The history of the study

1965: Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) sponsored the first Jewish Community Study of Greater Boston, marking a notable achievement as the first scientific probability study of its kind in the country. 1,567 in-person interviews were completed.  Here’s what we learned:  The total Jewish population was estimated at 176,000 (3% of the general population) within CJP’s area of service. The majority of Jewish adults identified with one of the major branches of Judaism: 44% identified as Conservative Jews 27% identified as Reform Jews 14% identified as Orthodox ~ 14% had no particular affiliation or preference. About one in five Jews lived in Boston (19%); however, patterns of mobility saw an increasing number of Jews moving to the suburbs. 53% of Jewish adults reported a current synagogue membership and 50% belonged to at least one Jewish organization.
1975: The Jewish population in the Boston area declined somewhat, largely related household size decreasing from an average of 3.0 persons per household to 2.4. 934 in-person interviews were completed. Here’s what we learned: The total Jewish population was 165,000 (2.4% of the general population) within CJP’s area of service (excluding Brockton).  Most Jewish adults continued to identify with one of the major branches of Judaism: 35% identified as Conservative 34% identified as Reform 5% identified as Orthodox 22% have no preference Jews are leaving the Dorchester-Mattapan area and the Newton and Brookline suburbs. The Allston-Brighton area saw modest growth, but the largest shifts occurred in the suburban communities such as the Western suburbs (Natick, Needham, Wellesley) and Northwest suburbs (Lexington, Concord, Burlington).  The rate of interfaith marriage increased, with 12% of marriages occurring between one Jewish and one non-Jewish partner. Most Jewish adults held positive or accepting attitudes toward interfaith marriage. 
1985: This was the first community study to utilize telephone interviewing rather than in-person interviews, as was done in the 1965 and 1975 studies. 1,445 Jewish households were interviewed.  Here’s what we learned: The total Jewish population was 228,000 (2.3% of the general population) in the CJP service area.  Most Jewish adults continued to identify with one of the major branches of Judaism:  42% identified as Reform  33% identified as Conservative 4% identified as Orthodox 16% have no preference  The population residing in Allston-Brighton declined and the population residing in Brookline and Newton increased, with 37% of Jewish adults residing in the three core cities — Boston, Brookline, and Newton. About one in three Jewish adults (33%) had visited Israel.
1995: The study expanded its scope to include new questions about Jewish background and experiences, current Jewish behaviors and practices, priorities for communal support, Jewish child-rearing, and a variety of Jewish attitudes and values, including the quest for spirituality and community. 1,200 Jewish households were interviewed via telephone.  Here’s what we learned: The total Jewish population was estimated to be 213,000 in the CJP service area.  Most Jewish adults continued to identify with one of the major branches of Judaism:  41% identified as Reform 33% identified as Conservative 3% identified as Orthodox. 21% identified outside of the major denominations The community was more geographically dispersed, with 29% of Jewish adults still residing in the Boston-Brookline-Newton corridor and 14% residing in the Near West towns lying between Newton and Route 495. The rate of interfaith marriage increased, reflecting national trends. One-half of all newly-formed households in the Boston area are interfaith households.
2005: The 2005 study was the first study to call landline and cell-phone numbers, as well as contact lists from organizations. The number of organizations in the Boston Jewish community who provided contact lists increased, greatly expanding the number and representation of households included in the list-based sample. 1,766 Jewish households were interviewed. Here’s what we learned: The total Jewish population was estimated to be 208,500.  Identification with one of the major branches of Judaism remained flat: 43% identified as Reform 31% identified as Conservative 4% identified as Orthodox 17% have no preference The Boston Jewish community grew more geographically dispersed, with half of the Jewish population resided within the Route 128 area and half outside of it. The historically central areas of Newton, Brookline, and Brighton continued to be home to the largest number of Jewish persons.  46% of Jewish adults have traveled to Israel; an increase from 1985. The rate of interfaith marriage doubled since 1995; meanwhile, a majority of children in interfaith households are being raised Jewish.
2015: The Greater Boston area was home to the fourth largest Jewish community in the country, after New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Households were contacted to participate via postal mail, email, and telephone. 5,696 Jewish households participated in the study.  Here’s what we learned: The total Jewish population was 248,000 For the first time, a greater proportion of Jewish adults who did not identify with a specific Jewish denomination was observed (50%). Denominational affiliation declined since 2005 and, increasingly, Boston Jews describe themselves as “just Jewish.” Among those who reported a denominational affiliation: 26% identified as Reform 18% identified as Conservative 4% identified as Orthodox  More than half of Jewish households were in Boston, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, Somerville, and the surrounding towns. Half of all Jewish young adults resided in the Cambridge-Somerville-Central Boston area. Membership to synagogues or other Jewish organizations has continued to decline since 1995, with just 37% of Jewish adults reporting a current synagogue membership.


