Nearly 20% of U.S. Jewish households struggles to make ends meet, JFNA study finds

Survery conducted with Brandeis University and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation 'breaks the myth' that Jews don't struggle financially, Jon Hornstein, a program director at the Weinberg Foundation says

Nearly 20% of Jewish households in the U.S. struggle to make ends meet, according to a Jewish Federations of North America survey released on Tuesday that looked at 12 communities around the country.

The report, called “Analysis of Financial Well-being Using the CMJS Combined Dataset,” found that within the Jewish community, households most at risk of poverty include those with children, people with a disability or chronic health issue, single parents, Orthodox households (due to women in that community typically having children at a young age), people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals and Russian-speaking Jews. 

Jessica Mehlman, JFNA’s associate vice president of impact and planning, expressed hope that the findings will lead to solutions for families in poverty or close to it. “We know that day schools and Jewish family services are among the top three collective recipients of local Jewish federations, and we look forward to working with them on incorporating these latest findings into the work they do every day to support Jewish life in our communities.” 

The report — a collaboration with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation — found that while 2% of households say that they are unable to make ends meet, another 17% say that they are just managing to make ends meet.  

Jon Hornstein, program director leading the Weinberg Foundation’s grantmaking focused on the Jewish community, said that the report “breaks the myth that poverty is not a Jewish problem.” Data shows that 11% of Jewish households fall below 250% of the federal poverty line, which in 2023 equated to $62,150 for a family of three, according to the report. 

Hornstein continued, “It should serve as a call to action for how funders, direct service agencies, and federations can work together to better serve individuals and families in our communities who are struggling financially.” 

The survey comes on the heels of UJA-Federation of New York’s census, which found that poverty rates — for both Jews and non-Jews — have slightly improved over the past two years. The UJA study found that overall, 20% of Jewish households in the New York City area — designated by the federation as the five boroughs and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties — are considered either poor or near-poor. (In 2021, 23% of Jewish households reported being at poverty or near-poverty levels.)