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New study examines Jewish life in the Bay Area

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Throughout the Bay Area, the Jewish community is younger, more diverse and less connected to Israel than it was a decade ago, a study released Tuesday reports. (Courtesy Jewish Community Federation)

San Francisco’s Jewish community is shrinking as economic pressures force many of its members to relocate to surrounding communities, particularly in the East Bay, according to a study released today.

According to the 2017 study, “A portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities,” the Bay Area is home to the fourth-largest Jewish population in the country, with some 350,000 Jewish people and 123,000 non-Jews living in 148,000 Jewish households.

However, only about one-sixth of that population, or 61,000 people, currently live in San Francisco, and 33 percent of those surveyed said that they are likely to move within two years.

The study also found that the number of Jewish adults living in The City has declined by 14 percent since that population was last surveyed in 2004.

In contrast, the East Bay’s Jewish population is on the rise — one-third of the Bay Area Jewish people live in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties. The Jewish adult population there has grown by 33 percent since it was last surveyed in 2011.

Of the Jewish East Bay residents surveyed, some 45 percent stated that they have lived in their homes for fives years or less. In contrast, 37 percent of San Francisco’s survey respondents said that they have lived in their homes for five years less.

“The movement of people across countries is influential in terms of how we think about where we [serve] our people,” said Danny Grossman, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, which commissioned the study.

“The issue of affordability is something we came up with [from this study]. That is something we are working on [and] it’s a common struggle,” he said.

More than 3,000 people living across the Bay Area responded to an online survey that informed the study, which aims to advance the work of Bay Area Jewish institutions, advocacy groups and policy makers by analyzing the community’s demographics, socioeconomic trends as well as patterns of religious practice and feelings towards Israel.

One in five Jewish households in San Francisco includes a person who identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual, compared to one in 10 households across the Bay Area. (Courtesy Jewish Community Federation)

While Jews by religion made up 78 percent of all respondents, those interviewed included non-Jewish people (partners or spouses), partly Jewish people and Jewish respondents who identified with other religions as well as Jewish people who did not identify with any religion.

The study represent the first comprehensive analysis of San Francisco’s Jewish population in more than a decade, and is also the first population study to encompass the Bay Area’s 10 counties.

Susie Sorkin, an executive board member with the Federation, said that the data will help to inform human service needs and opportunities for community building.

“The Jewish community wants to give every Jewish person an opportunity to express [themselves] and be Jewish in any way they can,” Sorkin said. “This data will help us to figure out … how can we best utilize our resources, what’s working and what don’t we need to do anymore.”

Throughout the Bay Area, the Jewish community is younger, more diverse and less connected to Israel than it was a decade ago, the study found. Young adults and baby boomers make up the largest demographic — with one third of the area’s Jewish adults currently between the ages of 18 and 34.

“We were taken by the large number of young adults in the area. Nationally, Jews are an aging population,” said Dr. Steven Cohen, one of the study’s authors. This population is also increasingly “mobile” with few natives and relocating frequently in response to economic pressures, he said.

Younger, liberal, intermarried Jews are also more likely to feel increasingly disassociated from Israel — 43 percent of the study’s total respondents identified as “unaffiliated” to Israel.

Jewish households are also more diverse than previous studies have found. In the Bay Area, 25 percent include at least one person of Latino, Asian-American, African-American, mixed or other ethnic or racial background.

In regard to sexual orientation, San Francisco’s Jewish community is the most diverse — 19 percent of The City’s Jewish households, or one in five, include a person who identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual, compared to one in 10 households across the Bay Area.

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