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America’s 30 Most Jewish Cities

What’s a “Jewish city”, you may ask. Is it based on the number of Jews that reside there? Perhaps it is a city which celebrates Jewish holidays or favors classically Jewish foods? Is a city more Jewish because of the amount of Torah studied within its borders? Could a city be thought of as being more Jewish because it runs according to values claimed by people who identify as Jewish?
All of the above are perfectly legitimate ways to measure the Jewishness of a city, leaving aside for a moment why one would even want to do this. Though for the Daily Beast, none of those criteria were employed when they published a list of America’s 30 most Jewish cities.
According to DB, the following 3 criteria, all on a per capita basis, were used to come up with their top 30 list: Jewish population, synagogues, and kosher restaurants. And what did they come up with?


  1. New York
  2. Miami
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Boston
  5. Washington-Baltimore
  6. Hartford
  7. Cleveland
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Las Vegas
  10. Chicago
  11. San Francisco
  12. Albany
  13. Tucson
  14. Rochester
  15. Springfield
  16. Pittsfield
  17. Buffalo
  18. San Diego
  19. Denver
  20. Sarasota

Click here for the rest.
My guess is that many people, including Jews living in some of the named cities, will be surprised by how they scored out. For Example, having spent time in Both Pittsfield, MA and Denver, it’s hard to see how the former out-ranked the latter.
It’s not that Pittsfield is bad. In fact, there is at least one lovely synagogue, small to be sure but a sweet congregation, in which I have prayed. And years ago they even had a bagel shop which worked with a local rabbi to attain kosher certification. But in terms of vital Jewish life, with options and institutions, it’s hard to see how Pittsfield got ahead of Denver…until one looks again at Daily Beast’s criteria.
They were not measuring overall vitality of Jewish life, but how great a percentage of a city has religiously identified who need/want kosher restaurants. While I want a town with many religious institutions, and would hate to live without the option of going out for a meal, I hardly think that those are the ultimate markers of Jewishness and worry when people think that they are. Were that to be the case, then the 6.5 million Jews which Daily Beasts says we have in America would be a much smaller number.
Also this business of measuring on a per capita basis suggests that something is more Jewish simply because Jews make up a larger portion of the whole. When paired with the other criteria, that suggests that Jewishness is some kind of “dilutable” essence which needs not only to be vibrant, but to live among as few Gentiles as possible in order to be so. That’s simply wrong.
While numbers matter and having a critical mass of people who identify a certain way is essential for the maintenance of any community’s institutions, once that critical mass is met, it should make no difference among how many non-Jews those Jews live. The only way in which the per capita deal would matter is if we took into account things like public culture e.g. the feel of the city around Jewish holidays, the ubiquity of Jewish food, symbols, etc. And if we did that, then the whole synagogue/kosher restaurant thing would be relatively unimportant.
I think that like many Jews, the people over at the Daily Beast are deeply conflicted about how to score our Jewishness. Part of them looks to religious institutions and practices, even if they are not terribly important to most Jews. And part of them looks to how Jewish a community feels, regardless of what contributes to that feeling.
Whatever it is that makes a city Jewish, or identifiable with any other religious/ethnic group for that matter, is certainly more complex than a few simply criteria and it opens a most important question in our nation of fluid identities and multiple affiliations: what is it that marks any community as identified with a particular religious/ethnic group and who is it that makes that decision?

  • Jane Brown

    I have lived in Palm Beach County, FL permanently for the last 24 yrs. All of our local newspapers, especially the Palm Beach Post, have written articles regarding the fact that the Jewish population has been shifting northward for the last 20 years. The paper has also stated that Palm BeachCounty has the largest Jewish population in all of south Florida.

  • st.mathew

    jane, I feel sorry for those who make a living off of tips in south florida,jews never tip

  • ThePrinterLady (TPL)

    Since I practice Reform Judaism, which isn’t dependent on the Kosher diet to be vital, I think the numbers of “Jewish” people may be skewed to one understanding of Jewish practice (Orthodoxy). All streams of Judaism are, in my opinion, crucial and interconnected forms of the Jewish faith; I think Judaism is much more alive and well that any study based solely on identifying markers of Orthodox practice would lead one to believe.

  • rabbi tire hat

    if your not an orthodox Jew, you are not a true Jew,you are weak and lazy and a pathetic Jew.I’m tearing my shirt at you while you read this.

  • Marian

    Sorry, I have real trouble accepting the idea the Las Vegas is more Jewish than Chicago.

  • hebrew gentile

    the mayor of las vegas is jewish and alot of property including casinos are owned by jews. most buffets serve jewish food. and the jewish mafia controls the drug and prostitution action in sin city…those black outfits with the funny hats are very intimidating knowing they carry sub machine guns with rocket launchers under their black coats and curly locks of hair.

  • Dr. Paul K. Fauteck

    Sorry to say this, Rabbi Tire Hat, but in my humble opinion that kind of bigotry is unbecoming of a Jew. I respect those who choose a different expression of Judaism from my own, and you do not. Perhaps that makes me a better Jew? May I humbly suggest that you sell one of your refrigerators and use the proceeds to go out and live in the real world for a few days.

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