Socio-Demography Conference Opens Today

Leading researchers and policymakers gather today to discuss the current state of knowledge about the U.S. Jewish community and consider how the findings of socio-demographic research can be used.

Bringing together leading scholars and policy makers for two days of intensive discussion of the state of the Jewish community, the Socio-Demography of American Jewry conference opens today at Brandeis University. The Conference, hosted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis, is co-sponsored by academic research centers in Israel and the United States, the Association for the Scientific Study of Jewry and the Pew Forum on Religion and Policy.

Previously, the Jewish community sponsored a decennial survey of American Jewry, both to assess its numbers, as well as understand the attitudes and practices of those who identify as Jewish. A 2010 survey was not conducted, and the conference will assess what we know from other research, what we need to learn, and how to use available information to inform scholarship and policy. The context for this assessment will be discussions of the religious landscape in America and the nature of ethno-religious identity.

According to Professor Leonard Saxe, chair of the conference and director of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, “There is a vigorous scholarly debate about the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population with profound implications, not just for the Jewish community, but also for our understanding of contemporary America. The conference provides a platform for leading researchers to discuss substantive and methodological issues and engage with policymakers who utilize their research. The dialogue generated at the conference will enhance the methods and utility of socio-demographic research.”

The conference is organized around a set of plenary sessions that have been designed to promote dialogue among participants and exchange with the audience. Plenary topics include: the religious landscape, Jewish community studies, understanding Jewish immigrant groups, use of demography by researchers and policymakers and the future of socio-demographic research on American Jewry.

The conference was developed with a gift from the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation. Additional support was provided by The AVI CHAI Foundation, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Joseph Foundation, Jason Skolnick and The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.

Additional information can be found on the conference website.

montage image courtesy Brandeis University