Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life depicts one of America’s most diverse Jewish Populations

Photo courtesy Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.

The first-ever Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities depicts one of America’s largest and most diverse Jewish populations – as reported in a new social scientific study released today. Commissioned by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties (The Federation), the Portrait aims to deeply explore and richly understand the Bay Area Jewish community’s social landscape. The online survey interviewed more than 3,000 respondents from 10 counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma.

The Bay Area is home to the 4th largest Jewish population in the U.S., with 350,000 Jews and 123,000 non-Jews living in 148,000 Jewish households.

While the total Jewish population in the Bay Area has likely been stable over recent years, it is growing in the East Bay and shrinking in San Francisco. Of Jews in the Bay Area, 1/3 live in the East Bay, 1/3 live in the Peninsula and South Bay, and 1/6 live in San Francisco County.

Young adults (18-34) comprise 37% of all adults in Jewish households, a higher percentage than in any other recently conducted major American Jewish community study. They move around significantly within the region, in part due to the cost of living in certain areas, but also reflective of national trends that have de-stabilized the economic and family lives of today’s younger adult generation. Because of high rates of financial and geographic insecurity, young adults seek out community services. The Boomer generation – born between 1946 and 1964 – is the second largest major age cohort, comprising 34% of all adults in Jewish households.

The Bay Area Jewish population is diverse. One-in-ten households overall, and one-in-five in San Francisco specifically, include a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person. 25% of Bay Area Jewish households include a Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, or a mixed or other ethnic or racial background (other than white) individual. And, inter-group marriage (defined as marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish persons) rates vary widely by age, from a low of 42% among those 65 and older to a high of 66% among those 35 and under.

As with apparent national trends, there is rising neutrality toward Israel. In particular, younger Jews (and liberals, intermarried, and the unaffiliated) are less likely to be very attached to or sympathize with Israel.

The study revealed wide economic disparities, with major concentrations of wealth alongside significant numbers of economically insecure households. While 22% of households report they are “just managing” financially or “cannot make ends meet,” 17% say they are “well off.” In terms of family income, 11% earn under $50,000 annually, and 13% report $250,000 or more.

In examining engagement in Jewish life, a relatively small, highly engaged affiliated population is offset by a much larger unaffiliated population that is substantially less engaged, particularly young adults. One half of young adults attend Passover Seders, and one quarter regard being Jewish as very important.

The Study was prepared by Professor Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Dr. Jacob B. Ukeles.

Study Highlights and Principal Investigator profiles are available here; the highlights are available for download here.

The Study was supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation; Koret Foundation, Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation, Levine-Lent Family Foundation, Lisa & John Pritzker Family Fund, Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust, Sinai Memorial Chapel, Taube Philanthropies; Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, and individual donors.