection to Israel. This indicates a strong demand for community education and programming focused on Israel.
Twenty-eight percent of Jewish households include at least one person who has some sort of health issue, special need, or disability. Two percent of Jewish households include a member with a cognitive or developmental disability.
There is financial vulnerability within the South Palm Beach County Jewish community. Nearly one in five Jewish families are living on the economic edge. Seventeen percent say they are just getting along, while 2% say they are either poor or nearly poor.
The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County is made up of Jewish and social service organizations, synagogues and schools that provide valued services and programs to recipients in our community, in Israel and around the world.