'NY Israelis have high level of Jewish involvement'

Study finds 81,000 people in area have at least 1 Israeli-born parent.

New York building 88 248 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
New York building 88 248
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The Israeli community in the New York City area is smaller but more active in the Jewish community than was commonly believed, a UJA-Federation of New York study has found. The study - "Israeli Jews in Greater New York: Their Numbers, Characteristics, and Patterns of Jewish Engagement" by Prof. Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Judith Veinstein, found that the area has 41,000 Israelis, defined as people born in Israel or non-Americans who had lived in Israel for at least one year before moving to New York. Additionally, 81,000 people in the area live in a household with at least one Israeli-born adult. These numbers are lower than previous estimates of the area's Israeli population, according to the study, released by the UJA-Federation's Task Force on New York Jewry recently. The study points out that Israelis in New York are highly affiliated with the Jewish community even though community affiliation is low in Israel. Israelis were found to be more connected to Judaism than their American counterparts in terms of synagogue membership and attendance, kashrut observance, participation in Jewish charity events and membership in Jewish community centers, among other indicators used by the study. While part of the community is Orthodox or haredi, the study says that the high involvement also holds true for less religious Israelis. According to the report, 60 percent of Israelis keep kosher in the house, 95% celebrate Pessah, 90% light Hannukah candles, 87% fast on Yom Kippur, 87% view Jewish education for their children to be of supreme importance, 71% feel connected to their Jewish and family heritage and 61% light Shabbat candles. "Rather than seeing the high levels of Jewish engagement on the part of New York area Israelis as a reason to move on to other needs, these levels should be seen as reflective of assets worthy of nurturance and development," the study said. "The true risk lies in the possible failure to recognize the richness and potential presented by this culturally distinctive and socially connected Jewish subpopulation." "The study has really changed our perception about the community," said Esther Goldman, chair of UJA-Federation's Task Force on New York Jewry in a press release. The report was prepared for the Federation's Commission for the Jewish People, which wanted to get a better understanding of the Israeli population so that it could figure out how to best serve it. "This study provides us, for the first time, with solid information on which to undertake programs to respond to the needs of the Israeli-American community," said David Mallach, the commission's managing director.