The newly released Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study is an in-depth study that was conducted by a research team from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Jewish Studies.
The results show that the greater Seattle Jewish community is now composed of 63,400 Jewish individuals who live in 33,700 households. It is estimated that there are 49,600 Jewish adults in the community, of whom 32,700 (68%) identify as Jewish by religion and 16,900 (32%) who identify as Jewish by other criteria (i.e ethnic, cultural). An estimated 13,800 Jewish children (aged 17 and under) live with these adults. The 2014 population is 70% larger than the 2000-2001 estimate of 37,180 Jewish individuals.
Leonard Saxe, one of the study’s authors, believe it’s largely due to the region’s rapid growth in industries such as tech, sciences and engineering — all fields that require a highly educated workforce. Saxe points to the study’s findings that 89 percent of Jews in the Seattle area are college graduates, and more than half have an advanced degree. “Given how Seattle has developed economically, it makes sense,” he says.
According to the study, a little more than half the region’s Jews — roughly 33,000 — live in the city of Seattle. That pencils out to 5 percent of Seattle’s population, making Jews one of the city’s larger ethnic groups. In fact, Seattle is more Jewish these days than it is Norwegian (about 24,000 Seattleites claim Norwegian as their primary ancestry in the most recent census data).
Some interesting points to note:
About one-third reported some type of anti-Semitic experience in the past year, mostly in the form of Jewish “jokes,” use of stereotypes or comments related to Israel. More than half (56 percent) of Seattle Jews have traveled to Israel at least once, higher than the national average of 43 percent.
Demographic Estimates : 49,600 Jewish adults and 13,800 Jewish children living in 33,700 households. 30% of households include children. 16% of households include only those aged 65 and older. Median age is 39; median age of adults only is 48.
Marriage/Intermarriage: 61% of Jewish adults are married. Of those, 56% are intermarried. 66% of children are being raised Jewish only and another 10% are being raised Jewish and another religion. Only 1% are being raised solely with another religion. The remainder are being raised in no religion or the parents have not yet decided upon a religion in which to raise them. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of Jewish households in the Greater Seattle area are estimated to include a married couple. Among non-Orthodox Jews, 58% are intermarried. These rates are very similar across all age groups except for respondents age 65 or older, who are more likely to be married to Jews.
Nearly all (91%) endogamous Jewish couples (non-intermarried) with children are raising their children as Jews; the few exceptions are either raising their children with no religion or have not yet decided how to raise their children. Among intermarried couples, the majority (51%) are raising their children either exclusively or partly Jewish. Almost all of the other intermarried couples are raising their children with no religion or have not yet decided about a religion.
Religious observance: 41% of Jewish adults do not affiliate with a specific denomination. Of those who do, the largest denomination is Reform (28%), followed by Conservative (14%) and Orthodox (7%). 20% attend religious services at least once a month and 33% never attend religious services. 34% of all households are synagogue members. 19% of households light Shabbat candles usually or always; 32% follow at least some rules of kashrut.
About one-third of respondents never attend religious services and another 31% attend only once or twice a year. Twenty percent reported they attend at least once a month. Among synagogue members, half (49%) attend religious services at least once a month; among nonmembers, half (52%) never attend religious services.
Respondents were asked about their current levels of observance of selected Jewish religious rituals. Seventy-nine percent hold or attend a Passover seder (n=2,888) and 84% light Hanukkah candles (n=2,882). Nineteen percent light Shabbat candles usually or always, and 53% never do. These rates are similar to national averages: 70% of Jews participated in a seder last year and 23% usually or always light Shabbat candles.
Sixty-eight percent of the overall Greater Seattle Jewish community does not follow any kosher rules. The proportion who keep kosher at home or always (i.e., also outside the home) is 10% overall. This proportion is significantly lower than the national average; according to the 2013 Pew study, 22% of all Jews keep kosher at home,
Geographic Preference: 57% of Jewish households in Greater Seattle live in the City of Seattle, including 17% in Southeast Seattle and 15% in Northeast Seattle. Another 8% are in Bellevue, 7% in Mercer Island, and 3% in Redmond. 14% are in other locations in King County. 2.5% of King County’s population is Jewish. The combined population of Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, and Island Counties is 0.5% Jewish.
Jewish Life :20% attend religious services at least once a month and 33% never attend religious services. 34% of all households are synagogue members. In two-thirds of households, at least one household member participated in some type of Jewish programs aside from religious services such as educational, social, or cultural programming. 8% of households claim membership in the Stroum JCC.
Israel:Ties to Israel are strong. 56% have visited Israel at least once. 56% feel somewhat or very connected to Israel. Ties to the worldwide Jewish community are stronger than ties to the local Jewish community.
Anti-Semitism: About one-third (33%) reported anti-Semitic experiences in the past year. The vast majority (68%) of Greater Seattle Jewish adults reported that they did not personally experience anti-Semitism in the past year, and only 6% indicated that they “somewhat” or “very much” experienced anti-Semitism. Of those who indicated that they experienced anti-Semitism, the most frequent events (33%) constituted hearing comments that respondents considered to be anti-Semitic (e.g., Jewish “jokes”) followed by comments or incidents related to Israel (12%) and the use of Jewish stereotypes (11%). Not all respondents limited their comments to the past year or to events that transpired in the Greater Seattle area, so it is difficult to draw generalizable conclusions.
NOTE: The Seattle Jewish Federation shooting occurred on July 28, 2006, at around 4:00 p.m. Oacific Time. Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, one fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle Naveed Haq was convicted in December 2009 and sentenced to life without parole plus 120 years. Police have classified the shooting as a hate crime. The Prosecuting Attorney described the shooting as “one of the most serious crimes that has ever occurred in this city”
Jewish Education 40% of Jewish children in Greater Seattle participate in some form of formal Jewish education. A small number of children who are being raised with no religion have been enrolled in Jewish educational programs. Of age-eligible Jewish children, 32% are enrolled in Jewish preschool, 40% in supplementary school, and 5% in day school. Of age-eligible Jewish children, 23% participate in a Jewish youth group, 22% attend Jewish overnight camp, and 26% Jewish day camp. 59% of Jewish children over age 12 or 13 have had a bar or bat mitzvah. Young Adults; 17% of Jewish adults are between the ages of 18 and 35 and live in households without any children. Of all Jewish households, 9% are composed only of young adults. Young adults are much more likely to have been raised by intermarried parents (41%) compared to older adults (19%). Young adults are far more likely to have been raised in Judaism and another religion (20%) compared to older adults (4%). Among non-Orthodox young adults, few (20%) are married, but half (48%) of those marriages are to Jews. Young adults who are living with a significant other or partner (13%) are less likely to be with a Jewish partner (27%). Young adults think it is more important to raise Jewish children than to have a Jewish spouse or romantic partner. 53% say it is very important to raise Jewish children but half that number, 26%, say it is very important to marry someone Jewish. Young adults participate in non-Jewish programs somewhat more than Jewish programs. In the past six months, 56% of young adults have participated in a program sponsored by the Jewish community compared to 64% in non-Jewish programs. Almost all (92%) say they would be at least a little interested in becoming more involved with the local Jewish community.
Israel: Just over half of respondents (56%) have visited Israel at least once, higher than the national average of 43% reported by Pew. Sixty-seven percent of JBR adults have been to Israel at least once, significantly more than the national average of 49%. Similarly, 37% of Greater Seattle JNR adults have been to Israel at least once, compared to 23% nationally.