Knowledge of the size, geographic distribution, and basic socio-demographic characteristics of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community provides context for understanding the character, behavior, and attitudes of community members. Pittsburgh Jewry is not homogenous. The ways in which Pittsburgh Jews identify as Jewish and engage with the Jewish community vary significantly in terms of who they are, where they live, their household composition, their ages, and their Jewish identities. This demographic overview describes the size of the community and the basic characteristics of community members.
The 2017 community study estimates that the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community, as defined by the borders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s catchment area, numbers about 49,200 Jewish adults and children. Pittsburgh’s Jews constitute just over 2% of the area population. From 2002 to 2017, Pittsburgh’s Jewish population grew by about 17%. The overall regional population grew 2% from 2005 to 2016, but the population of Allegheny County, where the vast majority of the Jewish community lives, declined by 2%. It is often more appropriate, however, to compare the Jewish community to the non-Hispanic white college-educated population, which increased by 29% from 2005 to 2016 across both the full five- county area and Allegheny County alone.
Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Community Population Estimates, 2017
The findings of previous studies of the Jewish community of Greater Pittsburgh indicate that the size of the community has been relatively stable, with a slight overall decline over the past 80 years. The 1938 study, the earliest existing written report, estimated that there were 54,000 Jewish individuals in Pittsburgh. Between 1938 and 1963, the Jewish population declined to 45,000. The 1984 study estimated the local Jewish population at 44,906 individuals, essentially the same as in 1963. Finally, the 2002 study estimated the Jewish population at 42,200 individuals.
Estimates of the size of the Jewish population rest on a set of fundamental questions about who is counted as Jewish for the purposes of the study. Recent studies, such as Pew Research Center’s 2013 A Portrait of Jewish Americans, classify respondents according to their responses to a series of screening questions: What is your religion? Do you consider yourself to be Jewish aside from religion? Were either of your parents Jewish? Were you raised Jewish? Based on the answers to these questions, Jews have been categorized as “Jews by religion” (JBR)—if they respond to a question about religion by stating that they are solely Jewish—and “Jews of no religion” (JNR)—if their religion is not Judaism, but they consider themselves Jewish in some other way. Jews by religion tend to be more engaged with Judaism than Jews of no religion, but many JBRs and JNRs look similar in terms of Jewish behaviors and attitudes. For the purposes of this study, and to ensure that Pittsburgh Jewry could be compared to the population nationwide, a variant of Pew’s scheme was employed, supplemented by several other measures of identity. Included in the Jewish population are those adults who indicate they are Jewish and another religion; we refer to this category as “Jews of multiple religions” (JMR).
Among Jewish adults in the Greater Pittsburgh area, 82% (35,100 individuals) identify as Jewish by religion (JBR). This proportion is higher than that of the overall United States Jewish population as reported by Pew (78%). The remaining Jewish adults (18%) identify as Jews of no religion (JNR) or Jews of multiple religions (JMR). A little more than half of these individuals (4,300) have no religion but say they consider themselves Jewish for ethnic or cultural reasons. The remainder (3,400) consider themselves to be Jewish along with another religion.
Pittsburgh’s Jewish population resides in an estimated 26,800 households. Households are classified as Jewish if they include at least one Jewish adult (Table 2.1).
Adults and children who live in Jewish households include Jews and non-Jews (Table 2.2). Non- Jewish adults include three groups: those who report that they are not Jewish in any way (listed as not Jewish); those who say they are Jewish but were not born to Jewish parents, were not raised Jewish, and did not convert (listed as Jewish affinity); those who have Jewish parents or were raised Jewish but do not currently consider themselves to be Jewish in any way (listed as Jewish background). Non-Jewish children include those who are being raised with no religion or a religion other than Judaism. Of the non-Jewish children, nearly all are being raised with no religion or their parents have not yet decided on their religion.
Jewish households in Greater Pittsburgh include an estimated 7,800 non-Jewish adults and 2,000 non-Jewish children. These 9,800 individuals bring the total population of people living in Jewish households in the region to approximately 59,000 people (50,600 adults and 8,400 children).
