2021 Study of Jewish LA

Janet Krasner Aronson, Matthew A. Brookner, Leonard Saxe, Adina Bankier-Karp, Matthew Boxer, Zachary H. Seeskin, David Dutwin

LA Jewish community study report cover

June 2022

The Los Angeles Jewish community is the 2nd largest federated Jewish community in the United States. Its size and diversity make it unique. The community includes 565,000 Jewish individuals living in nearly 300,000 households. More than 175,000 non-Jews live in households with adult Jews. The community’s diversity is reflected in part by the large number of individuals who are immigrants or children of immigrants. In addition to other markers of personal identity, diversity also encompasses varied expressions of Jewish identity and engagement with Jewish life.

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Among the findings:

Community size

  • Over 560,000 Jewish individuals (adults and children)
  • Nearly 300,000 Jewish households
  • Nearly 740,000 individuals in Jewish households
  • Second largest Jewish community in United States (based on Jewish federation catchment areas)
  • 25% growth in number of Jewish households compared to 1997 report

Jewish households

  • One quarter of households include children younger than age 18.
  • About 30% of households include a single adult living alone.
  • About 30% of households include a couple without children.
  • Seventy percent of Jewish adults in LA are married or partnered.
  • Among those who are married or partnered, 42% are intermarried (have a spouse/partner who is not Jewish).

Diversity of origins

  • About half of Jewish households in LA include an immigrant to the United States or someone whose parent was an immigrant.
  • Jewish adults’ regions of origin include Russia/the Former Soviet Union, Latin America, Israel, Iran, and Europe.
  • These households are unique in some of their demographic characteristics and in the ways they engage in Jewish life.

Diversity of race and ethnicity

  • Six percent of LA Jewish adults identify as a person of color, and 9% of Jewish children are considered by a parent as a person of color.
  • The growing share of Jewish children identifying as people of color suggest that the racial diversity of the LA Jewish community is likely to increase over time.

Diversity of Jewish engagement

  • Five patterns of engagement by LA Jews were identified through statistical analysis of 20 different Jewish behaviors. These included ritual and cultural behaviors—whether conducted individually, with friends or family, or with formal or informal Jewish organizations.
  • Patterns of Jewish behavior are closely associated with attitudes about being Jewish: how individuals understand the importance of being Jewish and which aspects of Jewish life are most important to them.
  • The attitudes and patterns form a fuller picture of Jewish identity in Jewish LA and help identify diverse entry points for Jewish belonging, community, and meaning.
  • Each category name reflects the primary way that each group engages in Jewish life.

 Jewish denominations and practices

  • Half of all LA Jewish adults have no denomination and identify either as secular/cultural Jews or as “just Jewish.” Not identifying with a specific denomination, however, should not be interpreted as the absence of Jewish engagement.
  • Among the half of LA Jewish adults with no denomination, Jewish engagement falls along the full spectrum. It includes Jewish individuals who are engaged with Jewish organizations, with home-based and personal Jewish behaviors, and with communal and religious life.
  • One quarter of Jewish adults in LA reside in households in which someone is a member of a synagogue, congregation, or other Jewish worship community, significantly lower than the national average.
  • More than one quarter of Jewish adults mark Shabbat weekly or almost weekly in some way, including taking a break from work or technology.
  • Jewish identity is expressed by many LA Jews outside of institutional affiliations. More than half of Jewish adults ages 22-30 talk about Jewish topics frequently, and almost one quarter read or watch Jewish-themed books, films, or music frequently.

Attitudes about being Jewish

  • About half of Jewish adults think that being Jewish is very (31%) or extremely (23%) important to how they think about themselves.
  • Among all LA Jewish adults, the majority believe leading a moral and ethical life (69%), connecting family and traditions (62%), and working for justice and equality (54%) are essential to being Jewish.
  • A welcoming and inclusive environment is important to helping LA Jewish adults feel comfortable at Jewish events. Nearly half of LA Jewish adults of all ages feel more welcome when they see themselves reflected in the people who attend Jewish programs and when people with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds attend Jewish programs.
  • Israel plays a central role in the Jewish identity of many Jewish adults in LA. More than half of LA Jewish adults have been to Israel, 65% feel somewhat or very attached to Israel, and 80% of Jewish adults consider Israel to be an important or essential part of being Jewish.
  • Antisemitism, both in the United States and around the world, is a great concern to nearly all Jewish adults in Los Angeles. Three-quarters are very concerned about antisemitism around the world, and nearly 70% are very concerned about antisemitism in the United States. Overall, 18% of Jewish adults in LA indicated that they personally experienced antisemitism in the previous year.

Financial well-being

  • Close to one-in-five Jewish households are “just managing to make ends meet” (18%), and almost the same proportion of households describe their standard of living as “well-off.”
  • Close to half of the households that are currently financially struggling report that their financial situation has worsened since the pandemic began.

Health

  • Close to one-in-four LA Jewish households (23%) include someone with a chronic health issue, mental health issue, special need, or disability that limits work, school, or activities.
  • One of the most significant needs in the LA Jewish community is for mental health services
  • Of all LA Jewish households, 6% report that there is someone in the household with a severe and persistent mental illness, and 30% report having someone in the household who needs mental health or substance abuse treatment.
  • Among Jewish households headed by young adults ages 22-30, 21% report severe and persistent mental illness, and nearly half (47%) need mental health or substance abuse treatment services. Of those who report that they did need a mental health service, 22% did not receive this service.