A new study of independent Jewish communities has found that their members tend to be both younger than synagogue members and more strongly connected to Judaism.
According to a study of 80 spiritual communities across North America, 74% of participants in these groups are young adults, compared with 29% of synagogue members. This figure is particularly significant, given ongoing concerns about declining levels of Jewish affiliation among young Jews. The study, which was conducted by an independent prayer group in New York and by Synagogue 3000, a not-for-profit dedicated to innovative approaches to worship, examined Jewish groups that have been founded since 1996 and that are not affiliated with a synagogue or a larger Jewish organization.
The study estimated the overall number of such groups, but it does not give an estimate of how many people are involved with them.
Sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who led the study, argued that even without being able to gauge the total number of participants in these groups, the demographic profile of the participants themselves was significant.
"These are young, nonmarried adults. They don't join synagogues," he said. "So the fact that they're showing up at all is surprising."
Cohen told the Forward that the independent groups were dispersed across the entire country.
The study found that participants in these groups are more likely than synagogue members to attend services regularly. They are also more likely to have had intensive Jewish experiences, such as attendance at a day school or at a Jewish camp.
The vast majority of participants in the independent communities identified as either unaffiliated or Conservative Jews, and 65% of participants are women.
Wed. Dec 05, 2007