Reporters on the Job: The Jews of DC

I expected to hear that anti-Semitism and the issue of dual loyalty had disappeared entirely.

white house 88 (photo credit: )
white house 88
(photo credit: )
The Jerusalem Post news editor is on a trip to the United States to cover the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Los Angeles. The Jews of DC I just spent two interesting days in Washington meeting representatives of the UJC and other prominent Jews in the DC area. First, a few observations about DC Jews: [Numbers given to me by the Washington Jewish Federation] Many of them are rich. Their median annual income is about $100,000, which is far above the countrywide Jewish median annual income of $60,000. The American national average income is $40,000, so this gives you an idea of just how well off they are. They're also very much involved in politics, like everyone else in DC. I'm quite lucky to be visiting DC smack in the middle of the elections, and it's the only thing people are talking about here. It certainly is an exciting time to be here, but since I co-authored an analysis on the election's impact on US-Israel relations with Hilary Krieger, who is back at the office in Jerusalem, I'll refer you to that and not say much more about that subject. I can't tell for certain the political leanings of the DC Jews, and the people I have met here fall on both sides of the aisle. I spoke with some Federation officials here about the issue of dual loyalty [the idea came up as my group visited the Israeli embassy and someone pointed to the driveway and parking lot where, years ago, Jonathan Pollard tried to make his way into the compound for asylum]. The answer I got was interesting, and unexpected. I expected to hear that anti-Semitism and the issue of dual loyalty [the concept of Americans feeling that US Jews were more loyal to Israel than they are to their homeland] had disappeared entirely, and that Washington was so much more enlightened than ever before. But at least one Jewish community leader here believes "it's still in the air," although not expressed very often at all. It could arise with certain circumstances and tensions between Israel and the US, the community leader said - while at the same time, repeating that it is not so much of an issue. More facts and figures: About 26 percent of Washington-area Jews are members of a synagogue. To be truthful, I have no idea if this is a high number or a low one - it depends on who you ask. In New York, I am told, the number ranges between 25% - 35%. I wonder how many Israelis 'belong' to a synagogue. Fifteen percent of Washington-area Jewish youth go to Jewish day schools. Again, I'm not sure if this number is high or low, but I am told that the Jewish day schools, like many non-Jewish schools in this area, are of a very high standard. There are about 10,000 Jewish college students enrolled in colleges in the Washington area. The largest Taglit missions to Israel come from the University of Maryland. Almost 20 percent of students at George Washington University are Jewish. That seems like a very high number, and I wonder what draws so many Jews to this university, and how many of them stay in the DC area once they graduate. I've heard that DC Jews are some of the most migratory and mobile Jews in the country. Some come to DC to work in the government, and then move on. 3,600 Jewish families [and here I must state that in America, the terms Jewish family and Jewish household can be amorphous and complicated, and relate to the core issues of who is a Jew, but I'll get into that at a different time, and certainly while covering the GA] come to the Washington area every year; and 3,000 leave every year, so there is a net 'gain' of about 2,000 Jews to the area annually. It's not clear how many of these hook up with the community. There are not many ultra-Orthodox Jews in the greater Washington area. Previous entries: My first face-to-face with organized American Jewry Sunday evening in Chicago