Community to score Pittsburgh Jewish life
An Internet survey intended to cull demographic and attitudinal information from the entire Pittsburgh-area Jewish community will be disseminated beginning this week via email.
The survey is part of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard project, an online tool that allows its users to review data reflecting how well the community is doing in meeting the needs of its individual members and institutions.
An initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Scorecard project, which can be found at jewishscorecard. com, has already collected data from local Jewish organizations and congregations concerning everything from day school enrollment to the utilization of Jewish services for senior citizens.
Now, it wants to hear directly from individual community members, according to Raimy Rubin, manager of the project.
The survey will be distributed electronically by local Jewish organizations to each of their members, he said.
“It’s really to collect attitudinal response from our community, to allow community members to be heard,” explained Rubin. “That’s just as important as the organizations. My goal is [that] this will tell organizations about their own market share and allow them to make decisions based on that information.”
Questions on the survey incorporate many of the topics that were covered on a national scale by last year’s Pew Research Center survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.”
Included in the local survey are questions regarding the religion in which one is raising his or her children; ritual practices such as keeping kosher and Shabbat candle lighting; whether financial constraints prevent one from joining a congregation, traveling to Israel or sending children to Jewish day school; how attached emotionally one feels to Israel; and how one rates the quality of Jewish education in Pittsburgh.
The survey will be distributed to each of the 10 Federation beneficiary agencies as well as the many congregations that so far have participated in the project, said Meryl Ainsman, chair of the Scorecard committee.
Those organizations will then send out the survey to their entire membership. Individual members of organizations will then be asked to forward the survey to other Jews they know in the area who may not be formally affiliated with any Jewish institution.
“It’s our intent to get as widespread a distribution as possible,” said Ainsman. “We hope to reach the unaffiliated as well as the affiliated.”
The survey — which is not a formal, scientific poll as was last year’s Pew study — was generated in consultation with Jacob Ukeles, a national expert on performance management, and Ron Miller, a data analyst who co-directed the 2002 Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study, the last formal survey of Jewish Pittsburgh.
“This will not be a scientific survey,” Ainsman cautioned, “but it will be a good indicator to get the information we’re looking for without doing a fullfledged survey.”
The Internet survey, which will be answered on a voluntary basis by those who receive it, is a more economically feasible way to get a picture of Jewish Pittsburgh, according to Ainsman.
“The entire focus is how can these questions inform what we’re trying to do with the Scorecard,” she said. “The purpose of the Scorecard is, if you can’t measure, you can’t improve.”
Pittsburgh’s Federation has been garnering national attention for the Scorecard’s innovative method of measuring community performance. It was recognized in the April 14 edition of the Forward for being the first Federation nationwide “to assess a community’s strengths and weaknesses in an accessible and open way.”
The survey will be disseminated beginning May 1, and information will be collected through May 25, said Ainsman. And because many Pittsburghers are members of more than one Jewish institution, it is likely they will receive the survey in their inbox more than once.
“But that’s not a bad thing,” she said. “It’s a good thing because it tells you that all the organizations that you are involved in think it’s important.
“And it will help to reinforce that the community as a whole feels this is something important.”
After the results are in, they will be collated and posted on the Scorecard website, said Ainsman.
While the survey is partially funded by the Federation, it’s not about the Federation, she stressed. “It’s about the community. We want it to be a reflection of the entire community.”
After the survey is complete, a roundtable of community leaders will be convened along with the Scorecard steering committee to help make recommendations based on the information gathered, said Ainsman.
“What we want people to understand is that this is a community endeavor,” she said.
“And there is no judgment going on here. Everything will be confidential, and everything will be reported on in the aggregate.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)