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‘Community Gathering + Conversation’ explores a pivotal moment to be Jewish in San Diego

The demographic study and needs assessment of San Diego County, as well as Temecula’s Jewish population, will be shared at a public event.

A Jewish communal celebration in San Diego. Credit: Courtesy.
A Jewish communal celebration in San Diego. Credit: Courtesy.

In an unprecedented moment for Jews worldwide following the Oct. 7 massacre in southern Israel and the ensuing war with the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, coupled with a dramatic rise in antisemitism, five of the major local Jewish organizations will convene for “A Community Gathering + Conversation” to learn more about the results of the first study of San Diego’s Jewish community in 20 years. The community is invited to gather to discuss the components of the study that delved into antisemitism and San Diego’s strong connection to Israel, as well as other findings.

The major demographic study and needs assessment of San Diego County and Temecula’s Jewish population, compiled by the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center Jacobs Family Campus and the Leichtag Foundation will be shared at an interactive public event. “Blueprint for Our Future: A Community Gathering + Conversation” will take place on Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center-Jacobs Family Campus from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The comprehensive report, conducted by Brandeis University and NORC at the University of Chicago, details the needs and insights of San Diego’s 100,700-member Jewish community.

According to Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center Jacobs Family Campus, the event is designed for community members to discuss the new report collaboratively and “engage in crucial dialogue about who we are, how we view the most important issues facing us today, and what it means to be Jewish.”

“Our goal was to gather actionable and usable data that sheds light on what Jews in San Diego County think and feel,” said Beth Sirull, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego. “We believe this study achieves that—and that it will be vital for our community, providing the up-to-date data needed to make informed decisions and ultimately help us direct valuable resources to where they are needed and address unmet needs moving forward.”

The new report marks the first time since 2003 that a comprehensive demographic study has been conducted to research San Diego’s Jewish community.

“This will be a good time to be together as a community to learn and show solidarity,” said Charlene Seidle, executive vice president of the Leichtag Foundation. “Jewish life in our region has changed dramatically in 20 years, and even more so since the horrific events of Oct. 7.”

“We are confident the study will be a catalyst for all the Jewish agencies and numerous partners to work together to best serve San Diego’s Jewish community,” said Jewish Federation CEO Heidi Gantwerk.

Key findings include:
•       70% of local Jewish adults are very concerned about antisemitism around the world, and 64% are very concerned about antisemitism in the United States.
•       San Diego has a significant aging population of Jews (17%) in comparison to San Diegans in general and Jews nationwide. Some 9% of Jewish adults are Holocaust survivors or World War II refugees.
•       30% of Jewish adults are relative newcomers to San Diego, with more than half younger than age 35.
•       Half of Jewish adults volunteered for at least one organization in the previous year.
•       13% of Jewish children are identified by their parents as persons of color.
•       About 19% to 22% of Jewish households earn under 80% of the area.

Median Income, which is defined as low-income in San Diego County, with about one-third of these financially struggling households saying they could not afford a $400 emergency expense.

“We cast a wide net to collect accurate data about the beliefs, challenges and needs of the Jewish population in San Diego, which will be critical to our efforts as we strive to service San Diego’s Jewish population now and in the future,” said Michael Hopkins, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “We look forward to sharing the study’s findings and invite the community to collaborate with us on Dec. 3 as we work to make meaningful and crucial decisions for the future.”

Plans for the design and development of “A Blueprint for Our Future” got underway in the spring of 2021, when the five local Jewish organizations teamed up to embark on a collaborative community study. This work was jointly funded by the leadership organizations, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and generous local donors.

To learn more about the community study and share insights, the public can attend “Blueprint for our Future: A Community Gathering + Conversation.” Registration is required. Visit: www.lfjcc.org/study.

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Jewish Community Foundation San Diego (JCF) helps organizations build capacity through education, consulting and top-notch professional investment management services for custodial and endowment funds.
Inspired by Jewish values, we broaden and deepen engagement in Jewish life to strengthen Jewish identity, foster dynamic connections with Israel, and care for all Jews in need. We mobilize our community’s resources, leaders, and organizations to address the community’s most critical needs, creating profound impact locally, in Israel, and around the world.
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