2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study

Sponsor(s): Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP)

Principal Investigator(s): Janet Krasner Aronson, Matthew Boxer, Matthew A. Brookner, Charles Kadushin, Leonard Saxe

Study Dates: April 22, 2015 to July 31, 2015

Population Estimates:

2015 Jewish population estimates: 248,000 Jews, of whom 190,600 are Jewish adults and 57,400 are Jewish children.

♦ Since 2005, the Jewish population has increased by 4.6%

♦ When compared to other Jewish communities in the United States (defined by federation service areas), Greater Boston is the fourth largest American Jewish community, after New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

These quarter-million Boston-area Jews reside in approximately 123,400 Jewish households (at lest one Jewish adult) .

♦ There are also 61,200 non-Jews living in these Jewish households, including 47,500 non-Jewish adults and 13,700 non-Jewish children.

Thus, the total number of people living in Boston-area Jewish households is 309,200, of whom 80% are Jewish.


Key Findings:

Population  -  "Greater Boston is home to the fourth-largest Jewish community in the country with 248,000 Jews. Of these, 190,600 are adults and 57,400 are children. The quarter-million Jews in Boston reside in approximately 123,400 households. This represents a population increase of approximately 4.6% since 2005. There are also 61,200 non-Jews living in Jewish households."

Diversity - "Greater Boston’s Jewish community is demographically diverse. Boston Jewry includes members of the Israeli (8% of adults), Russian-born and Russian-speaking (7% of adults), and LGBTQ communities (7% of adults)."

Denomination - Half of Greater Boston’s Jews do not identify with a  Jewish denomination. The largest denominational affiliation is Reform, followed by Conservative and Orthodox. Denominational affiliation has declined since 2005, and, increasingly, Boston Jews describe themselves as 'Just Jewish.'”

Belonging - Thirty-seven percent of Jewish households belong to a synagogue or another type of Jewish congregation.  

Behaving  - Participation in Jewish life extends beyond institutions and formal Jewish organizational participation.

♦ Two-thirds of households donate to Jewish organizations and one-quarter volunteer.

 ♦ Three-fifths (61%) of Jewish households participate in at least one informal Jewish activity, such as a Shabbat meal or Jewish book club, and 17% do so monthly.  

♦ Holiday observance and ritual/cultural practices are widely observed by significant numbers of Greater Boston Jewry.

Raising Children Jewish - Three-quarters of children in Jewish households are being raised exclusively

♦ Among in-married parents, 94% of children are being raised exclusively Jewish. Among intermarried parents, 57% of children are being raised exclusively Jewish.

Israel travel - Two-thirds of Greater Boston’s Jews have been to Israel at least once; one-third have traveled to Israel multiple times.

Education and Economic Status -  "While the Greater Boston Jewish community is affluent (and highly educated), some segments may be economically vulnerable."

♦ Nine-in-ten Jewish adults hold at least a college degree, including 61% who have a post-graduate degree.

♦ Almost half of Boston’s Jews consider themselves to be prosperous or very comfortable, and another 42% consider themselves reasonably comfortable.

♦ But one percent describe themselves as “nearly poor” or “poor;” another 11% of households indicate they are “just getting along.”

♦ While nearly three-fifths of households have an income of $100,000 or more, 14% have incomes under $50,000.

Jewish Engagement - The “Index of Jewish Engagement” reveals five distinct patterns of participation in Jewish life, based on more than a dozen Jewish behaviors. 

♦ The Minimally Involved (17%) have low engagement on all dimensions.

♦ The Familial (24%) engage primarily through family and home-based behaviors.

♦ The Affiliated (26%) engage through family and communal organizations.

♦ The Cultural (18%) engage through family and cultural activities.

♦ The Immersed (15%) engage in ritual activities, cultural and communal organizations, and family-based behaviors. 



Survey data for the 2015 Boston Jewish community study were collected from 5,696 Jewish households (at least one Jewish adult) by a combination of telephone interviewing and online surveys.

The survey sampling frame was constructed from two sources: 1) households on over 100 Jewish organizational lists, divided into five strata and representing the “known” Jewish households in the study area; 2) a list of households purchased from Infogroup containing people with likely ethnic Jewish names or Jewish "behaviors."  The purchased household list was designed to represent the “unknown” Jewish households in the study area, and segregated into a sixth stratum.  

