(WSJ Houses of Worship) Jonathan Sarna–American Jewry's Data Problem

Do we need a new nationwide count of America’s Jews?

It has been 10 years since anyone conducted a census of American Jewry””and no major organization has plans to conduct another one soon. (The official U.S. Census can’t ask questions about religion.) This means that the Jewish community may indefinitely lack the kind of data required for communal planning””how many Jews there are, where they live, whom they are marrying, what Jewish religious movements they adhere to and so forth.

Gathering such data is no easy task. Whereas many Christian churches calculate membership as the sum of all those they have baptized or who have made public declarations of their faith, Jews see themselves as a people embracing religious and nonreligious members alike. Thus life-cycle ceremonies and synagogue membership are insufficient proxies for membership in the Jewish community….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

2 comments on “(WSJ Houses of Worship) Jonathan Sarna–American Jewry's Data Problem

  1. BlueOntario says:

    [blockquote]The official U.S. Census can’t ask questions about religion.[/blockquote]
    As a researcher I’m happy our forefathers weren’t so PC about such things. While the quoted “prohibition” may be ascribed to the “Church and State” crowd, the Right can be as PC as the Left. In 2010 my strongly conservative father-in-law complained that the Constitution never allowed the government to ask questions through the census. To which in reply I would cheerfully show him data collected while the writers of that esteemable document were still around to complain if that were truly the case.

  2. KevinBabb says:

    I read once that, during World War II, Dutch Jews were sitting ducks for the Nazis, due to the fact that the Dutch government kept records on the religious/sectarian affiliations of the populace. The reason such records were kept in the first place was to assure that proper taxes were paid by adherents of religious communities to fund government support of religious institutions.