Miami Jewry Sees First Gain Since 1975

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Miami has become a magnet for Latin American — and Israeli — Jews.

For the first time in four decades, Miami Jewry is growing.
 
That’s the finding of the new Miami Jewish population study released Oct. 13 by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
 
The Jewish population of Miami-Dade County increased 9 percent over the last decade, to 123,000 from 113,000 in 2004, according to the survey.
 
The findings confirm trends long suggested by anecdotal evidence, as Miami has become a magnet in recent years for Latin Americans, including Jews from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru.
 
Miami has a higher proportion of foreign-born Jewish adults than any other American Jewish community, at 33 percent, according to the study. Researchers also found a 57 percent increase over the last decade in Hispanic Jewish adults there.
 
The survey, 2014 Greater Miami Jewish Federation Population Study: A Portrait of the Miami Jewish Community, is the first concrete evidence of Jewish growth in Miami since 1975.
 
“In the past decade, we have seen a flow of new Jewish residents, as well as an increase in the length of residency in Miami,” Michelle Labgold, the federation’s chief planning officer, said in a statement. “This is significant news because Miami’s Jewish community experienced a steady decline in population between 1975 and 2004.”
 
Miami remains the smallest of the three heavily Jewish South Florida counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. A 2005 survey counted 256,000 Jews in Palm Beach County, and a 2008 study found 186,500 Jews in Broward. Together, the three counties’ 550,000 or so Jews make up the third-largest Jewish metro area in the nation, behind New York and Los Angeles.
 
Of Miami’s foreign-born Jews, the largest group by far is Israelis. Some 5,180 Miami Jews were born in Israel, and approximately 9,000 adults consider themselves Israeli. About 3,700 Miami Jews were born in Cuba; 2,854 in Argentina; 2,643 in Venezuela; 2,537 in Colombia; and 2,220 in Canada.
 
Part of Miami’s recent growth is Orthodox. Compared to the last federation study, in 2004, the number of people residing in Orthodox Jewish households grew by 41 percent — “mostly due to a significant increase in the average size of Orthodox households,” the study reported. The survey found the overall percentage of Jewish Miami households identifying as Orthodox up to 11 percent from 9 percent in 2004; Reform Jewish households up to 31 percent from 27 percent; Conservative households down to 26 percent from 32 percent; and “just Jewish” households steady at 32 percent.
 
Miami has about 47,000 Jews under age 35; 43,000 Jews aged 35-64; and 40,000 age 65 and older. The largest growth since 2004 was in the 18-34 age range and the 65-74 range — both grew by 26 percent in the last decade.
 
The survey found high rates of Jewish attachment. Only 16 percent of couples reported being intermarried, 74 percent said being Jewish is “very important to them” and eight in 10 children had some type of formal Jewish education, such as Jewish day school, Hebrew school or private tutoring. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” attached to Israel.
 
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they cannot make ends meet or are just holding on financially. Thirty-five percent of households said they needed some kind of social services in the past year
 
The study interviewed 2,020 Jews and had a margin of error of 2.2 percent. It was conducted by Jewish demographer Ira Sheskin, a professor of geography at the University of Miami who has authored 43 Jewish federation population studies. 

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