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The Contours of Our Jewish Community: Snapshots From the 2018 Population Study

Editor’s Note: Each week, the Jewish News will offer insights into the findings of the 2018 Detroit Jewish Population Study with the intent of stimulating discussion about its potential meaning and impact.

The Detroit Jewish community is nationally recognized for its programs and services targeting youth.

Tamarack Camps, Michigan Region BBYO, the community-wide Teen Mission to Israel, the Jewish Community Center day camp, plus the Hillel, Farber-Akiva, Frankel Jewish Academy, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah and Darchei Torah day schools — as well as our synagogues, movement youth groups — all play significant roles in serving the estimated 15,100 children under the age of 18 identified by the 2018 population study.

There’s just one problem … The 2005 population study identified 19,344 children in this identical age cohort, a decline of 4,244 children. And virtually all this significant decline can be found in the age 6-12 and age 13-17 cohorts.

The one area of population growth in the under-18 crowd is in the Orthodox community. The study shows that 41 percent of the Detroit Jewish community’s Orthodox community is under the age of 18 and that 56 percent of Orthodox families have at least four household members.

Since Orthodox children cannot be expected to attend Tamarack or the JCC day camps, participate in BBYO, join the community-wide Teen Mission to Israel or attend Hillel Day School and Frankel Jewish Academy, the data suggest that, as a community, we are likely to face “overcapacity” in our non-Orthodox facilities and programs. Concurrently, the study suggests that our non-Zionist Orthodox institutions will be facing significant “under capacity” issues.

Discussion Question

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and its United Jewish Foundation are currently looking at the community’s overall “footprint” of buildings and facilities with an eye toward reducing square footage and consolidating some operations. What would you advise them?

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