April 7, 2007
One, Jew, three
Question: How many Jewish-American princesses does it take to screw in a light bulb?
If you’ve heard the joke, that answer is pretty easy. But what is more difficult is determining how many Jewish-American princesses there are, or how many Jewish Americans for that matter.
A new study by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, an esteemed school outside Boston that is named after the first Jew to join the Supreme Court, reported that the American Jewish community is between 6 million and 6.4 million. Seven years ago, the National Jewish Population Survey estimated American Jewry had fallen from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.2 in 2000.
“What some people ask is ‘Why does anybody care how many there are?’ ” Len Saxe, director of the Steinhardt institute, told the LA Times. “In the Jewish community the numbers, especially since they all hover around 6 million, have particular relevance. In the wake of the Holocaust, where 6 million were killed, how many Jews are remaining and whether the community is regenerating or not â it’s a very sensitive issue.”
More of Los Angeles’ 600,000 Jews â- second in population outside Israel only to New York—live in the Valley Hills, where 48 percent of affluents residents are Jewish, than anywhere else.
“West Los Angeles is a close second to Valley Hills in the major categories, making the two expensive ‘golden ghettoes’ the most Jewish in the city and country,” the Jewish Journal reported in January.
Counting Jews is notoriously difficult in the United States because the U.S. Census is not allowed to ask questions about religion. There is also the variable of affiliation. When Jewish population surveys are administered, it is challenging to control for the fact that some people will identify as Jewish because they converted and attend synagogue while secular Jews won’t, and vice versa.
As for the original question: The answer was two. One to get a Tab, and one to call Daddy.