The Greater Denver Jewish Community Study: A portrait of Jewish life in the seven-county region was unveiled this week to nearly 200 Denver area Jewish community professionals and lay leaders at an event Dec. 10 hosted by Rose Community Foundation, the convener of the study. A similar meeting was scheduled in Boulder, Dec. 11.
The data and methodology were presented by one of the study’s authors, Dr. Janet Krasner Aronson of Brandeis University.
The study’s results offer insights into the perspectives and needs of increasingly diverse Jewish communities. The study is intended to serve as a data source for Jewish community organizations in the metro Denver-Boulder region.
More than 2,500 Jewish households in the greater Denver area participated in the survey, which surveys the area’s Jewish population, demographic composition, philanthropy and volunteering practices, community engagement levels and connection to Jewish life.
The results, it is hoped, will enable local organizations and funders to better understand and meet the needs of the Jewish community, including households with partners or other members who are not Jewish.
“The study’s results both challenge our preconceptions about Jewish life in the greater Denver area and affirm the efforts of Jewish organizations in the region,” said Vanessa Bernier, RCF’s program officer for Jewish Life.
“We hope local institutions and the community at-large will utilize these findings to best serve our diverse Jewish community.”
The data portrays a Jewish population that encompasses a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives.
The study estimated the current Jewish population in greater Denver as 72,900 adults and 17,900 children.
The study’s findings suggest the need for nuance and thoughtfulness when engaging with, speaking about and working in service to the Jewish community.
“Though the study’s results offer a detailed and thorough depiction of the greater Denver Jewish community, it is important to remember that these data do not exist in a vacuum; rather, they are one of many tools that may be used to guide and inform how to best engage, represent and serve the region’s Jewish population,” said Bernier, who led the second phase of the study.
For the purposes of the study, the following definitions were used:
• Jewish adults are those, age 18 and older, who consider themselves to be Jewish in any way (including Jewish and another religion) and have at least one Jewish parent, or were raised Jewish, or converted to Judaism.
• Jewish children (under age 18) are children of at least one Jewish parent being raised Jewish in any way (including Jewish and another religion.)
• Jewish households are defined as households in which at least one Jewish adult resides.
The full study and methodology are available publicly on Rose Community Foundation’s website, rcfdenver.org.
Previous metro Denver-Boulder Jewish community studies were conducted in 2007, 1997 and 1979.
Nationally, these studies are typically conducted every 10 years. With that in mind, though the 2019 study reliably depicts this moment in time, it is not predictive of future trends, nor is Rose comparing it to the 2007 study because that study was conducted with a different, outdated methology.
The 2019 study was conducted by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University.
The study’s authors are Dr. Janet Krasner Aronson, Matthew A. Brookner, Eliana Chapman, Harry Aaronson, Matthew Feinberg, Prof, Matthew Boxer, and Prof. Leonard Saxe.
Fran Simon, president and founder of Simon Analytics, Inc., provided assistance with the study.
The study’s research design utilized a dual-mode internet and telephone survey to reach residents of the greater Denver area.
The sample was drawn randomly from the combined mailing lists of local Jewish organizations as well as a purchased listed of local households in order to locate additional Jewish names.
To ensure complete coverage and correct for sampling bias, the researchers matched the results to population estimates derived from the American Jewish Population Project synthesis of random digit dialing and address-based sampling surveys as well as administrative data from local organizations.
The project design was developed with guidance from advisory committee members Judy Altenberg, Josh Gold, Rob Klugman, Dr. Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, Julie Shaffer, Dr. David Shneer, Rabbi Jay Strear and Emily Sturm.
Early research for the study began in 2017 and was led by Bruce Phillips, professor of sociology and Jewish communal service at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, and Dan Lainer-Vos, adjunct professor of sociology at UCLA.
Shere Kahn was the project manager for the first phase of work, in partnership with Lisa Farber Miller, who oversaw it in her former role as RCF’s senior program officer for Jewish Life.