Timeline for 2025 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study

The project scope for the 2025 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study is divided into three phases: planning, data collection and analysis, and reporting the findings. 

Planning phase (April 2023–April 2024)

Gather community feedback and select a research vendor.


Data collection and analysis (April 2024–May 2025)

Partner with research vendor to design the sampling plan, develop the survey questionnaire, and perform data collection and analysis.

Report findings (Summer 2025)

Share the findings of the community study.



1. Why is this study being conducted?
The 2025 study will survey Jewish households in the Greater Boston area to help us better understand our community and how to serve them. There are many ways to learn about our community who we are, our needs, and what we do but there are few ways to get a bird’s eye view of the community at large, from our population to our points of view. This study will serve to provide baseline data that enables us to: 

  • Understand how community members engage in Jewish life  
  • Assess the financial, physical, and emotional needs of the most vulnerable populations  
  • Plan for the next decade’s strategic investments that will support a healthy, thriving, and sustainable community

2. How do you define who is Jewish or what a Jewish household is?   
At its core, the community study is designed to provide a counting of all individuals residing in CJP’s catchment area who identify as Jewish in some way, including adults and children who are being raised in households where at least one adult identifies as Jewish. There are myriad ways to define the contours of Jewish identity and one goal of the community study will be to understand these contours and the diverse expressions of Jewish identity, connections, and belonging in the Greater Boston Jewish community.

3. How are people contacted to participate in the survey?   
Households that are selected to participate in the survey will receive a letter or postcard in the mail inviting them to complete the survey online. In some instances, alternative methods of contact may be utilized including email or phone calls. The survey will be accessible in multiple languages and households may also request to complete the survey by using an alternative method, such as phone or a paper survey.

4. How does CJP utilize data from partner organizations?   
Organizational mailing or membership lists are an essential part of the success of the study, as they allow the research team to contact members of the community who are connected or affiliated with the Greater Boston Jewish community in some way. CJP will work closely with partner organizations and synagogues in our community to provide the research team with organization’s mailing or membership lists. These lists are provided directly to the researchers using a secure portal; CJP is never in possession or receipt of organizations’ contact lists and the information is used solely for the purpose of the study.

5. If I am selected for the survey, will my information be protected? 
All information collected for this study is completely confidential and secure. Your contact information may have been provided from a local Jewish organization, publicly available data, or a list purchased from a commercial data broker. Your contact information will be used solely for the purposes of the study and will not be shared with any agency in your local Jewish community or any other outside organization. CJP will never have access to any individually identifiable survey responses. Survey responses will be reported only in the aggregate and no individually identifiable data will be released outside of the research team.

6. How many people are being surveyed?
Approximately 4,000 households in the Greater Boston region will be surveyed as a part of this community study. This ensures that we have broad representation of our community and enables researchers to analyze smaller groups within the data.

7. How will this survey be representative of the whole community?
We begin by gathering input and feedback from our community regarding the topics, populations, and services that will be included in the study. An external research team will design and implement the study by randomly selecting households in the Greater Boston region to participate. This ensures that each household has a chance of being selected and that we hear from households that truly represent the diversity within our community. 

8. How has the Community Study affected change in the Greater Boston Jewish Community?
After conducting the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study, CJP learned and subsequently implemented the following:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults engage in Jewish life primarily through cultural activities, prompting CJP to make new investments in Jewish arts and culture organizations, artists, and programs.

  • More than 10% of Boston Jews reported that they are economically vulnerable (poor or “just getting by”). To tackle this issue CJP launched the Anti-Poverty Initiative (API), which brings social service agencies together to increase the support of our community’s most vulnerable. Since its launch in 2015, API has provided critical help to 4,594 households — comprised of an estimated 8,000 people — within Greater Boston’s Jewish community.

If you have any additional questions about the 2025 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study, please reach out to Eliza Greenberg, Community Study Manager.