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Grandparents and more: The Jews of Palm Beach County
JTA / January 5, 2006

By Larry Luxner

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Florida’s Palm Beach County now has 255,000 Jews, making it the fourth-largest Jewish community in the nation.

It ranks behind only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and ahead of Broward County — just to the south — and traditional Jewish strongholds such as San Francisco, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia.

The population ranking is one of many findings released Wednesday by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. A comprehensive study commissioned by the two federations found that:

• 42% of South Florida’s 603,000 Jews now live in Palm Beach County, compared to 40% in Broward and 18% in Miami-Dade County. In addition, 11,250 Jews from Miami-Dade and 19,800 from Broward have migrated north to Palm Beach.

• 25% of Palm Beach households are Jewish, a ratio that rises to 48.6% for the county’s southern half. This compares to 22.3% for Broward, 15% for New York City, 7.6% for Los Angeles, 6.5% for Miami-Dade, 2.5% for Detroit and 1.7% for Houston.

• Only 1% of Palm Beach County’s Jews were born there, among the lowest in the nation. This compares to 2% for Broward, 13% for Miami and 57% for Cleveland.

• 23% of Palm Beach County’s Jews have lived in the county 20 years or more, a lower ratio than that of Broward (31%), Miami-Dade (62%) and Detroit (87%).

• Palm Beach County has 18,902 Jewish children younger than 17, just behind Miami-Dade (19,765) and significantly fewer than Broward (30,000), Washington (46,655), Los Angeles (95,285) and New York City (310,640).

• Palm Beach County has 163,000 elderly Jews (defined as age 65 or older), the second highest elderly Jewish population in the nation after New York City (around 300,000).

• 59% of Palm Beach County’s Jews are age 65 or older, while 36% are 75 or older.

• Of all Palm Beach County Jews, 36% identify as Reform, 34% Conservative, 3% Orthodox, 1% Reconstructionist and 27% “just Jewish.”

• The intermarriage rate among Palm Beach County Jews is 13%, the lowest in the nation. At the other end of the spectrum are San Francisco and Seattle, each with 55%.

• 58% of Jewish households in Palm Beach County have at least one member who has visited Israel, a proportion exceeded only by Los Angeles (60% and Bergen County, N.J. (62%) and Miami (62%).

• Approximately 4,800 Holocaust survivors live in Palm Beach County, the third-highest number in the nation after Broward (7,400) and Los Angeles (14,000).

• Only 9% of elderly Jews in Palm Beach County have adult children also living in the county, while another 12% have an adult child living elsewhere in South Florida.

• The proportion of elderly households in which one household member is ailing jumped from 11% to 22% in the last six years.

• The median income of Jews in South Palm Beach County is $59,000, though 19% of Jews living there have incomes of under $25,000, and 13% are classified as having “very low income.”

University of Miami researcher Ira Sheskin’s survey was conducted in January and February 2005, with data gleaned from 3,045 telephone interviews. To reach those Jews, more than 110,000 random phone calls were made; 94% of eligible Jewish households agreed to be interviewed.

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