Study: Nearly 20% of Jewish Households Struggle to Make Ends Meet

A new financial analysis using data from 2018 to 2023 shows that 19% of Jewish households in 12 communities around the United States either cannot make ends meet or are just managing to make ends meet. 

Like households in the United States at large, Jewish households with children, people with a disability or chronic health issue, and single parents are much more likely to experience financial vulnerabilities than other Jewish homes.

They’re not alone though. In the Jewish community, Orthodox households, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and Russian-speaking Jewish are also more likely to face financial difficulty. This is primarily because these populations tend to be younger and more likely to have children. For Orthodox households, an additional financial challenge is the cost of enrollment in day schools. 

The report, entitled “Analysis of Financial Well-being Using the CMJS Combined Dataset,” was the result of a new effort to standardize financial data across community studies, allowing researchers to accurately compare communities and draw broader conclusions about the Jewish community on a national scale.  

This report is part of a comprehensive effort undertaken by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish (CMJ) Studies at Brandeis University, in collaboration with the Jewish Federations of North America and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The dataset gathered information from more than 53,000 respondents in 25 communities since 2015. This report on financial well-being incorporates data from 22,000 respondents in 12 communities representing over 1 million Jewish adults and nearly 700,000 Jewish households throughout the United States.  

“With our broad communal reach, Jewish Federations were uniquely able to coordinate a consistent approach to the survey questions across communities, giving us new insights into what drives our Jewish communities and what barriers they face to flourishing,” said Jessica Mehlman, Associate Vice President of Impact and Planning at Jewish Federations of North America. “We know that day schools and Jewish Family Services are among the top three collective recipients of local Jewish Federations, and we look forward to working with them on incorporating these latest findings into the work they do every day to support Jewish life in our communities.” 

The analysis found that financial vulnerability remains a problem within the Jewish community across several key indicators. While 2% of households say that they are unable to make ends meet, another 17% say that they are just managing to make ends meet. Data shows that 11% of Jewish households fall below 250% of the federal poverty line, which in 2023 equated to $62,150 for a family of three.  Additionally, 6% of Jewish households report they could not currently cover an emergency expense of $400, and 7% were unable to afford necessities in the past year. 

“This report breaks the myth that poverty is not a Jewish problem,” said Jon Hornstein, Program Director leading the Weinberg Foundation’s grantmaking focused on the Jewish community. "It should serve as a call to action for how funders, direct service agencies, and Federations can work together to better serve individuals and families in our communities who are struggling financially.” 

Additionally, the costs of participating in Jewish life pose a greater barrier for both lower-income and middle- income Jewish families than higher-income Jewish families. 

While an overall 11% of Jewish households said financial limitations affected their engagement in Jewish life, the report found that 49% of poor households, and 28% of those managing to make ends meet, say finances are a constraint to participation in Jewish life.

“We see this unexpected split when it comes to the effect of costs,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Janet Krasner Aronson, Associate Director of CMJS. “Those who are more well off are able to better afford the costs of Jewish life, while those who are on the lower end of the financial spectrum tend to be more Orthodox who may be more motivated to participate in Jewish life regardless of cost, as well as financial assistance is more generally available for lower income families.”

Click to read the full report HERE.

If you would like to speak to the study’s author or learn more about families whose Jewish life is affected by cost, please contact Kelley Quinn at 


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