Least Engaged Age Demographic: The Answer May Surprise You

One of the recurring refrains from the Community Study is that the demographic of 18-34-year-olds is more engaged than the national narrative suggested.

We were expecting to find a host of “unaffiliated” Jews, i.e. Jews who do not participate in any form of Jewish life… But, instead, we found a demographic of Millennials who are involved in the Jewish community, Jews who do belong to Jewish organizations, who do live engaged Jewish lives. This is a group that is anything but apathetic.

The surprises, however, continued.

In turns out that the most un-engaged age demographic is that of the 35-49-year-olds.

The Generation Xers do not participate in Jewish ritual practices as often as their younger counterparts. These activities include lighting Hanukkah candles, attending a Passover seder, lighting Shabbat candles, participating in a Shabbat meal, fasting on Yom Kippur, and observing any kosher law.

They do not participate in synagogue life as much as their younger counterparts either, whether the barometer is paying membership or attending services.

They do not participate in informal and cultural activities as much as their younger counterparts, including eating Jewish foods, searching for Jewish information online, participating in Jewish culture, and studying Jewish texts.

In fact, Jewish 18-34-year-olds are significantly more likely than 35-49-year-olds to:

  • belong to the JCC or another Jewish organization
  • attend a Jewish program regularly
  • read Jewish materials regularly
  • volunteer (though not with a Jewish organization)
  • participate in Jewish culture activities
  • feel a strong emotional connection to Israel


The question is why is this case? What can we – as a community – do to help serve the 35-49-year-old generation?

This is a crucial age demographic. These are parents who are raising families and setting their roots in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps, we – as a community – can look at our collective successes with young adults.

With so much focus on Birthright and Jewish life on campus… with programs like J’Burgh, Shalom Pittsburgh, and Moishe House, perhaps we can learn from our collective successes to a) continue investing in young adults and b) adapt those successes to an older demographic that is equally thirsty for good Jewish content.

One thing is for certain: we have a responsibility to identify gaps in services and address them. If we don’t, then our fears about Millennials will come true… just about a generation older instead.

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