Geography Report Gives Insights into New York Jewish Community

New York’s Jewish community remains highly concentrated, with four distinct areas that would each qualify as one of America’s 20 largest Jewish communities based on their population and ten areas that are home to nearly half of New York’s Jews, according to the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Geographic Profile.

Geography reportThis publication is UJA-Federation of New York’s second report in the series drawn from the latest decennial study of New York’s Jewish population and uncovers the unique variations of the eight-county New York Jewish population at the local level, providing area by area details not previously released.

The new report highlights the striking complexity of the Jewish community throughout the region, including details on areas that experienced rapid population growth, such as the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park and Williamsburg.

The four distinct areas with large Jewish populations that would each qualify as one of America’s 20 largest Jewish communities are the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and in Brooklyn, Borough Park, Williamsburg and Flatbush/Midwood/Kensington.

The full list of the New York area’s top ten Jewish areas includes not only familiar Jewish places like Coney Island/Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay. They also now include suburban centers such as the Oceanside/Long Beach/West Hempstead/Valley Stream area.

As detailed in the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Comprehensive Report released in June 2012, the Jewish community in the eight-county New York area is diverse and has grown 9 percent since the 2002 study. The Geographic Profile reports that growth was 13 percent or more in 11 areas with the greatest growth in Washington Heights (144 percent), Borough Park (71 percent), Williamsburg (41 percent) and Forest Hills/Rego Park/Kew Gardens (37 percent).

“The Geographic Profile,” explained UJA-Federation of New York President Jerry W. Levin, “provides information on a very localized level so that the entire New York Jewish community can better understand the crucial distinctions among the many areas that make up our eight county catchment area.”

John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said, “The Geographic Profile gives us essential current information so we can best respond with laser-like focus to regional and communal needs.  We, along with our network of agencies, area synagogues, day schools, and many other communal institutions, will use this data for planning to meet current and future needs of the Jewish community.” Ruskay added, ‘This Profile is key to continuing to carry out the important mission of building and sustaining community in this complex and diverse region.”

“New York’s Jewish neighborhoods are as diverse as are New York’s Jews,” commented Pearl Beck, the lead author on the study. “Looking at New York’s extraordinary Jewish diversity on an area-by-area basis, Hasidic Orthodox Jews remain quite concentrated in a relatively few neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Modern Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, are spread out throughout the metropolitan area. Russian-speaking Jews are somewhat less concentrated in the Brighton Beach/Coney Island area, with substantial numbers in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst, Queen’s Forest Hills/Rego Park/Kew Gardens, Manhattan’s Washington Heights and elsewhere. LGBT Jews are most likely to live in Lower Manhattan, but LGBT Jews also live all over the eight county New York area.”

“Many Jewish households – approximately one-quarter– are located outside the 30 primary areas of Jewish residence studied,” Beck explained. “Twice as many non-white or bi-racial Jewish households and households with members who self-define as ‘partially Jewish’ live outside those 30 primary areas, thereby rendering engagement in the Jewish community more challenging.”

The June 2012 Comprehensive Report had previously reported large numbers of Jews who identify as partially Jewish in about 10 percent of all Jewish households and non-white, bi-racial or Hispanic Jews in about 12 percent of all households.

While some areas, like the Five Towns on Long Island, exhibit high levels of Jewish engagement and others, like Brownstone Brooklyn, have relatively low levels of Jewish engagement, the report found that some areas have both high and low levels of engagement. For example, Washington Heights and the Dix Hills/Huntington Station/Melville area display low intermarriage rates as well as low rates of Jewish engagement.

While low income Jewish households reside in every Jewish neighborhood, seven areas in particular account for most of the Jewish households with incomes under $50,000. These low-income areas consist of Williamsburg; Coney Island/ Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay; Borough Park, Bensonhurst/Gravesend /Bay Ridge; Forest Hills/Rego Park/Kew Gardens, Kew Garden Hills/Jamaica/Fresh Meadows and Flatbush/Midwood/Kensington.

Since the study was conducted, many of the neighborhoods profiled have been adversely affected – some devastated – by Hurricane Sandy. “In addition to helping inform future plans, the importance of a study of this kind was underscored with Hurricane Sandy,” said Scott Shay, chair of the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Committee. “Thousands of individuals and families were displaced, some temporarily, some permanently, and these data will help UJA-Federation of New York, their network of agencies and synagogues throughout the eight-county region, understand the dimensions of the affected populations and provide a baseline for understanding longer-term impact in these areas.”

UJA-Federation engaged Jewish Policy and Action Research (JPAR) to conduct the study. JPAR is a strategic alliance between Ukeles Associates, Inc. and Social Science Research Solutions, and together they have worked on 21 Jewish community studies across the United States.

The Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Geographic Profile, prepared by JPAR’s Beck, Steven M. Cohen,  Jack Ukeles and Ron Miller, provides detailed information for each county as well as 30 individual area profiles and cross county comparisons.

Key Findings Within Each County include:

The Bronx

The number of Jews living in The Bronx has grown considerably since 2002, from 45,100 to 53,900, despite a slight decrease in the number of Jews living in Riverdale/Kingsbridge, the area with the largest Jewish population in The Bronx. The Bronx is home to the second poorest Jewish population after Brooklyn. On average, people residing in Jewish households in the Bronx are older than those residing in Jewish households in other counties. On average, Jewish households in the Bronx are less Jewishly engaged than other Jewish households in the area. Despite its economic challenges, the borough’s level of reported Jewish giving is aligned with overall 2011 rates.


Brooklyn is the county with the largest Jewish population. Borough Park and Williamsburg accounted for two-thirds of the New York Jewish community’s growth overall. Five of the seven lowest-income Jewish areas in the region are located in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has the largest proportion of children and the smallest proportion of seniors in Jewish households. Brooklyn contains the largest proportion of Orthodox and surpasses all other counties on most measures of Jewish engagement, yet it is also home to neighborhoods with some of the lowest levels of Jewish engagement:  areas such as Brownstone Brooklyn and the Coney Island/Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay area. More than 10 percent of households in Brownstone Brooklyn include an LGBT individual and 14 percent include a biracial, Hispanic, or nonwhite person.


Overall, Manhattan’s Jewish population remained stable since 2002, though there have been increases in the Upper West Side and Washington Heights and decreases in the areas of Lower Manhattan East and West, and the Upper East Side. The Washington Heights/Inwood area experienced the greatest rate of growth among all profiled Jewish areas, growing 144 percent since 2002. Manhattan has the smallest proportion of Jewish households with children in the eight county area, and has a high proportion of seniors. Manhattan is home to the largest proportion of LGBT Jews in the eight-county area, many of whom reside in Lower Manhattan West. The county has a high proportion of affluent Jewish households.


Queens has experienced Jewish population growth, particularly among baby boomers (45 – 64 year-olds). Forest Hills/Rego Park/Kew Gardens, an area in which the Jewish population grew by over 16,000, is inhabited by a sizable population of Russian-speaking Bukharian Jews, comprising 17 percent of the area’s Jewish population. Queens has the second-highest proportion of Conservative-identified Jews among the eight counties. Queens has the third largest proportion of Jews ages 75 and over Two of the seven poorest Jewish communities are located in Queens, although Queens is the only county in the eight-county region in which poor people in Jewish households decreased since 2002.

Staten Island

The total number of Jews on Staten Island decreased by 19 percent, the greatest decline among the eight counties. Measures of Jewish engagement, such as the proportion of households that belong to a synagogue and the percentage that have travelled to Israel, have increased in Staten Island. The proportion of Jewish children in Staten Island has decreased sharply, while the proportion of Jewish seniors has increased. Staten Island’s intermarriage rate is the second highest among the eight counties. Staten Island has a high proportion of Russian-speaking and Israeli Jews.


Nassau is the third-largest county in terms of its Jewish population and increased 4 percent from 2002. Two of the six most Jewishly engaged areas in the eight-county region are in Nassau: The Five Towns and Great Neck. Nassau has the highest proportion of married or partnered Jewish households among all eight counties Nassau is home to the highest proportion of Conservative-identified Jews. In the neighborhood of Great Neck, 38 percent of Jewish households include someone identified as Sephardic (overwhelmingly of Persian descent).


Suffolk is the only suburban county that has experienced Jewish population loss since 2002. The number of Jews in the area has decreased 4 percent. The income profile of Jewish households is split: a substantial proportion (41 percent) report annual incomes of over $100,000, Suffolk also has the highest proportion (29 percent) of Jewish households with income of less than $50,000. Suffolk has the second highest proportion of married or partnered Jewish households. Suffolk has the highest intermarriage rate of all eight counties. Nearly half of the Jewish population in Suffolk County is geographically scattered, residing outside of more Jewishly populated areas.


The number of Jews and the number of people in Jewish households in Westchester has increased by 5 percent, the largest Jewish population growth of the three suburban areas. Westchester has the highest proportion of Reform-identified Jewish among the eight counties. The North-Central and Northwestern Westchester area is one of the most affluent areas in the eight counties and it has the third-highest level of volunteering for any organization, Jewish or secular. Westchester has the highest percentage of affluent Jewish households in the eight-county area. Westchester is the least diverse of the eight counties with respect to Jewish households with multi-racial and LGBT family members.

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