A new year-long project will produce a study offering a comprehensive understanding of the entire Jewish population in the greater Denver area, helping to inform the engagement strategies of local institutions, philanthropies and the community at large.
The project is supported by the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Colorado, Sturm Family Foundation and Rose Community Foundation.
Known as the “Greater Denver Jewish Community Study: A portrait of Jewish Life in the Seven-County Region,” the study will garner information about the size of the Jewish communities in the greater Denver area and the population’s demographics, socio-economic data, geography, connections with community, levels and types of Jewish engagement, and more.
Project leadership met previously with 34 local Jewish institution leaders to learn directly from them what data and insights would be most helpful.
To help fine tune the questions for the study’s anonymous survey, an online Wiki Survey — an open method for collecting data — will be available to anyone in the local communities to identify questions most important to them, and to enable respondents to suggest questions the survey should include.
“We want to craft a study in deep collaboration with everyone in our region, and we hope Jewish people and their loved ones who receive a phone call participate in the study,” says Lisa Farber Miller, senior program officer, RCF, which is overseeing the study with Project Manager Shere Kahn.
“To begin this public process, we want to continue learning what kind of information about the Jewish population people want to know.
“Then, we can all digest the learnings and use them to inform how we help more people connect with community and create inclusive, vibrant, and meaningful Jewish life for all.”
The last metro Denver demographic study was in 2007.
These studies are typically conducted every ten years, especially in rapidly growing areas.
The greater Denver area has the highest net annual migration gain of people ages 25 to 34 of any US metropolitan area from 2009-2014, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.
Yet, with increased housing costs, many younger Jews and newcomers are moving to outlying areas.
More Jewish people are creating their own Jewish life outside of institutions, making the population more difficult to identify.
The study will focus on populations like millennials, boomers and others that emerge from the data to learn about their needs and desires for Jewish life.
The study will be led by Mid-City Social Research — selected after a rigorous RFP process — with co-principals Bruce A. Phillips, PhD, professor of sociology and Jewish communal service, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, and Dan Lainer-Vos, PhD, adjunct professor of sociology, University of California, Los Angeles.
They will leverage new, innovative and technologically advanced ways to reach as many Jewish people and their loved ones as possible.
Innovative sampling method using voter registration information and big data will identify households for the random sample.
The study also will use respondent-driven sampling (RDS), which uses social networks to reach deep into the Jewish community to find people who may not be on any Jewish organization list.
Random digit dialing (RDD) will randomly dial households in areas where Jewish people are known to reside until a Jewish household is identified and willing to complete the survey.
RDD will be used to estimate the size of the Jewish population.
“By working so closely with the community, the survey really can be tailored specifically to the greater Denver area,” says Mid-City’s Phillips.
“Since respondents will be able to share the survey with their friends, we will gain a really interesting understanding of how social networks connect and relate to each other here.”
In addition to the primary survey, a separate survey will be given specifically to partners in interfaith relationships who do not identify as Jewish, the first of its kind on a region-wide scale. Greater Denver has a high rate of intermarriage. The study will offer insights to help local institutions and community be welcoming to all Jewish families.
“We want everyone in the Jewish community, whether Jewish or a loved one, to be a part of this study — and really the entire learning process,” says Emily Sturm, co-managing director, Sturm Family Foundation.
Ten thought partners are helping guide the study process, including Judy Altenberg, chair, RCF Jewish life committee; Lisa Farber Miller, senior program officer, RCF; Josh Gold, MazelTogether manager; Shere Kahn, project manager; Rob Klugman, RCF Jewish life committee; Jennifer Korman, vice president of strategy and programming, JEWISHcolorado; Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, director, Berman Jewish Data Bank; Julie Shaffer, executive director, Oreg Foundation; David Shneer, CU Louis P. Singer Chair of Jewish History Director, and member, RCF Jewish life committee; and Emily Sturm, co-managing director, Sturm Family Foundation.
The community study will be released to the public upon completion, expected to be in early 2019.
The study anticipates 1,675 people responding to the survey.