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Russian Immigrants Boost New York City’s Jewish Population
From Novoye Russkoye Slovo
June 17, 2003

By Alexandr Grant

On June 16, the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York issued a report stating that the Jewish population in New York City has declined by five percent since 1991 and has fallen below one million for the first time in over 100 years. The report suggests that many Jews have left New York City to live in surrounding suburban areas.

The overall Jewish population for New York City and the neighboring counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk totals 1.4 million.

The UFA’s report, which is widely regarded as the most authoritative study of the Jewish population, states that 972,000 Jews lived in New York during 2002. This is slightly less than the total number during the 1980s and 1990, but it is almost half the total for the 1950s, when two million Jews lived throughout the five New York boroughs.

The Jewish population would have declined far more quickly, if a constant wave of immigrants had not arrived from former Soviet republics during the 1990s.

Over the past ten years, 186,000 Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have settled in New York City. However, their arrival was accompanied by a rise in the level of poverty within the city’s Jewish population. Economic difficulties and an increase in the number of pensioners resulted in the number of poor families nearly doubling within the Jewish population, in the period from 1991 to 2002. Today, one out of five Jewish families within New York City, and one out of six Jewish families in the neighboring counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk are on the verge of poverty.

A number of experts predict that the departure of the Jewish population from the city will result in a weakening of the Jewish community’s political influence. Edward Koch, a former mayor of New York City, believes that the decline in the number of Jews will push the city’s politically liberal outlook to the right. Jews from the former Soviet Union, having suffered under communism, are politically more conservative than the older generations of Jewish immigrants, Koch said.

The UJA-Federation reports that the Jewish population continues to actively participate in religious and public life. Within New York City and the surrounding counties, 92 percent of those polled said that the existence of Israel is important to them.

The UJA’s report was compiled from 4533 telephone surveys with Jewish families, which took place from March to September, 2002.

Translated from Russian by Elizabeth LeBras.

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