The Federation and Foundation have a shared objective for leveraging the community study data: find opportunities and challenges in the dataset to guide our funding decisions. COVID-19 significantly curtailed our ability to convene the community and engage with them about the data to the extent we had planned. However, the Federation and Foundation have met with several agencies and congregations to present the study’s highlights.
The Federation and Foundation, along with some communal partners, worked with Brandeis University to better understand the people who are most at risk financially, creating an Index of Economic Vulnerability.
The Foundation has been leveraging the data to guide further exploration, clarify unmet needs, and explore new funding opportunities to supplement its current grantmaking portfolio. The Foundation’s work has been guided by the following takeaways from the study: almost half of Jewish adults seek greater connection to Jewish life, the majority of whom never or rarely participated in any Jewish activity in the past year; and many people experience different barriers to connection. While these trends are relevant to the entire community, they play out in meaningful ways with particular populations. The Foundation has identified three priority segments for further qualitative research. These segments represent new areas of learning and investment that the Foundation has not fully explored; they are part of a broader learning agenda that, over time, will include more diversity in age and life stage.
Interfaith families with children ages 0-17
Families with young children ages 0-5
Young adults without children
The study provided great overall learnings but also raised many questions for further study. As a result, the Foundation will conduct focus groups to learn more about the three populations identified in the Community Study that are seeking a greater connection to the Cincinnati Jewish community. The researchers will examine what people in these segments are experiencing in their lives holistically—where they find meaning and challenge—and overlay this with how they view the Jewish community and opportunities and barriers to connection. The Foundation is also developing an electronic map with all current Jewish community resources (facilities and programs) overlaid with community study population data.
The Federation will continue to leverage input from community leaders, agencies, and congregations to understand how the study findings have affected their planning and what more they would like to learn. The Federation is also leveraging the voice of lay leadership and community members to guide us on what opportunities and challenges we should focus on by convening Cincinnati 2030. The 2030 Steering Committee will begin to create a vision and strategic plan to build a flourishing, inclusive Jewish community that empowers every member to participate in Jewish life in ways that are meaningful to them.
This pandemic hit our world right at the time when our Jewish community was just starting to dig into the 2019 Cincinnati Jewish Community Study. While we did not conduct additional research in Cincinnati, Brandeis University surveyed 15,000 respondents in 10 other Jewish communities about their experiences during the first three months of the pandemic (May-July 2020) through the Building Resilient Jewish Communities: Impact of the Coronavirus Crisis on the American Jewish Community Study. In general, those who were struggling financially before COVID-19 experienced the most financial hardship and greater emotional difficulties. Isolation was a pervasive theme.
The major findings include:
The individuals who were struggling financially comprise a more expansive group of people than those who are the traditional focus of Jewish anti-poverty programs. The vast majority had college educations or graduate degrees, and among those who were not retired, most were employed prior to the pandemic. Most of these individuals were younger than 50.
Younger adults report more emotional difficulties. This finding was true across all financial situations, but it was exacerbated by financial issues.
Online Jewish life primarily appealed to those who were most engaged in Jewish life before.