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Dual Chanukah-Christmas Observances Growing In Detroit Jewish Households

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

From the JN Staff

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.

With Chanukah starting the evening of Dec. 2, Jewish households across the Detroit Metropolitan area will celebrate by lighting candles and partaking in customary meals and exchanges of gifts. The community’s shifting religious composition offers some insights into the way the Festival of Lights is celebrated.

Based on the 2018 Detroit Jewish population study, 71 percent of our community’s 31,500 Jewish households always or usually light Chanukah candles (59 percent always). This compares to 77.1 percent who always or usually lit Chanukah candles (68.9 percent always) from data contained in the comparable 2005 community study.

Could the downward trend be a result of changes in the religious composition of Jewish households? Maybe. Maybe not.

Read a related story – A Mixed Bag.

The 2018 study shows that 30 percent of couples in Jewish households are intermarried, almost double the number (16 percent) reported in the 2005 study. However, in the 2018 study, 63.3 percent of these households always or usually light Chanukah candles (55.8 percent always), up from 54.4 percent who always or usually did so in 2005 (46.4 percent always).

But the data suggest there is a cross-current of religious observance taking place in more households.

The 2018 study reveals that 25 percent of Jewish households always, usually or sometimes have a Christmas tree (14 percent always). The 2005 study showed that 14.9 percent always, usually or sometimes had a Christmas tree, with 9.2 percent always having one. Of Jewish households with children under the age of 18, 31 percent said they always, usually or sometimes had a Christmas tree, compared with 20.9 percent in 2005.

To muddy the waters a bit more … of those Jewish households in the 2018 study who always, usually or sometimes have a Christmas tree, 49 percent always light Chanukah candles.

Questions:

  • Studies continue to show a high correlation between levels of Jewish education and Jewish affiliation and engagement. What should the Jewish community do to expand the Jewish educational opportunities for intermarried families and their children?
  • Larger numbers of intermarried Jewish households are located outside of the Detroit Jewish community’s core area (primarily in Wayne County). Does the community have greater, lesser or equal responsibility in attempting to engage these families? Would the community have a higher “return on investment” of its finite charitable dollars by investing them in the core area (the core area includes West Bloomfield, Farmington Hills, Birmingham, Bloomfield, Southfield, Oak Park, Huntington Woods and Franklin)?

Read a related story – A Mixed Bag.

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