Jewish Journal

Demographic Dueling by the Duo

by Pini Herman

January 31, 2012 | 10:56 am

1% Navigation of U.S.S. Jewry

My colleague Bruce Phillips has decided to take up the gauntlet that I threw down questioning the new US Jewish population estimates produced by two academic groups Back East at Brandeis, Florida and Connecticut of over six million Jews that they feel they have the evidence of existing in America today.

I called Professor Len Saxe about the 6.4 million Jews estimate and questioned his experience with and abandoning the use of a Jewish screener questionnaire and relying only on the “What is your religion?” question.  The only response from him was that over 150 studies were used and they were undertaken by the foremost social scientists in the country.

I look forward to the arguments that Bruce will bring as I have heard no more from any of the Back East estimators regarding my shot over their bow.  Unfortunately, the only argument that Len Saxe raised was that 150 studies were done by leading social researchers in the country.  The studies were not fielded by Saxe and those who did field them would never claim that any of the studies could be relied on to give an accurate picture of the Jewish population in the U.S.  I myself had a conversation over a decade ago with Tom W. Smith, principal investigator, of the General Social Survey, the backbone of Saxe’s Jewish estimates, about how useful it might be for population estimation for Jews and he waved me off saying that it was not designed for that.  So one leading social researcher told me not to do what Saxe has done, I’m sure that the others wouldn’t attempt to do with their surveys what they weren’t designed to do. 

That’s why Jewish population studies are so costly and when corners are cut, it comes back to bite you.  So stayed tuned for Bruce Phillips’ response to “A Million Jews Mistake.”

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (I was recently notified that with 40,000 visitors this year the 15 year old study of the LA Jewish population was third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archives in 2011) and is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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