A Closer Look at the Immersed Group

In the previous post, we talked about the limits of denominational identity. As evidenced both by the 2013 Pew report and the Pittsburgh Community Study, more and more people self-identify as “Just Jewish” or “Secular,” and fewer and fewer people self-identify with one of the more traditional denominations.

The Community Study offers an alternative solution to measuring engagement. We selected 15 behaviors and grouped community members together. Five different categories of Jewish engagement emerged. Today’s post discusses the most engaged group, which we labeled the Immersed Group.

Table 3.1 Behaviors used to construct Index of Jewish Engagement

 ImmersedConnectedInvolvedHolidayMinimally Involved
Family holidays
Passover seder (typically)100%98%77%70%10%
Hanukkah (typically)100%97%73%97%14%
Kosher at home or always66%6%3%28%1%
Shabbat candles or dinner (usually/always)99%26%21%24%0%
Services at least monthly89%23%1%2%0%
Yom Kippur fast (all or part of day)99%92%46%72%2%
High Holy Day services (any in 2016)100%95%8%42%0%
Personal activities
Jewish cultural activities weekly or more (book, music, TV, museum)54%14%14%4%1%
Jewish news or websites monthly or more100%91%97%42%19%
Israel news monthly or more93%79%78%57%56%
Communal activities
Synagogue member96%67%5%22%0%
Organization (JCC, formal, informal)79%64%58%25%10%
Volunteered with or for a Jewish organization in past month41%33%12%5%1%
Donated to a Jewish organization in past year95%90%71%33%14%

The Immersed Group accounts for roughly 16% of all Jewish community members, or 7,000 adults. These individuals interact with their Judaism at multiple points throughout their day.

As we will explore, all the groups cross denominational boundaries, and the Immersed Group is no exception.

Table 3.5 Denomination by Jewish engagement

(% of Jewish adults)
Minimally Involved0011781100

Less than half (46%) of this group is Orthodox. Thirty-two percent is Conservative and another 15% is reform.

Many of the behaviors of this group are fairly predictable. They raise their children as Jews. The overwhelming majority of them are members of a synagogue (and attend services as well), send their children to a Jewish day school or part-time school, and donate to Jewish causes.

Still other qualities are more surprising. Of those that are married, 16% are intermarried. (To a certain degree, this dispels the myth that once someone intermarries, he/she will lose a connection to Jewish life.)

Sixty-three percent of this group feels very attached to Israel and fifty-two percent feel very connected to the local community. Forty-one percent volunteer for a Jewish cause.

So, as you can see, this is a much more informative and accurate approach than the denominational label.

It tells us what people are actually doing.

And as we look into the other groups, we will see that service providers throughout Pittsburgh can tailor their programming to different groups.

Because not all people are looking for the same thing. And this breakdown of one large segment of our population helps identify what they are seeking and how best to deliver them the services they require.


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