Community to score Pittsburgh Jewish life

Community to score Pittsburgh Jewish life

An Internet survey intended to cull  demographic and attitudinal information  from the entire Pittsburgh-area  Jewish community will be disseminated  beginning this week via email. 

The survey is part of the Pittsburgh  Jewish Community Scorecard project,  an online tool that allows its users to review  data reflecting how well the community  is doing in meeting the needs of  its individual members and institutions.

An initiative of the Jewish Federation  of Greater Pittsburgh, the Scorecard project,  which can be found at jewishscorecard.  com, has already collected data  from local Jewish organizations and congregations  concerning everything from  day school enrollment to the utilization  of Jewish services for senior citizens. 

Now, it wants to hear directly from  individual community members, according  to Raimy Rubin, manager of  the project. 

The survey will be distributed electronically  by local Jewish organizations  to each of their members, he said. 

“It’s really to collect attitudinal response  from our community, to allow  community members to be heard,” explained  Rubin. “That’s just as important  as the organizations. My goal is [that] this  will tell organizations about their own  market share and allow them to make decisions  based on that information.” 

Questions on the survey incorporate  many of the topics that were covered on  a national scale by last year’s Pew Research  Center survey, “A Portrait of  Jewish Americans.” 

Included in the local survey are questions  regarding the religion in which  one is raising his or her children; ritual  practices such as keeping kosher and  Shabbat candle lighting; whether financial  constraints prevent one from joining  a congregation, traveling to Israel or  sending children to Jewish day school;  how attached emotionally one feels to  Israel; and how one rates the quality of  Jewish education in Pittsburgh. 

The survey will be distributed to each  of the 10 Federation beneficiary agencies  as well as the many congregations that  so far have participated in the project,  said Meryl Ainsman, chair of the Scorecard  committee. 

Those organizations will then send out  the survey to their entire membership.  Individual members of organizations  will then be asked to forward the survey  to other Jews they know in the area who  may not be formally affiliated with any  Jewish institution. 

“It’s our intent to get as widespread a  distribution as possible,” said Ainsman.  “We hope to reach the unaffiliated as  well as the affiliated.” 

The survey — which is not a formal,  scientific poll as was last year’s Pew  study — was generated in consultation  with Jacob Ukeles, a national expert on  performance management, and Ron  Miller, a data analyst who co-directed  the 2002 Pittsburgh Jewish Community  Study, the last formal survey of Jewish  Pittsburgh. 

“This will not be a scientific survey,”  Ainsman cautioned, “but it will be a  good indicator to get the information  we’re looking for without doing a fullfledged  survey.” 

The Internet survey, which will be answered  on a voluntary basis by those  who receive it, is a more economically  feasible way to get a picture of Jewish  Pittsburgh, according to Ainsman. 

“The entire focus is how can these  questions inform what we’re trying to  do with the Scorecard,” she said. “The  purpose of the Scorecard is, if you can’t  measure, you can’t improve.” 

Pittsburgh’s Federation has been garnering  national attention for the Scorecard’s  innovative method of measuring  community performance. It was recognized  in the April 14 edition of the Forward   for being the first Federation nationwide  “to assess a community’s  strengths and weaknesses in an accessible  and open way.” 

The survey will be disseminated beginning  May 1, and information will be collected  through May 25, said Ainsman.  And because many Pittsburghers are  members of more than one Jewish institution,  it is likely they will receive the  survey in their inbox more than once. 

“But that’s not a bad thing,” she said.  “It’s a good thing because it tells you that  all the organizations that you are involved  in think it’s important. 

“And it will help to reinforce that the  community as a whole feels this is something  important.” 

After the results are in, they will be  collated and posted on the Scorecard  website, said Ainsman. 

While the survey is partially funded  by the Federation, it’s not about the  Federation, she stressed. “It’s about the  community. We want it to be a reflection  of the entire community.” 

After the survey is complete, a roundtable  of community leaders will be convened  along with the Scorecard steering  committee to help make recommendations  based on the information gathered,  said Ainsman. 

“What we want people to understand  is that this is a community endeavor,”  she said. 

“And there is no judgment going on  here. Everything will be confidential,  and everything will be reported on in  the aggregate.” 

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at 

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