In the 2017 Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study, we found that 59% of all Jewish adults in the greater area have visited Israel at least once. (Nationally, the average is 43% of all Jewish adults.)
That means that nearly two out of every three adults in Pittsburgh have been to the Holy Land!
But what else did we learn about the Jewish community’s connection to Israel? Where are they most connected? And where are the biggest areas of opportunity?
There is a strong correlation between geography and travel to Israel. Seventy-three percent of all Squirrel Hill’s Jewish residents have been to Israel at least once.
Interestingly, in the South Hills, where 53% of Jewish residents have been to Israel, community members reported the highest rates (43%) of feeling “very much” emotionally connected to Israel, higher than in Squirrel Hill (39%).
Despite the high rates of connectivity from residents in the South Hills to Israel, it is safe to say that there is undeniable link between traveling to Israel and feeling connected to Israel.
Of those who have never been to Israel, only 38% feel “very much” or “somewhat” connected to Israel. Whereas, of one time-visitors, 63% feel “very much” or “somewhat” connected. Naturally, those numbers jump as visits increase: to 84% of people who have visited multiple times and to 94% of people who have lived there or are Israeli.
Age Doesn’t Matter
A recurring refrain from this study is that the millennial population bucked the national stereotype of being un-engaged. And it certainly holds true as it relates to Israel.
Adults ages 18-34 are among the most connected to Israel with 40% feeling “very much” connected. That number drops to 22% among 35-49-year-olds. (Millennials, however, are NOT more likely to follow news about Israel on a daily basis.)
Some of these findings are likely due to the impact of Birthright, which was not as prevalent among Gen Xers as it is among the younger generation. People who have participated on Birthright are more likely to feel an emotional connection to Israel than those who have not.
Synagogue Membership Matters
If you are looking for a place where people feel connected to Israel, it makes sense to turn to a synagogue. Forty-four percent of synagogue members feel “very much” connected to Israel and 42% feel “somewhat” connected, compared to 27% and 26% of non-members.
Interestingly, the percentage of people who have traveled exactly once to Israel is roughly the same for members (21%) and non-members (23%). However, the percentage of people who have traveled to Israel multiple times is significantly higher for members (46%) than it is for non-members (20%).
Areas of Need
When looking at the greatest opportunities for growth, there are several places to begin exploring.
1. Intermarried Jews don’t travel to Israel (48%) at the same rates as inmarried Jews (66%) and, as a corollary, 39% feel not at all connected to Israel (compared to 12% of inmarried Jews).
2. Jews in the city of Pittsburgh but outside of Squirrel Hill feel the least connected to Israel (29% feel not at all connected).
3. Thirty-five percent of Jews ages 35-49 feel not at all connected to Israel, a significantly higher percentage than the other age groups.