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Marshall H. Tanick is a Golden Valley resident and a constitutional law attorney.

Minnesota has now solved its decennial redistricting conundrums, with only a little tinkering to the Congressional and legislative district boundaries for the quad communities due to the 2020 Census. A different headcount, completed last year, has stirred attention in Minnesota and, in particular, the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs: the Twin Cities Jewish population study.

Finalized late in 2019, the first study of its kind in 15 years reported some surprising data about the Jewish population in the Twin Cities area.

This month, the Jewish community will celebrate the traditional eight-day Passover. It commemorates the exodus from Egypt, and is sandwiched this year between the month-long Ramadan holy days for Muslims starting April 2, and the Christian Easter April 17. It provides an opportune occasion to take a closer look at this study (rather than passing over it).

A startling statistic

The study’s most startling statistic was the estimate that there are some 64,800 Jewish people in the Twin Cities residing in about 34,500 households, along with an additional 20,000 non-Jews, comprising a 34% increase in Jewish individuals from the last study in 2004. The survey reports that the Jewish community represents about 1.3% of the total state population, slightly below the national mark of eight million Jews accounting for slightly more than 2% of the total population in the United States.

The study, based upon a random sample of more than 3,300 people in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, was prepared by Brandeis University in Boston. The survey concludes that a significant portion of the growth was attributable to Jews moving here from other states, coupled with growing numbers of interfaith members within the general population growth in the area as a whole.

The vast bulk of this influx lives in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs, although there are a smattering of Jews in other parts of the state, primarily the Duluth area, St. Cloud and Rochester. In the Twin Cities, approximately half live in the Minneapolis area and nearly a third across the river in St. Paul. On the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi, the Jewish population is nearly an even split between the city and its suburbs, about 25% each, as are those on the east side of the river, with some 16% in St. Paul and 14% in its suburbs, and the balance of the other 15% in outer-ring suburban communities.

Although the study did not break down the Jewish population by particular suburban communities, the quad communities account for a relatively small portion of the Jews. According to 2020 Census data, Jews comprise about 1.5% of the approximately 80,000 residents of Golden Valley, New Hope, Crystal, and Robbinsdale, about 1,200 individuals, although it seems to some observers that the data undercounted the actual numbers by a bit. The largest segment lives in Golden Valley, with a smaller number in New Hope, and fewer in Crystal and Robbinsdale.

The Jewish presence in Golden Valley is amplified by the capacious Jewish Families and Children’s Services building on Golden Valley Road, also housing non-profit social services agency PRISM.

In addition to those living and active in the quads, there are many decedents buried here in a Jewish cemetery in Crystal affiliated with the Adath Jeshurun synagogue in Minnetonka, just north of Hopkins High School.

The presence of the Jewish community in Golden Valley is a turnabout from two generations ago, when Jews were largely excluded from the community. Restrictive covenants in property deeds, although not legally binding, discouraged Jews from moving in to the community, particularly during the migration from north Minneapolis after World War II. As a result, many of the Jews passed over Golden Valley and settled in St. Louis Park, where they comprised a large share of the population and still have the single largest Jewish presence in the suburbs. It was not until the 1970s and even into the 1980s that this population began to filter into different communities.

The Jewish footprint in Golden Valley is reflected as well in its political leadership. Its mayor, Shep Harris, now serving his third term, is the only Jewish mayor in the quad communities.

Interfaith issues

One issue that stands out in the report is the growth of interfaith households. The nearly 35,000 households reflected in the survey have at least one Jewish adult, a 44% increase since the 2004 study. Many of those households include adults of other faiths; nearly 60% of Jews who are married at age 50 in the Twin Cities have a spouse or partner who is not Jewish.

Mobility is reflected, too. While about 48% of Jewish adults were raised in the Twin Cities, 11% moved here within the past five years. The survey also found some 15,000 Jewish children, more than a third of whom are raised by interfaith parents, and 17% by single parents.

These statistics reflect the growing heterogeneity in the quad communities. Diversity is not solely linked to racial and ethnic lines, but on religious ones, too. It makes for stronger, more vibrant communities, a positive pattern likely to continue in the years ahead.

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