Do your part for the Jewish census

Just as the U.S. Census is winding down, the Jewish community is about to begin its first population survey in 10 years.

This survey will help determine if the U.S. Jewish population remains at an estimated 6 million. But more than that, we will find out where U.S. Jewry is headed.

For instance, 10 years ago the study found that the intermarriage rate was 52 percent. But critics have said the survey methods were flawed and that the intermarriage rate may be half that amount. Who is right? Hopefully this new survey will come up with more reliable results.

We'll also learn about synagogue affiliation rates, which are assumed to be dropping. But then again, maybe they're not.

And we'll find out about American Jewish philanthropy. Are Jews abandoning umbrella Jewish charities and making their gifts to specific Jewish institutions such as colleges and hospitals? Or is the Jewish federation movement holding its own?

All this information will shape the workings of Jewish life in the years to come. Jewish organizations will rethink their outreach efforts based on the results. And we'll all learn whether American Jewry is experiencing as much of an identity crisis as some people have asserted.

The United Jewish Communities, which is sponsoring the survey, was wise enough to delay its start until nationally respected Jewish demographers and social scientists could review the questionnaire and suggest changes. Hopefully, this process will reduce subsequent complaints about the survey's accuracy.

For the census to succeed, 5,000 households must agree to spend 30 minutes on the phone answering questions.

It may be a lot of time to spend on the telephone with a stranger, but by cooperating you are helping shape the look of American Jewry for the next decade.

Consider yourself lucky if you are one of 5,000 chosen to participate in the study.