A Portrait of Jewish Columbus
The 2013 Jewish Community Study
Counting Jews has been going on since Biblical times. It is never straightforward and it is not for the faint of heart! But it’s clear that having a proper census helps us understand our strengths, needs and potential.
In 2013 the JewishColumbus teamed up with The Wexner Foundation and the Columbus Jewish Foundation to take an in-depth look at the Columbus Jewish community, to help us measure how the community is achieving it’s vision of being a thriving community at the forefront of the next renaissance in Jewish life.
The initial findings are in and might be surprising to some. There is reason for great optimism in the emerging snapshot, but also cause for concern in some areas. There are four major stories that are highlighted in the study. Let’s start with the good news.
The first finding is that Jewish Columbus is a young, growing community. This is a relatively youthful community compared to some peer cities, which bodes well for us. Consider the percentage of the population aged 18-34, an important indicator of energy, optimism and career opportunities: In Cleveland, the number is 14 percent; Chicago, 18 percent; and Cincinnati, 20 percent. Columbus tops them all at 22 percent. Our youthfulness is a strength we must continue to build on.
The Jewish community is growing too. The sheer number of Jews living in central Ohio has increased from 22,000 living in 11,900 Jewish households a decade ago to 25,500 in 14,200 households now. This growth is definitely a positive trend as frequently growth leads to more opportunities.
There is a strong, stable core of engaged Jews living in the traditional strongholds of Bexley, Berwick and Eastmoor. While the number of Jews living in these neighborhoods has stayed flat for the past twenty years, Jews living in these areas remain highly likely to be in-married and engaged in Jewish life.
Some of the other findings present some challenges.
There has been dramatic growth in the other areas of central Ohio with 100%+ growth rates in the areas from Clintonville to German Village and on the far East side. Jews living in these areas are less likely to be in-married and less likely to say that being Jewish is “very important in their life”. This increasing geographic dispersion cannot be ignored as we plan for our community.
Another finding is that nearly 1-in-3 Jews in Columbus describe themselves as “partially Jewish,” in part reflecting the ongoing trend of young people marrying outside the faith and raising children in multi-religion or non-religious homes. Most children (53 percent) are being raised in intermarried homes. Within that group, only 11 percent of children are being raised exclusively Jewish and an additional 27% are being raised partially Jewish.
The fourth story is that many households in the community were living at or near the poverty line.