The new population survey of Bay Area Jews found that Jews 18-34 are more likely to attend a Shabbat dinner and attend High Holy Days services than their older counterparts. Pictured: a 2017 Shabbat dinner funded by the organization OneTable (Photo/Natalie Schrik)
The new population survey of Bay Area Jews found that Jews 18-34 are more likely to attend a Shabbat dinner and attend High Holy Days services than their older counterparts. Pictured: a 2017 Shabbat dinner funded by the organization OneTable (Photo/Natalie Schrik)

New study of Bay Area Jews describes a unique, energetic community

As our cover story reports: We’re young, we’re diverse, we’re highly educated, and we don’t stay in one place for too long. We are less Jewishly engaged than our counterparts across the United States, and less emotionally tied to Israel.

Those are some of the findings of a just-completed study of the Jewish community in all 10 counties of the Greater Bay Area, whose results were released this week by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. It’s the first time such a comprehensive profile has been compiled, as earlier studies had a more narrow focus: in 2011, the East Bay, and in 2004, San Francisco, the North Bay and parts of the Peninsula.

Our story this week presents the study highlights. None are terribly surprising, but overall, they paint a portrait of a Jewish community unlike any other, shaped by the energy, spirit and iconoclasm of the West Coast.

A salient feature of the study is the continued Jewish exodus from San Francisco, which now houses just 17 percent of the local Jewish population. The fastest growing Jewish communities today, predictably, are in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, drawn by the tech industry to the south and more affordable housing to the east.

Nearly one-quarter of those living in Jewish households are not Jewish.

Another central data point is that nearly one-quarter of those living in Jewish households are not Jewish. And one-quarter are non-white — meaning Hispanic, African American, Asian American, or of other ethnic or racial background.

These findings have implications not just for synagogue life but for Jewish ritual life, too, and for how we pass on our heritage and traditions to the next generation.

And how’s this for a striking finding: Despite the Bay Area’s reputation for assimilated young people, it turns out Jews ages 18 to 34 score higher on participating in Shabbat meals and attending High Holy Day services than older survey respondents. That surely bodes well for our collective Jewish future.

In sum, the portrait created by this new study is many-hued. It presents challenges to our Jewish institutions, brings perspective and adds richness to our cultural life.

Over the next few months, more data from this study will be made public. We will examine that information in J., bringing you expert analysis of what it means, and how local Jewish organizations plan to use it to improve their work. That’s the job of your Jewish community publication.

Because you have to know where you are if you want to know where you’re going.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.