Standardizing Local Jewish Community Studies: Challenges and Opportunities

Sponsor(s): Berman Institute - North American Jewish Data Bank at the University of Connecticut

Principal Investigator(s): Ron Miller

Study Dates: 2006

Key Findings:

PowerPoint presentation, December 2006 at Eastern Sociological Association meetings in Boston, MA proposed a model for standardizing Jewish community studies so that interviews from Jewish surveys could be easily combined into a massive mega-data-file by 2020-21 so that a combined sample of approximately 50,000 Jewish household interviews could be analyzed  -  as opposed to the current laissez-faire model which will create 50,000 Jewish household interviews, which will probably not be combined, but which will cost between 8 - 10 million Jewish communal dollars by 2021.

The presentation describes challenges to  the proposed standardized Jewish community survey model (screening questions, questionnaires, sampling procedures, weighting, etc.),  the need for and opportunities to construct the mega file, and a financial and administrative structure for the project. 

The author, then Associate Director of the North American Jewish Data Bank at the University of Connecticut, recommends BRIBING local Jewish communities to join the standardization effort by providing significant financial assistance to the local community for their next Jewish community study.

The proposed American Jewish Communities Population Studies (AJCPS) would encourage the development of a combined 50,000 Jewish household interview mega file by paying local communities a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $180,000 to join the communal research effort. 

Six committees are proposed as part of the standardization process:

♦ AJCPS Screening Questions Committee

♦ AJCPS Questionnaire Committee

♦ AJCPS Sampling and Statistics Corps

♦ AJCPS Interviewing Corps (with Committee oversight).

♦ AJCPS Report-Writing Researchers and Liaisons Committee

♦ The Committee of Final Resort: ACJPS Kibbitzers Club.

The Kibbitzers Club would include a "Professional" kibbitzers group of well-recognized Jewish population study researchers, who have advisory status. 

♦ The professional kibbitzers division would be comprised of researchers who have a documented history of dedicating themselves to second-guessing the work of others. Preference given to researchers who specialize in public second-guessing in Jewish media.  A suggested, partial list of professional kibbitzers is included in the PPT.

Funding for the project will come from the Master Kibbitzers club, composed of lay leaders, foundation executives and federation executives who agree to contribute (a proposed) $36,000 annually for ten years to fully fund the project. An initial maximum of 18 master kibbitzers is suggested (regionally balanced if at all possible)  -  a waiting list is anticipated.

Dr. Miller proposed this model in 2006.  In 2014, it seems just appropriate to him, serving as Senior Research Consultant at the Berman Jewish DataBank at The Jewish Federations of North American (see next sentence disclosure).

In the aftermath of JFNA's understandable decision not to spend multi-millions to fund a National Jewish Population Study (NJPS) while the Pew Research Center was conducting a 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans, in 2014, the national Jewish community still does not have sufficient data based on state of the art landline and cell phone RDD (random-digit dialed) surveys on a number of areas of great concern to Jewish lay leaders and professionals - - including social service needs of American Jews and Jewish households, detailed Jewish philanthropy patterns and the Jewish education of children (formal and informal). 

And, millions and millions of dollars have been spent by local Jewish communities doing studies that are only not easily - if at all -  combined.

Thus, while the model was proposed in 2006, the DataBank is highlighting it once again to try to "jumpstart" a serious conversation within the Jewish community, so the community itself can collectively decide what Jewish leaders deem important to know about American Jews.

Language: English