Broward County has the largest Jewish community in Florida and the eighth largest in the country.
But a new demographic study shows a decline in that community in the last 20 years.
And other findings suggest that Broward's Jewish leaders need to reach out to more Jews from Spanish-speaking countries -- if they want their synagogues to survive.
The author of the study is Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami's Department of Geography and Regional Studies. The report he compiled, based on 1,200 random telephone interviews throughout Broward, shows 13,200 people who identify themselves as Hispanic Jewish adults, as opposed to 3,600 in 1997.
Sheskin maintains that Broward's synagogues and Jewish organizations need to find more ways of connecting with the county's growing number of Latino Jews. A good start, he says, would be holding more bilingual services and events that feature more aspects of Hispanic culture.
"Perhaps at synagogues, you don't just serve falafel," suggests Sheskin. "Perhaps you pick some dishes that Hispanic Jews grew up with."
Other takeaways from the 2016 Demographic Study of the Broward Jewish Community:
- The median age of Jews residing in Broward County is 53.
- The decline in Broward's Jewish population from 243,000 in 1997 to 149,000 in 2016 is due to the mortality of the large elderly Jewish population.
- 19 percent of adults in Broward's Jewish households are born outside of the United States.
Sheskin's study also suggests more outreach needs to be done to engage South Florida's growing population of Jewish singles. In 1997, 34 percent of Broward Jewish adults aged between 18 and 34 were married, compared to about 14 percent today. Sheskin says discounts on synagogue membership might motivate more young people to join.
"If you walk into a synagogue as a 27-year-old single person and everyone else is in their forties and fifties and married, you're not going to feel like part of the group," says Sheskin. "It certainly represents a challenge."