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Jewish Journal

Pew Research Center surveying Jews in U.S.

by Jonah Lowenfeld

March 20, 2013 | 10:07 am

The Pew Research Center is conducting a nationwide survey of Jewish-Americans.

Associate Director for Research Alan Cooperman confirmed that the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life “is working on a survey of American Jews.”

Pew Research Center is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public opinion polls on a range of subjects; under its Pew Forum banner, the center has conducted surveys of many religious groups in the United States, including Buddhists, Muslims and Mormons. The Pew Forum survey of Jewish-Americans, which has no firm release date, will likely be the first nationwide count of Jews since the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS).

Sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the NJPS was initiated in 1990. (The organized Jewish community had conducted an earlier population survey in 1970.) The 2000-01 survey cost $6 million to conduct; its results and methodologies came under fierce criticism from Jewish demographers and others. One decade later, JFNA decided not to undertake a new population survey.

In November 2012, the Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation awarded a $1 million challenge grant to the Berman Jewish Policy Archive (BJPA) at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Policy, intended to support a national survey of American Jews in 2013.

BJPA Director Steven M. Cohen, who is serving as an adviser for the Pew Forum study, said the BJPA study would look at “the socio-demographics of American Jews,” but also have a “strong policy orientation” in order to help guide Jewish communal policymaking on matters of importance, including Jewish education, Jewish poverty and connection to Israel.

Fundraising for the BJPA study, expected to cost $3 million, is ongoing, Cohen said.

The Pew Forum’s Cooperman declined to offer any details about the study his organization is working on, but he did say it will differ from earlier surveys.

“The Pew Research Center is not repeating the 1990 or 2000-01 NJPS,” Cooperman said.

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