Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kol Zimrah by the numbers

A few months ago, we saw the preliminary results from the 2007 National Spiritual Communities Study. Now we're starting to see results for some of the individual communities. In this post I'm going to note some of the interesting results from Kol Zimrah in New York. If you have a blog and access to your community's results, please post them!

36 people took the survey and identified Kol Zimrah as one of their communities. This is about half the number of people who are at a typical KZ service, so I think it's a large enough sample to be meaningful (even if it's weighted toward people who identify strongly enough with Kol Zimrah to fill out the survey -- 78% of respondents have a strong sense of belonging to the community).

  • Unsurprisingly, most people first heard about Kol Zimrah from a friend.
  • One person attends Kol Zimrah services several times a month. That's a neat trick! Maybe it's the same person who claims to have paid membership dues.
  • Nobody said "I have not been given an opportunity to be very involved and I am not happy about this."
  • Most popular reason for attending Kol Zimrah: "I want to participate in meaningful prayer." Least popular reasons: "I want the community to provide a Jewish experience for my children" and "My parent or child or another close relative attends."
  • Most valued aspects: "Music/melodies in worship" and "Sense of community".
  • A majority of respondents have attended services at 7 or more places in the last year.
  • Raised: Conservative 24%, Orthodox 3%, Other Jewish 29%, Reform 44% (compared with Conservative 46%, Not Jewish 4%, Orthodox 20%, Other Jewish 12%, Reform 18% for independent minyan participants overall)
  • Currently identify: Conservative 18%, Orthodox 0%, Other Jewish 68%, Reform 15% (compared with Conservative 37%, Orthodox 15%, Other Jewish 45%, Reform 3% for independent minyan participants overall)
  • Less diversity than we might have expected: All KZ respondents were raised Jewish and have Jewish mothers (some have non-Jewish fathers), all have been to Israel, and all were born in the United States.
  • 94% say being Jewish is very important in their lives (compared to 90% of independent minyan participants and 69% of synagogue members). 74% say religion is very important (compared to 69% of independent minyan participants and 50% of synagogue members).
  • The majority of respondents went to (part-time) Hebrew school as their primary form of childhood Jewish education.
  • Among Jewish educational experiences polled in the survey, Hillel (or other college organization) was the most popular (91%), followed by Jewish camp, then youth group, then 4 months or more in Israel, then day school, then day high school (6%). This is almost exactly the same ordering as the independent minyan population at large (except that camp and youth group are flipped), but the extremes are less extreme in the general population: Hillel (or other college organization) is at 80%, and day high school is at 29%.
  • 88% agreed with "Any Jewish community that I am part of should welcome non-Jews", and the rest said "not sure". This is higher than any of the populations in the survey.
  • 100% said "I have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people" (compared with 84% of the independent minyan population overall).
  • 88% said "I have a special responsibility to take care of Jews in need around the world" (compared with 55% of the independent minyan population), and 97% said "I have a Jewish responsibility to care for people in trouble (as with Darfur or Katrina)" (not listed in the main survey results).
  • 32% are concerned that the Jewish population will diminish (compared with 63% of independent minyan participants and 76% of synagogue members).
  • No one said they were proud of Israel always (though the vast majority said sometimes or often).
  • 94% have been invited to a Shabbat meal by someone in the community (compared with 95% of the independent minyan population; I'd say this is within the margin of error).
  • Political self-identification was Democrat 82%, independent 15%, Republican 3%, with the exact same breakdown for liberal/moderate/conservative.
  • Median age: 25.5
  • 65% of respondents are female and 35% are male, identical to the overall independent minyan population in the survey.
  • 9% of KZ respondents are married, compared to 51% for independent minyan participants overall.


  1. Though many probably identify strongly with KZ as a community some may have filled out the survey because they have a primary or co-equal commitment to another core community. Perhaps Hadar or JITW or any other community in the study (likely NY-based communities). This doesn't remove the bias, but it is a relevant related bias.

  2. What's most striking to me is the predominantly female attendence with the indie minyan movement in general. Does any care to speculate why that is? Is it because a good portion of the men who are interested in traditional liturgy and participatory davening can do so at traditional/orthodox synagogues? Or is it that women in our culture are just more drawn to communal religous experience? Other ideas?

  3. Where can I find the data for the other minyanim?

  4. As far as I know so far, it's just been sent to the minyanim. I don't know if it's been published anywhere else yet.

  5. To anonymous:
    My speculation is what you suggest: Men who are interested in traditional liturgy and participatory davening can just go to Orthodox synagogues.