The comments by Rabbi David Eliezrie of Los Angeles in his opinion piece “How Federation studies marginalize Chabad” (Feb. 27) are well-taken. However, they make an implicit assumption that “A Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities” was aimed at assessing the impact of our numerous — and, frankly, quite creative — institutions, including Chabad. Rather, our prime concerns were the number of Jews and others in Jewish households, their geographic location and residential mobility, social characteristics, social service needs, relationships to Israel and diverse ways of being Jewish.
The information gathered and analyzed thus far is rich, informative and, at times, quite surprising. We are excited about the conversations, both nationally and locally, that already are happening around the findings. Our journey has just begun to explore all of the insights — and then to turn those insights into action.
For months leading up to the “Portrait” survey, we worked very closely with the researchers and numerous professional and lay partners and colleagues throughout the Bay Area Jewish community to make sure we explored how people “do Jewish.” In constructing the questionnaire, we surveyed all of our community partners to learn what they were most interested in discovering from a study of this scope.
Consequently, we now have detailed information about child-rearing practices; Jewish education; ritual observance; volunteering with Jewish (and other) organizations; participation in Jewish cultural events; service attendance; and attachment to Israel, among many other findings of great interest to the entire community, including Chabad. By my own informal count, I see at least four dozen (!) questions that bear directly upon assessing the varied ways in which Bay Area Jews express their Jewish engagement — be it personally, in their families, at home and in community.
At the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, we are fortunate to partner with many of the Chabad rabbis in the region. They are an integral part of Jewish life here, creating a welcoming and joyous environment of rich Jewish experiences. We look forward to digesting the study’s findings with the Chabad leaders here — just as we look forward, and already have begun, doing so with others. While the “Portrait” does not measure any organization’s or movement’s specific impact, we believe it has valuable insights for all who care about creating and securing a vibrant Jewish future.