, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 237-283
Date: 30 Sep 2012

The Relationship of Jewish Community Contexts and Jewish Identity: A 22-Community Study

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Abstract

This paper explores the manner in which Jewish community contexts relate to Jewish identity. We employ the Decade 2000 Data Set that contains almost 20,000 randomly selected Jewish households from 22 American Jewish communities interviewed from 2000 to 2010. Because of the large sample size, and its incorporation of community infrastructure data, this research also is able to examine various influences on Jewish identity that have not been definitively addressed in previous research, including the manner in which characteristics of Jewish community infrastructure are related to individuals’ Jewish identity. The Decade 2000 Data Set used for the analysis is described and some of the methodological considerations involved in its use are presented. Jewish identity is conceptualized as multidimensional, and a factor analysis results in four Jewish identity factors: a communal religious factor, a private religious factor, a broader ethnic factor, and a local ethnic factor. Multiple regressions for each of the Jewish identity factors are related to Jewish community characteristics; more commonly researched individual-level variables (Jewish background and connections, family status, socioeconomic status, demographic/geographic characteristics); and survey-level variables (such as size of sample and year of study) are also controlled. Surprisingly, except for the local ethnic factor, Jewish community characteristics have little relationship to individual Jewish identity. The contributions to a “sociology of Jewish place” and suggestions for further research are also discussed.