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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

February 2, 2015 at 1:41 PM

Seattle’s Jewish population jumped by 70 percent, study finds

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As fast as Seattle has been growing lately, the area’s Jewish population has grown even faster.

A newly released study pegs the number at 63,400 — a 70 percent increase since 2001, the last time a similar study was conducted. That means the Jewish population here grew at a rate three times faster than the area’s total population in this period.

The study was commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and conducted by a research team from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.

So what’s behind the boom?

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.

Daniel A. Weiner, the Senior Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, is surprised by the 70 percent growth rate — but only a little. “I have absolutely seen an upswing in millennial Jews, especially in the downtown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods,” he says. Weiner believes the city is especially attractive to younger Jews, who tend to be both well-educated and ideologically progressive — a perfect demographic match for Seattle.

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).

The largest Jewish community is in Southeast Seattle (including Seward Park), home to 17 percent of the region’s Jewish households. Southwest Seattle is the least Jewish part of the city. Outside Seattle, cities with substantial Jewish communities include Bellevue and Mercer Island, where fully one-quarter of the 9,400 households are Jewish.

Other findings in the study include:

  • About two-thirds (68%) of Seattle Jewish adults identify as Jewish by religion, while the remaining 32% identify as culturally or ethnically Jewish.
  • Among married Seattle Jews, more than half (56 percent) are married to someone who isn’t Jewish.
  • One-third of respondents never attend synagogue, and 31 percent say they only go once or twice a year. This is similar to the rate of synagogue attendance at the national level.
  • More than half of Seattle Jews says they feel only a little, or not at all, connected to the local Jewish community.
  • 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.

Interested in learning more about the study? The Brandeis University study research team will be in Seattle to present their findings and answer questions on Feb. 11 and 12. For more information and to RSVP, click here (scroll to bottom of page).



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