The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven recently completed a demographic study and analysis of the Jewish population in its service area. The entire results of the survey can be found at www.jewishdatabank.org under the link for New Haven, and I encourage you all to review the findings for yourselves. Essentially, the study found what we already suspected: the New Haven Jewish community is slowly declining, the majority of the population is in the 50 and over age range, and young people are not moving into or staying in Connecticut. Not a shock to anyone. We also learned that there are 1630 Jewish households (defined as one or more Jewish adults) and 3200 Jewish people in Hamden.
One of the statistics that if found surprising was the large number of people who identify themselves as Jewish but do not affiliate with a Temple. Approximately 47% of the Jewish households surveyed stated that they are not currently Temple members and will not become Temple Members in the future. Of that group, a little less than half used to be members, but are not currently members and will not rejoin. And, while these results may be disappointing, they are typical. Compared to all the studies performed on Jewish Communities by this group, these results are about average. If we do the math for Hamden, it means that there are 766 Jewish households out there that are not members of any temple. If we were able to get just 10% of them to join TBS it would increase our membership by nearly 20%.
Temples have served as the core of Jewish Communities in the United States since the 1600’s. When the first Jews came to the New World, they developed communities and opened Temples, even before they had Rabbis. They recognized the need for a place to worship, a place to celebrate, a place to learn, and a place where they could be amongst friends. This need still exists today and will continue to exist in the future.
So, when you meet Jewish people who are not members, encourage them to join. Encourage them to be a part of the community, to be a part of something bigger in this world, and participate in the age-old tradition of Temple life.