Chapter 6 – Social and Community Life

The Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community offers diverse avenues for communal participation. Pittsburgh-area Jews join local, regional, and national membership organizations and attend an array of cultural, educational, and religious events. They volunteer and donate their time to Jewish and non-Jewish causes. Through their participation, they make Jewish friends and strengthen their ties to the local community. This chapter describes the multiple ways in which Pittsburgh-area Jews interact and participate with their local peers and institutions and points to measures that can enhance these connections.

Table 6.1a Household memberships and activities

(% of Jewish households)
 JCC member (dues and no dues)Other organization member (dues and no dues)Other organization (dues)
Overall303221
Engagement
Immersed344532
Connected275437
Involved364232
Holiday13
40
Minimally Involved810
Region
Squirrel Hill404332
Rest of Pittsburgh253021
South Hills292822
North Hills123018
Rest of region62313

Organizations and Activities

 Pittsburgh-area Jews participate in a wide range of Jewish organizations and activities. Three-in-ten households say they currently belong to a Jewish Community Center (JCC) (two-in-ten pay dues), and nearly one-third (32%) of households belong to at least one Jewish organization other than a synagogue or JCC, such as Hadassah or AIPAC (Table 6.1a). Overall, one-fifth (21%) of Jewish households pay dues to a Jewish organization aside from a synagogue or the JCC.

Those in the Connected group are most likely to be members of an organization. Residents of Squirrel Hill and the South Hills are most likely to members of the JCC, followed by residents of the rest of the city of Pittsburgh. A little over one-fifth of residents who have resided in Greater Pittsburgh for at least 10 years pay dues to a Jewish organization other than a synagogue or JCC, compared to about one-in-ten residents who have been in the area fewer than ten years (Table 6.1b). Older adults ages 65 and older are most likely to pay membership dues to a Jewish organization.

Table 6.1b Household memberships and activities

(% of Jewish households)
 JCC member (dues and no dues)Other organization member (dues and no dues)Other organization (dues)
Length of Residence
<10 years252512
10-19 years332920
20+ years263425
Household Structure
Inmarried334430
Intermarried20148
Single adult(s)253325
Household has child(ren)411611
No children243525
Respondent Age
18-34372921
35-49301710
50-64142112
65+294938
Synagogue
Member315441
Non-member242517
Denomination
Orthodox354233
Conservative203726
Reform274430
Other162819
None292015

Families with children are more likely to be members of the JCC than households without children, but less likely to be members of other Jewish organizations. Community members between the ages of 50 and 64 are less likely than other age groups to belong to the JCC.

Nearly half (45%) of Jews in Greater Pittsburgh attended a program or event within the past year, with 11% doing so at least monthly, and 34% doing so less than monthly (Table 6.2a). Seven-in-ten (68%) read a Jewish organization’s materials in the past year, with 36% doing so at least monthly, and 32% doing so less than monthly. Those in the Immersed and Connected groups are most likely to pay dues, attend programs, and read organizations’ materials. The Involved group is distinguished from the remaining engagement groups by the moderate level of participation in the community across these items.

Residents of Squirrel Hill attend Jewish programs more frequently than residents of other neighborhoods, likely because most of the programs are hosted by institutions in the neighborhood. In turn, because programs are more accessible to residents of Squirrel Hill, it is likely that they read materials from Jewish organizations more frequently due to their connections with those organizations.

Table 6.2a Organizational participation in past year

(% of Jewish adults)
 Attend program Monthly+Attend program Read materials Monthly+Read materials
Overall11343632
Engagement
Immersed37397917
Connected11535433
Involved7383558
Holiday0<100
Minimally Involved2305
Region
Squirrel Hill19414928
Rest of Pittsburgh14404527
South Hills7232532
North Hills4253336
Rest of region3242933

Sixty percent of newcomers have attended programs in the Jewish community in the past year, and they are among the most frequent attendees as well., but younger adults, especially those ages 18- 34, attend programs most frequently (Table 6.2b).

Table 6.2b Organizational participation in past year

(% of Jewish adults)
 Attend program monthly+Attend program Read materials monthly+Read materials
Length of Residence
<10 years23373926
10-19 years19344334
20+ years8333930
Household Structure
Inmarried14445131
Intermarried13223125
Single adult(s)8262932
Household has child(ren)12383524
No children12334131
Respondent Age
18-3418293830
35-4911344028
50-6410323825
65+10404434
Synagogue
Member18496224
Non-member8252733
Denomination
Orthodox22407718
Conservative 19335122
Reform10434035
Other9454520
None6212134

Sources of Information

More than half of the community say they learn about Jewish events and programs online (56%), from family or friends (51%), or from synagogue or organizational newsletters (44%) (Table 6.3). One-third (32%) say they hear about events and programs from the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle or another Jewish periodical, and one- fifth (20%) receive community news directly from a rabbi or another Jewish communal professional.

