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Study Finds Florida Jews are on the Rise



At 33%, Miami has a higher proportion of foreign-born Jewish adults than any other American Jewish community, according to survey. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

In Miami, Florida, Jewry is on the rise for the first time in 40 years. This is based on a study conducted by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, which released its official findings of the new Miami Jewish population on Monday, October 13.

Over the last decade the Jewish population of Miami-Dade County increased from 113,000 in 2004, 9 percent to 123,000, according to the survey. This is slightly smaller than West Palm Beach and slightly larger than the Jewish community of Atlanta.

In recent years Miami has attracted many Latin Americans, including Jews from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru; the findings validate trends long suggested by anecdotal evidence. In search of greater political or economic security, many have come to the United States and found the city of Miami to have a strong Latin identity and not too far from home.

According to the study, out of all American Jewish communities, Miami has the greatest proportion of foreign-born Jewish adults, at 33 percent.  Out of the 2.6 million residents of Miami, 51 percent are foreign-born. Also found by researcher, is an increase of 57 percent of Hispanic Jewish adults in Miami over the last decade.

The survey, titled “2014 Greater Miami Jewish Federation Population Study: A Portrait of the Miami Jewish Community,” presents the first solid evidence since 1975 of Jewish growth in Miami.

“In the past decade, we have seen a flow of new Jewish residents, as well as an increase in the length of residency in Miami,” Michelle Labgold, the federation’s chief planning officer, said in a statement. “This is significant news because Miami’s Jewish community experienced a steady decline in population between 1975 and 2004.”

Out of the three largely Jewish South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, Miami is still the smallest. A survey conducted in 2005 found 256,000 Jews in Palm Beach County, and a study in 2008 counted 186,500 Jews in Broward. The combined counties contain approximately 550,000 Jews, which makes it the third-biggest metro Jewish area in the U.S., only behind New York and Los Angeles.

Israelis is by far Miami’s largest group of foreign-born Jews. About 5,180 Miami Jews were born in Israel, and around 9,000 adults consider themselves Israeli. Approximately 3,700 Miami Jews were born in Cuba; 2,854 in Argentina; 2,537 in Colombia; 2,220 in Canada; and 2,643 in Venezuela.

A portion of the recent growth in Miami is Orthodox. The number of people living in Orthodox Jewish households has risen by 41 percent, when compared to the 2004 federation study. The study also reported that the overall percentage of Jewish Miami households identifying as Orthodox rose up to 11 percent from 9 percent in 2004; the number of Reform Jewish households up to 31 percent from 27 percent; the number of Conservative households down to 26 percent from 32 percent; and households that are “just Jewish” has remained at about 32 percent.

Miami has about 47,000 Jews under age 35; 43,000 Jews aged 35-64; and 40,000 age 65 and older. The largest growth since 2004 was in the 18-34 age range and the 65-74 range (the baby boomers); both grew by 26 percent over the last 10 years.

Rates of Jewish attachments were found to be relatively high by the survey.  A mere 16 percent of couples reported being intermarried, 74 percent said being Jewish is “very important to them” and eight in 10 children have had some type of formal Jewish education.  Sixty-two percent said they were “very” or “extremely” attached to Israel.

Financially, twenty-nine percent of respondents said they cannot make ends meet or are just holding on financially. Thirty-five percent of households said they needed some kind of social services in the past year.

The study interviewed 2,020 Jews and had a margin of error of 2.2 percent. It was conducted by Jewish demographer Ira Sheskin, a professor of geography at the University of Miami who has authored 43 Jewish federation population studies.

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