In 2017, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh released the findings of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study, which the Federation had commissioned from the Marilyn and Maurice Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute.
The research included interviews with approximately 2,100 Jewish households throughout Greater Pittsburgh, and the comprehensive report that came out of those interviews provides a wealth of insight into Jewish Pittsburgh. The statistics uncovered by the study could serve as roadmap to guide us toward a stronger, more cohesive and robust community.
While the data had lots of good news for Jewish Pittsburgh — including finding 17% growth since 2002 along with an influx of young Jewish adults here — the challenges revealed in the study also are many and include declining congregational affiliation, non-engagement of a significant percentage of intermarried families as intermarriage rates increase, and economic insecurity, with one-quarter of Jewish household lacking sufficient savings to cover three months of expenses.
“The biggest take-away from the study is opportunity,” said Evan Indianer, the study’s chair, back in 2017. The study, he explained, would allow community organizations to make “smart, data-driven decisions.”
After a year of grieving, processing and responding to last year’s massacre at the Tree of Life building, we hope the professional and lay leadership of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is ready to turn its attention back to some of the issues highlighted by the Jewish Community Study.
Of course the shock and loss felt after our fellow Jews were murdered in the most violent anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States will remain with many — or most — of us throughout our lives, we remain optimistic that our community is ready to refocus on the various challenges we face in Jewish Pittsburgh as we move further into the 21st century.
The Chronicle is committed to resume its reporting on these issues following a year of coverage dominated by last year’s attack and its aftermath. We have already published three articles of a 10-part series closely examining some of the people who make up the statistics highlighted in the study, and we look forward to resuming that series in the weeks to come.
The Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study is a “planning tool,” Jeff Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, told the Chronicle back in 2017. He hoped the study would be utilized by the community to see “what we’re doing well — and do more of that — and what we’re not doing well.”
“It’s a snapshot in time,” Finkelstein said. “Shame on us if we don’t use it to look at the trends and make sure we’re addressing the needs of our Jewish people.”
We have some work to do, that’s for sure. pjc