The world looks different now than in 2019 — the year Arizona State University published the first study of the local Jewish community since 2002. Still, its findings have major implications for Jewish organizations and synagogues looking to engage more of the community.
Visiting research professor Kenneth Goldstein, who conducted the study with ASU, gave a long-awaited virtual presentation on April 28 of his findings. Watch a recording of the presentation here.
“Because of the pandemic, this has been the longest visiting professorship in the history of the world,” Goldstein joked as he referenced the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We did a briefing to the community in January or February of 2020 with all these plans to do things in 2020. And then, obviously, the world intervened.”
The study delved into Jewish identity, marriage and family, attitudes towards Israel, anti-Semitism, religious observance and more. See JN's previous reporting on the study's findings here.
Overall, he wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings.
Jews in Maricopa County are “probably not that different if we looked at Jews across the country,” he said, because Maricopa County is a large metropolitan area and many residents are transplants.
One thing that did surprise him was that younger people are even more concerned about anti-Semitism than older respondents. The finding touched on a conundrum Jewish organizations and synagogues face.
“Is it about trying to convince people that Judaism is very important or bring them in? Is it trying to do things that might be more traditional Jewish or bring under the tent other things?” he asked. “It also is how much are we defined by the positive and how much are we defined by the negative?”
The study did not include many demographic breakdowns aside from age and gender.
Goldstein said the survey did ask questions about other demographics, but the results were not reliable enough to include in the study given the relatively small sample size.
As he wrote in the study, found here, the survey randomly sampled individuals from lists provided by local Jewish organizations and voter file lists. A combined mailing list from 23 Jewish organizations throughout Greater Phoenix served as the primary source for participants.
Goldstein said during the virtual presentation that “it’s not so easy for people to put themselves in a bin (category) anymore.” He also said trying to pull information about ethnicity, for example, is very difficult in a survey that doesn’t allow for follow-up questions.
“About half of Latinos will say Latino. You then have to ask a follow up with people who didn’t say Latino, do you consider yourself Latino, and then maybe even a follow up about something else to get what I think most people would consider the true numbers,” he said.
However, changing demographics could be something “very important” for Jewish organizations to track.
“Jews are simply not as homogeneous as we think and as many people think,” he said. JN