I love when we can see similarities or symmetry between our heritage and our country’s laws. Yes, I am aware that many of the laws that are on the books originated from the Bible, so it is not that big of a deal. However, one in particular does not always get the same attention as the others, but it should. After all, it helped the Muppets on Sesame Street illustrate the importance of knowing “Who the people are in your neighborhood.”
As a refresher, in the first verse of the book of numbers, G-d spoke to Moses and said, “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head.” (Yes… I know that the text does say that only the men were to be counted, but that will have to be a discussion for another time.) With this direction, the first census in recorded history was taken. It not only allowed the Israelites to get a true headcount of how many people there were, two years after the exodus from Egypt, and helped establish the leadership of the Israelites, but this count also was a chance to look at the make up of those that were there.
The same is true for the US Census that is conducted every ten years. According to the US Census Bureau website, the aim of the census is “to count the entire population of the country, and at the location where each person usually lives. The census asks questions of people in homes and group living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age and race of each person.” This information is used in a myriad of ways… everything from making sure there is an accurate apportionment of representatives within the House of Representatives to the distribution of federal funds to local communities. This does not even begin to scratch the surface of how non-governmental entities use this information.
I am using each of these censuses to illustrate the importance of understanding not just the number of the people that live in an area, but also who they are. It is why Jewish communities all across the country have conducted demographic studies. The information gathered enables them to gain a deeper understanding about the people that make up their community. One of the significant drawbacks of conducting demographic studies is that they can cost upwards of $100,000 to $250,000. For this reason, many communities who cannot afford these studies, decide to conduct a community survey instead.
A few months ago, the Jewish Federation began developing and working on our own community survey, in order for us to get a better understanding of who we are and what the wants and needs are of our community. The survey will be open from February 15 through March 12. I ask you to help us shape the future of our community by taking this short survey. This is your chance to let us know what you think.
I am very excited to see the results of the survey. We are planning to share them in an upcoming JLife article, as well as with our community partners because the information will be able to be utilized by them as well.
Who knew that Sesame Street would still be teaching us all these years later?
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.