No RDD (random digit dialing) landline or cell phone interviewing was conducted for the survey.  Households not on the organizational or ethnic names lists were not covered by the sampling frame, and the principal investigators did not provide an estimate of the proportion of the target population not covered by the combined Jewish organizational and ethnic names/behavior lists. However, the authors note the following in terms of potential sampling bias:

"Every effort to create a representative sample was made in order to prevent bias or, where bias was unavoidable, to identify and reduce it. Nevertheless, some groups are particularly likely to be underrepresented in the sample. Most significant among these are unaffiliated Jews (including new residents and intermarried families) and young adult Jews. Young adult Jews are also likely undercounted for other reasons. Young adults in general are notoriously difficult to reach for telephone surveys, in part due to the increasing rate of cell phone only households and in part because they tend to move more frequently than older adults; both conditions render young adults harder to track. Newcomers who are not known to the community are very likely undercounted, though they may have appeared on the ethnic names list. Interfaith families may also be underrepresented to the extent that they are unaffiliated and reside in households with directory listings that do not fit the selected ethnic name parameters."

Sample Size: 5,696 Jewish households

Sample Notes:

Two distinct interviewing methods were used for the Boston 2015 survey.  The survey was based on an initial sampling frame of over 145,000 households. From this frame, two samples were drawn: a primary sample of 8,900 households who were contacted by postal mail, email, and telephone, and a supplemental sample of 42,315 households who were contacted by email only. Table 1.1, page 8 has a useful summary of the numbers of survey respondents contacted and interviewed within the primary and supplemental frames. (Additional details Technical Appendix Table A2, pp. 6 ff.).  

The primary sample was sent pre-notification letters (explaining the purpose of the survey) and then contacted by the Survey Research Division of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington. Multiple callback efforts were made. The potential online respondents were sent an email with a link to the online survey, as well as multiple reminders to complete the survey.   

The survey interviewing process lasted from April 22, 2015 through July 31, 2015.

Interviews were completed with 1,591 respondents from the primary sampling frame and 4,105 interviews from the supplemental frame.  

♦ Of the 1,591 primary sampling frame interviews, 1,401 were from the local Jewish communal organization lists and 190 (12%) from the Infogroup ethnic names and behaviors list.  

♦ The 4,105 supplemental sample respondents were contacted almost exclusively (99%+) via the Jewish organizational lists: (4,084 from the combined lists and 21 from the ethnic names sample). 

Since, "The primary sample was designed to be representative of the entire community and was used as a basis for population estimates and analyses of the community as a whole....,"  results from the primary sample interviews were used as a basis for population estimates and analyses of the community as a whole. Since Internet/supplemental survey responses were assumed to be over-representative of highly engaged Jewish households, "... statistical adjustments were utilized to account for the different likelihood of response in the two samples. Survey weights were developed to ensure that the full response sample—primary and supplemental—represented the entire community in terms of key factors including age, Jewish denomination, and synagogue membership."

The authors note: "Throughout this report, for purposes of analysis and reporting, estimates about the entire population were derived from the primary sample only. The combined, or full, sample was used for analyses of subgroups—such as families with children—where the increased number of respondents supported more robust analysis."




Study Notes:


The Berman Jewish DataBank has three Boston 2015 reports available for direct downloading: (1) the original Summary Report from the Cohen Center at Brandeis (2) the Technical Appendices report from Brandeis and (3) a briefer Overview of survey results written by CJP, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the sponsor of the study,


An SPSS SAV data file (updated as of April 2017) is available via the DataBank, as is a portable (POR) version in SPSS.  The Cohen Center's Instructions for using the data file is also directly downloadable from the DataBank.

 A STATA version of the Boston 2015 study's data is available through the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, the principal investigators. The public use data set link at Brandeis downloads a zip file with the STATA version of the survey, the SPSS SAV version, and Instructions for using the data file.

Please read the Instructions for using the data file, especially the section on weights to be used in analysis (variables 534-537 in the data file).

ALL questions about the public use data files should be directed to SSRI, the Social Science Research Institute at Brandeis. 

Technical Appendices

Within the Brandeis technical documentation:

♦ Appendix A has methodological details, including an extended discussion of weighting, population estimation, post-stratification models, response rate calculations (32% AAPOR overall) and the survey sampling error of +/- 5%, including design effects.

♦  Appendix C has approximately 45 pages of cross-tabulations from the survey data in a stubs/banner framework; DataBank users should carefully focus on the basis of percentaging in these tables, since some of the tables add to 100% horizontally, while others are just percentages for one category of a variable and do not add to 100%.  

♦ Appendix D contains the survey questionnaire, with weighted frequency percentages on each question (plus the unweighted sample size on which the percentages were based); approximately 150 pages beginning on page 72 of the Technical Appendix document. 


Language: English