The Jewish Population of Greater Washington in 1956

Sponsor(s): Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Principal Investigator(s): Stanley K. Bigman

Population Estimates:

Study estimated that the Jewish population of the Washington D.C. area in 1956 was 80,900 Jewish persons in 27,200 Jewish households. There was no separate estimate of the number of non-Jewish persons, but currently non-Jewish persons of Jewish origin wer

Key Findings:

The 1956 Study is highly recommended for its historical significance, including fascinating data on DC Jews and the methodology used in 1956.

The 1956 Study was viewed as the most scientifically generated estimate ever of the Washington D.C. area. Prior to the 1956 study, the best estimate of the Jewish population of Washington, D.C. was 60,000, an estimate provided by the Jewish Community Council to the American Jewish Yearbook. Previous estimates published in the American Jewish Yearbook were 45,000 in 1950 and 30,000 in 1948. In 1946, the Jewish Community Council estimated 25,567 Jews. In 1921, the National Jewish Welfare Board had estimated 13,782 Jews.Half of the Jews lived in the District of Columbia, and the other half were scattered unevenly throughout Montgomery and Prince George's County in Maryland, and the Northern Virginia suburbs. The largest concentrations of Jews were in Northwest D.C. and in Montgomery County - each had between 22,500 and 25,00 Jewish persons.Among the 27,000 Jewish households, close to 24,000 were entirely Jewish and account for 77,000 persons. The other 3,300 Jewish households were "mixed," including at least one non-Jew related by birth or blood to the Jewish household member.90% of the Jewish families reported contributions to the Community Chest and the Red Cross, compared to 80% to the United Jewish Appeal (all estimates cited as probably inflated);Two-thirds reported that they had eaten few or no meals in the homes of non-Jews in the previous year; half said that they had few or no non-Jewish guests at meals in their own homes;Half of the families reported that they were not synagogue members; a quarter belonged to a Conservative congregation, 1/8 to an Orthodox congregation, and 1/16 to a Reform congregation;Half of the all-Jewish household respondents viewed themselves as Conservative Jews, 1/4 Reform, and 15% Orthodox;Four-out-of-five households reported participation in a Seder; slightly less than one-in-five purchased kosher meat and maintained separate meat and diary dishes;Intermarriage: approximately one-household-in-eight was a "mixed" intermarried household: 2,100 with a Jewish husband and a non-Jewish spouse, and 1,000 with a Jewish wife and a non-Jewish spouse. Perhaps 700 additional households would be defined in current terms as "conversionary" intermarriages;

Four-fifths of the intermarried did not belong to a congregation; among the 2,400 intermarried Jewish households with children, two-thirds of the children were not being raised as Jewish.


Permanent Jewish Residents of the Metropolitan D.C. Area, excluding people living in institutions or military sites.

Sample Size: A total of 1,590 interviews were completed in-person from a sample of 8,710 addresses.

Sample Notes:

The 1956 Study Sample Design included interviews from a list of Jewish persons provided by the United Jewish Appeal, and a sample of all "dwelling units" in the "built-up" section of the metropolitan area.

15,500 unduplicated, residential addresses on the list were randomly sampled, and interviews conducted;

The "dwelling units" were sampled as part of an area probability sample of 154 blocks, largely based on an earlier study by the author (see page 197 of the PDF for details);

The list sample was sent a letter indicating that they would be contacted in February 1956.

Volunteer interviewers completed approximately one-third of all interviews in February, 1956. Professional interviewers were subsequently hired, and completed most of the remaining interviews between March 5 and May 5, 2006 - and then another 10% of the interviews were completed in August. The methodological discussion in Appendix C compares the volunteer and professional interviewing results;

Data were weighted based upon inverse ratio of selection, in a disproportionate random sampling methodology.

Language: English


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