Table 6.3 Sources of information

(% of Jewish adults)
Online56
Synagogue or organization newsletter51
Family or friends44
Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle or other local Jewish periodical 32
Rabbi or communal professional20

Travel to Jewish Programs

More than eight-out-of-ten Jewish adults (83%) say they would be willing to travel on a regular basis to attend a Jewish-sponsored program or event. Among those who would do so, 11% would go farther than 40 minutes away, nearly half (45%) would go farther than 20 minutes away, and 90% would go farther than 10 minutes away (Table 6.4). Those living in Squirrel Hill and the city of Pittsburgh are less willing to travel as long as those living farther out in the suburbs.

Table 6.4 Time willing to travel to Jewish programs

(% Jewish adults willing to travel)
 Less than 10 min10-20 min21-40 min41-60 minOver one hour
Overall10443483
Region
Squirrel Hill21462644
Rest of Pittsburgh11562482
South Hills6444641
North Hills2315773
Rest of region43827283

Volunteering

 In the Pittsburgh Jewish community, 39% of Jewish adults say they did some volunteer activity in the past month (Table 6.5a). Nearly one-fifth (18%) of the overall population volunteered with at least one Jewish organization, and 28% volunteered with a non-Jewish organization. These include 8% who volunteered for both (not shown in table). Fifteen percent of Jewish adults volunteered in a leadership position in a Jewish organization. Those in the Immersed and Connected groups were most likely to volunteer under Jewish auspices, while about one-third of Immersed, Connected, and Involved volunteered for non-Jewish groups.

Table 6.5a Volunteering

(% of Jewish adults)
 Any volunteeringNon-Jewish organizationAny Jewish organizationLeadership role (Jewish org)Other role (Jewish org)
Overall392818157
Engagement
Immersed5632413518
Connected5236332612
Involved43361296
Holiday2018531
Minimally Involved 14141<1<1
Region
Squirrel Hill5034272311
Rest of Pittsburgh4835252010
South Hills23161396
North Hills352418165
Rest of region38341286

Although there are no significant differences in Jewish volunteering by duration of residence in the Pittsburgh area, those who have lived in the area for less time tend be more active volunteers with non-Jewish organizations (Table 6.5b). By contrast, although residents ages 35-49 or 50-64 are most likely to report volunteering for leadership roles in Jewish organizations, the 35 to 49-year-olds are the least likely group to volunteer at all for non-Jewish organizations. Conservative Jews report the highest overall levels of taking leadership roles in Jewish organizations, while Orthodox Jews report the lowest rates of volunteering for non-Jewish organizations.

Table 6.5b Volunteering

(% of Jewish adults)
 Any volunteeringNon-Jewish volunteering Any Jewish organizationLeadership role (Jewish org)Other role (Jewish org)
Length of Residence
<10 years513820179
10-19 years4330241912
20+ years392821178
Household Structure
Inmarried5034282510
Intermarried393213104
Single adult(s)31231599
Household has child(ren)4731262110
No child(ren)403020168
Respondent Age
18-34423216138
35-493722242011
50-64412826229
65+463718148
Synagogue
Member5334363113
Non-member35281286
Denomination
Orthodox3210282213
Conservative 473329269
Reform4935241910
Other4732331316
None3328975

Overall, Pittsburgh-area Jews believe it is important to be involved with organizations supporting a wide variety of causes (Tables 6.6a and 6.6b). Education is very important to 83% of the community, and all engagement groups value that cause highly. Nearly as many believe that health and medicine (79%) is very important, as do almost three-quarters about social justice and women’s rights. Those in the Immersed group assign greater weight to causes related to Israel than do individuals from other groups. In every other engagement group, Israel appears to be less important than every other topic respondents were asked to value.

Unsurprisingly, older residents, who also tend to be those who have lived in the area the longest, believe health-related causes are more important than younger residents. Orthodox and Conservative Jews believe Israel is more important than adherents to other denominations or no denomination. The greatest difference between synagogue members and non-members, and between inmarried and intermarried couples, is also on Israel, with synagogue members and inmarried couples expressing greater interest.

Table 6.6a Very important causes

 EducationHealth/medicineSocial justiceWomen's rightsEnvironmentArts/culturePoliticsIsrael
Overall8379737265615953
Engagement
Immersed8578595663534475
Connected8175767960616753
Involved8683828076716454
Holiday6583745576677250
Minimally Involved8489578757594830
Region
Squirrel Hill8577797471566351
Rest of Pittsburgh8479828174766850
South Hills8288617659584358
North Hills8678657155585455
Rest of region6881555858616360

Table 6.6b Very important causes

(% of Jewish adults)
 EducationHealth/medicineSocial justiceWomen's rightsEnvironmentArts/culturePoliticsIsrael
Length of Residence
<10years7468676766595335
10-19 years8075727166686247
20+ years83
84737566636259
Household Structure
Inmarried84 79727664636658
Intermarried8079726773726943
Single adult(s)7983717366574854
Household with child(ren)8177707266586351
No child(ren)82817274666