A new study gives fairly concrete evidence that the American Jewish population could be more than 1 million people larger than believed -- but if so, it means efforts to engage them may have been less successful than the community realized.
The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story, "A Clouded View of U.S. Jews" (Oct. 9, 2002), which related the results of conflicting polls taken to determine Jewish population numbers in America. One study claimed numbers dipped slightly to 5.2 million, while a second poll claimed the Jewish population increased to 6.7 million.
Reactions to the Times' numbers were as diverse as the respondents. Some called for an increase in Jewish education and outreach, while others proposed we should increase our numbers by abandoning the traditional reticence to proselytizing and put more resources into embracing potential Jews. I couldn't disagree more.
After months of debate and deliberation, my husband and I decided to trade in the ocean breeze and proximity to the brand-new Starbucks on Lincoln Boulevard for the clogged air and congested streets of Pico-Robertson. I had toyed with the idea earlier, and had even lookie-looed my way into a few open houses, but this time, we were lookie-loos no more. My kids were eager to be near their school friends and within sniffing distance of the kosher pizza shops. I wanted to walk to the bakery, where the proprietor still calls little boys boychikel and where I could feel slightly more justified in buying the shop's obscenely rich chocolate custard cakes for Shabbos since I would be walking home with it. (That is, whatever still remained by the time I got home.) I could even brush up on my Farsi waiting in line behind all the Iranian women in the cramped little markets along Pico Boulevard.