Table 2.1 Jewish population of Greater Pittsburgh area, summary(rounded to nearest 100)
2002 to 2017
|Households with at least one Jewish adult||26,800||20,900||28%|
|Total Jewish adults and children||49,200||42,200||17%|
|Total people in Jewish households||59,000||54,200||9%|
In addition to the adults listed here, the study found fewer than 500 adults who have a Jewish background but do not consider themselves Jewish in any way and do not live with any other Jewish adults. These individuals are not included in Table 2.2. The study also found fewer than 400 adults of Jewish affinity who live outside of Jewish households in the Pittsburgh area. These individuals are not included in Table 2.2.
Table 2.2 Jewish population of Greater Pittsburgh area(rounded to nearest 100; sums may not add up due to rounding)
|2017||2002||Change 2002 to 2017|
|Not yet decided||200|
Age and Gender Composition
The Pittsburgh Jewish community is slightly older than the US Jewish community as a whole. The mean age of Pittsburgh’s Jewish adults based on the present population estimate is 51 and the median is 54, older than the median age of Jewish adults nationally, 50. The mean age of all Pittsburgh Jews is 45 and the median is 50. Compared to the national Jewish population, the Pittsburgh Jewish community has more seniors and fewer adults under age 50 (Table 2.3).
Table 2.3. Age of Jewish adults in Pittsburgh and nationally (%)
The largest shares of the adult Jewish population are between ages 18-29 and 60-69. There are notably fewer Jews in their 30s and 40s.
Two indicators suggest that the community may be getting younger. Younger adults, ages 18-29, constitute nearly one-fifth (18%) of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish population. Thirty-eight percent of these young adults are married, cohabiting, or engaged, but only 1% have children. Additionally, nearly 40% of children being raised Jewish in some way in the community are ages 0-5 (see Chapter 4). Taken together, these developments signal that the community may expect to see continued growth.
Overall, the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community has more females than males (53% and 47%, respectively), with 1% of adults identifying as a gender other than male or female.
Households with children under age 18 (comprising single-parent, two-parent, or multigenerational households) make up 18% of Jewish households in Greater Pittsburgh. The remaining households consist of single adults (28%), couples without children (31%), and households with parents and adult children living together (multigenerational households; 14%). Among households in which a single adult resides, 33% are seniors ages 65 and older, 41% are 50-64, and the remaining 26% are 18-49 years of age.
Overall, about three-fifths of households (61%) include a married, engaged, or cohabiting couple, living with or without children or other relatives. This rate has decreased from 2002, when it was 66%. Eighteen percent of households today include children, compared to 30% in 2002. Among households with children, the mean number of children ages 17 and younger is 1.7. The mean size of all households is 2.2 individuals.
Jewish identity can vary by age, with the number and proportion of Jews of no religion (JNR) or Jews of multiple religions (JMR) tending to be greatest in the millennial generation.19 As displayed in Table 2.4, however, that is not the case in Greater Pittsburgh. Jews younger than 35 and those age 65 and older have larger shares of JBRs.
Table 2.4 Jewish identity by age(% of Jewish adults)
Historically, denominational affiliation has been one of the basic indicators of Jewish identity and practice. Overall, two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s Jewish adults identify with a formal Jewish denomination, and the remainder indicate they are secular, just Jewish, or have no specific denomination (Table 2.5). The largest denomination, Reform, includes one-third of Jewish adults.
Table 2.5 Age by denomination(% of Jewish adults)
The proportion of Pittsburgh Jews who identify as Reform or Conservative has declined since 2002 (Table 2.6). Fourteen years ago, these two groups accounted for nearly three-quarters (73%) of Pittsburgh Jews. Today, they are 56%. By contrast, those who claim no denomination—that is, those who are secular, culturally Jewish, “just Jewish,” or have no specific denomination—have increased from 17% to 30% of the population. Notably, there has also been an increase in the Orthodox population, from 7% to 9%. Pittsburgh Jews are equally likely as US Jews overall to claim a denominational affiliation.
