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With the community study now in hand, next steps are all about the data

Community Study

By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound

Now that it has been two months since the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has released its Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study, what happens next? Lots of talking, for one.

“We want to continue to share the information and answer questions and learn so that it really ends up being the didactic method,” said Keith Dvorchik, the Federation’s president and CEO, “because we learn from the questions as well.”

The study, conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, projected that the Jewish community stretching from Everett to Tacoma, and from the peninsulas to the Cascade foothills, had grown some 70 percent to 63,400 Jews since the last study took place in 2000. But the data uncovered a much richer trove about the Jews that live in the Puget Sound region than just numbers, and that’s where the Federation wants to go next.

“In a big study like this, you’ve got 20 minutes. You’ve got to cover a lot of areas,” Dvorchik said. “So you get a decent swath, but you don’t get to dig really, really deep.”

And depth is what local organizations are now clamoring for.

“Not only are we in the process of the analysis and beginning to figure out implementation opportunities, but the community at large is also analyzing and beginning to say, ‘Wow, we really want to be able to do X. Or it would be great if we would be able to do Y,’” Dvorchik said.

What that means is that over the next couple of years the Federation will likely partner with a survey firm that specializes in that deeper data. That’s why it held several community-wide and agency-wide forums in February, and why Dvorchik continues to speak at synagogues and organizational board meetings throughout the community.

“What we really want to do through these research forums is understand what questions people want to learn more about,” Dvorchik said. “I imagine we’ll do deep-dive collection and then we’ll want to be able to move into a new area to do another deep-dive collection, unless in that deep dive things pop up that all of a sudden you realize, ‘Oh, we’ve got to dig even deeper.’”

With that newer, most specific data in hand, the organizations should then be able to have ample information to begin tailoring their programming to what people want without having to do the legwork on their own.

“When I’ve talked about this in town halls and other organizations, it gets a very positive reaction because it’s not an area that they want to invest their dollars, [but] they know they need it,” Dvorchik said.

Given the tight budgets that every agency sees these days, it’s not always easy to justify spending money on surveys and data collection. That’s where the Federation can jump in.

Agencies like Jewish Family Service or Hillel can ask: “Do you want to feed another person, or do you want to do the deep-dive data? Do you want to ensure someone is connected on campus Jewishly, or the data? Do you want to make sure there’s another spot for summer camp, or the data?” Dvorchik said. “Because we’re not direct service providers in those areas, it allows us to take a different role.”