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Community Studies

The Steinhardt Social Research Institute at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies works with local residents and leaders to design and implement studies most appropriate for that community's particular needs. Community studies have focused on population characteristics and estimates as well as economic need.

To learn more, visit community studies


Director's Letter

November 17, 2016 

Len Saxe

Dear Friends,

The presidential election has dominated our lives over the last several weeks and its implications have only begun to unfold. On a professional level, the post-election discussion on surveys and polls of public attitudes and behavior has been sobering. As I wrote in a recent op-ed (co-authored with Janet Aronson and Matthew Boxer), pollsters appear to be a casualty of the election. I make the case for better education on the limitations and best uses of surveys in my piece published today in ejewishphilanthropy.

On a related front, I am pleased to announce the release of the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study, conducted on behalf of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. We found a growing and diverse community with members who participate in Jewish life in a variety of ways.

Although it had a relatively simple goal—to describe the size and character of the Boston area’s Jewish population—the study is one of the most complex projects we have carried out. Our goal in designing the Boston study was to go beyond demographic studies (such as Pew’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans) that focus on estimating the number of Jews and how they think about their identities. In addition to describing the demographic characteristics of the community, we wanted to emphasize the different ways that Jews enact their Judaism and Jewish identities. Some of us are deeply immersed in religious life, while others express their Jewish connections through involvement in communal organizations. Rather than viewing Jewish engagement as a continuum spanning those not at all engaged to those very engaged, we created a typology (the engagement index) to represent the five clusters of engagement we found in the Greater Boston Jewish community.

We hope that the engagement index will stimulate a new conversation about how the community can deepen the involvement of the many who are interested in, but not yet invested in, Jewish life, both within the Greater Boston area as well as the American Jewish community at large. Our research team will continue to refine our approach to studying Jewish communities as we go forward.

Our news section includes two announcements of community studies we will be undertaking in Pittsburgh and Greater Washington, DC. We look forward to sharing those findings with you in the future.


Len signature
Leonard Saxe, PhD
Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies 
Director Steinhardt Social Research Institute, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University