Released early this month, A Blueprint for our Future: The 2022 San Diego Jewish Community Study was conducted by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS) at Brandeis University, in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago. The principal goal of the study is to provide valid data about the San Diego Jewish community that can be used by communal organizations and their leadership to design programs and policies that support and enhance Jewish life.
Speaking together about the importance of the study, especially during a time where Antisemitic events are on the rise and war in Israel continues, Beth Sirull, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego, and Carole Yellen, senior director, Center for Jewish Care at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, said data will be used to allocate resources and develop community programming in the years to come.
“The last time that a Jewish community study was conducted in San Diego was in 2003; 20 years ago,” Sirull said. “While our community is thriving, [with this study], we wanted to make sure that we understood the diversity of the population so that we have accurate and up to date information to make decisions moving forward with how to best support our Jewish community.”
The process to launch, design and implement the study was led by the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS and the Leichtag Foundation. The comprehensive report represents community collaboration and a response to serving the diverse Jewish community in San Diego County.
“We all know that resources are extremely precious and there’s never enough of them,” Yellen said. “So, being able to make decisions based on data, to allocate resources to best support the community is really critical at this time.”
Among the key findings from the report, 70% of local Jewish adults are very concerned about antisemitism around the world, and 64% are very concerned about antisemitism in the United States. (It is important to note that the study was conducted before the events of October 7.)
Even in late 2022 when study data was collected, Sirull points out, 91% of those who were surveyed recognized that there was “a need for Israel to exist as a safe refuge for the Jewish people,” and 65% reported that they have some emotional attachment to Israel or that Israel is “a key and essential part to many of our local community’s Jewish identity.”
One of the more eye-opening statistics from the study: About 19-22% of Jewish households in San Diego earn under 80% of the Area Median Income, which is defined as low-income in San Diego County. About one-third of these financially struggling households said they could not afford a $400 emergency expense.
“At the Center for Jewish Care at JFS, we have a unique obligation and cultural expertise to support our Jewish community, and our focus is to work locally,” Yellen said. “While we continue to get the calls from those who are at this moment struggling to make ends meet, whether it’s because they are food insecure or they can’t make next month’s rent; we now have on top of that, the emotional impact of this moment in time.
“We are always assessing whether people feel that they are connected to community because community is one source of support, and we want to make sure that people have a support network at times like this.”
For both Yellen and Sirull, the data alone does not dictate action, which is why the community has been invited to participate in an event next month and upcoming workshops to dig into the results and learnings from the study. On Sunday, December 3, from 3:30-6:30 p.m., the community is invited to engage in crucial dialogue about who we are, how we view
the most important issues facing us today, and what it means to be Jewish. The event will also include an update on the situation in Israel.
“Data informs the conversation, but it doesn’t tell you what to do,” Sirull said. “As we look at the next generation and we look into the future creating welcoming communities and understanding the diversity of the Jewish experience is going to be really critical.”
To learn more and to attend “Blueprint for our Future: A Community Gathering + Conversation,” pre-registration is required at www.lfjcc.org/study.