Table 2.6 Denomination of Jews in 2017 compared to 2002 and the national Jewish community(% of Jewish adults)
|Pittsburgh 2017||Pittsburgh 2002||Pew 2013|
Inmarriage and Intermarriage
Sixty-one percent of Jewish households include a couple who is married or partnered. Of those couples, 56% are inmarried and 44% are intermarried. Ten percent of inmarried couples include someone who converted to Judaism. Regarding individual Jewish adults, nearly two-thirds (65%) are married or partnered (Table 2.7).
Table 2.7 Age by inmarriage(% by age of respondent; includes engaged couples and partners who live together)
|Inmarried (of married)||71||60||56||76||81|
|Intermarried (of married)||29||40||44||24||19|
Among them, 71% are inmarried and 29% are intermarried. Those in the youngest age group, ages 18-34, are least likely to be married or partnered (48%), but of those who are, 60% have a Jewish spouse/partner. The proportion of households that include a married couple, as well as the intermarriage rate, are similar to what was found in 2002.20
Young adults, ages 18 to 34, constitute 37% of Pittsburgh’s adult Jewish population. Nearly one- quarter are students, with 18% attending school full-time and 5% attending part-time. The majority (68%) of students are undergraduates, with the rest in graduate or professional programs. Two-in- three (64%) young adult Jews identify with a specific denomination. Of those, 11% are Orthodox, 22% Conservative, and 26% Reform. Overall, 61% of Jewish young adults are married or living with a partner or significant other. Of these, 54% are married to or living with someone who is Jewish. Among the 39% of Jewish young adults who are not married or living with a partner or significant other, 8% are currently dating. There are not enough data to know how many of these young adults are dating Jews.
Multiple stakeholders in the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community expressed interest in other groups of Jews living in the area, including Israelis, LGBTQ Jews, and Jews of color. Too few respondents were interviewed to be able to estimate characteristics of these groups. Only the sizes of these groups could be estimated with any reliability. Three percent of the adult Jewish population are Israeli, and 3% are LGBTQ. One percent are Jews of color or of Hispanic or Latino origin.21 Eleven percent of Jewish households include someone who identifies as Sephardic or Mizrachi.
The Jews of Greater Pittsburgh can be divided among five regions: Squirrel Hill (the most concentrated Jewish neighborhood), the rest of the city of Pittsburgh, the South Hills, the North Hills, and the surrounding suburbs. The distribution of Jews in Greater Pittsburgh is described in Table 2.8. The community continues to grow in its traditional enclave of Squirrel Hill, but since 2002, a greater share of newcomers has chosen to live in other areas within the region. Maps showing the distribution of Jewish households appear below.
About half (55%) of Jewish adults ages 50-64 live outside the city of Pittsburgh (Table 2.9). About two-thirds of each other age group live in the city. Nearly half (48%) of Jewish children are being raised in Squirrel Hill.
Respondents who moved to the Pittsburgh area in the last five years were asked why they moved to the area. Overall, 186 respondents provided answers, which were coded thematically. The most commonly cited reasons were for a job (72), to study in a particular college or university (55), or to be closer to family (32).
Of all Jewish adults, 18% have plans to move out of the Pittsburgh area in the next three years, though nearly one-third of these are current students. Overall, 181 respondents provided at least one reason why they planned to move. Forty-one of these respondents are currently students, who expect to graduate and move away to pursue further educational opportunities or begin their careers. Among all respondents, the most frequently cited reasons for moving away were for a job (50), for family reasons (31), to study (27), to retire (14), or for the opportunity to live somewhere with better weather (12).
Table 2.8 Geographic distribution of Pittsburgh’s Jews
|Jewish households||Jewish individuals|
|Rest of Pittsburgh||31||26|
|South Hills (Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair)||20||18|
|North Hills (Hampton, Fox Chapel, O'Hara)||9||11|
|Rest of region||14||15|
Table 2.9 Geographic region of Jews by age(% of Jewish individuals)
|Rest of Pittsburgh||20||32||38||20||30|