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Study funded in part by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba

by Rhonda Spivak, March 24 2019

A major new study of Canadian Jewry has found that Winnipeg`s Jewish population declined by more than 10% between 1991-2011. The study also has found at page 77 that it "seems likely that the size of the Winnipeg Jewish community is likely to continue to decline in the foreseeable future." The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba helped to fund the research study (as did the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Federation CJA (Montreal) and The Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal). The study was carried out by Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership withh the University of Toronto and York University.Three hundred and sixty one individuals from Winnipeg ages 18 or over who identify as Jewish or part Jewish were interviewed by telephone or online for the study between February and September 2018. (This sample of 361 Winnipeggers included immigrants who had come from other countries, Keith Neuman,Execuive Director of Environics Institute for Research told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.)

The study notes on p.12, that "Vancouver was by far the fastest growing Jewish community in the country, increasing in size by one-third between 1991 and 2011. The Jewish populations of three other cities also increased substantially over those two decades: Ottawa (16.4%), Toronto (15.4%), and Calgary (13.0%). On the other hand, the Jewish population of some cities shrank between 1991 and 2011. Montreal and Winnipeg stand out, with the Jewish communities of both cities having decreased in size by more than 10 percent [emphasis added]. These numbers come from Statistics Canada, Neuman told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

According to the study as of 2011, Winnipeg had 4% of the population of 392,000 Canadian Jews. This means that the number of Jews in Winnipeg as of 2011, was 15,680 according to the study.

The study examines Winnipeg`s history on p. 37 which partly explains the decline of Winnipeg`s Jewish community. It says on p.37 that "Winnipeg’s period of rapid growth began in the late nineteenth century, when the extension of the Canadian National Railway turned the city into the `gateway to the west.` Winnipeg was Canada’s third largest city until 1931, when Vancouver overtook it. In recent decades, Winnipeg has grown slowly while Vancouver has grown quickly due to its abundant economic opportunities, temperate climate, and natural beauty. The annual Mercer Quality of Living Survey uses 39 indicators to rank 231 cities worldwide for their attractiveness as places to reside (Mercer 2018). In 2018, Vancouver ranked 5th in the world, while Winnipeg did not make the list. This difference suggests one reason why the Jewish community of Winnipeg has been declining in size for several decades, while the Jewish community of Vancouver has been growing quickly and has become Canada’s third largest. In addition to Vancouver, Toronto seems to be an especially popular destination for departing Winnipeggers, especially its younger members, who may be drawn to the city by its large Jewish community, its economic opportunities, and its high quality of living (Toronto ranks 16th globally on the Mercer index)."

The new study further examined the reasons for Winnipeg`s Out Migration on p. 76, noting that "In Winnipeg, the survey questions focused on considerations given to leaving the city. One-third (34%) of Jews in Winnipeg say they have thought about moving away from the city at some point in the past few years (this includes 1% who say they have already decided to move). The size of the Winnipeg subsample limits the depth of subgroup analysis, but thinking about moving is most likely to be reported by those 18 to 29 years of age, those with no children, and those with higher levels of education and income. Among those who have considered such a move, four in ten say it is very (10%) or somewhat (29%) likely they will leave Winnipeg in the foreseeable future. The remainder indicate this is not very (43%) or not at all (16%) likely. Those who say they are very or somewhat likely to leave were asked about the timing of the move. One-third of this group (33%) anticipate it might be within the next two years, while others indicate the next three to five years (32%), the next six to 10 years (21%), or longer (6%). Nine percent report they are still in the process of deciding on the timing of a potential move from Winnipeg. Finally, Winnipeggers considering a move were asked why they would leave the city (asked unprompted).Several reasons are mentioned with none predominating. Most commonly mentioned are the desire to live in a larger or different Jewish community (25% of this group, representing 4% of Winnipeg Jews), to join family or close friends living elsewhere (24%), for better job or career opportunities (17%), to live in a warmer climate (17%), and other reasons (each mentioned by fewer than 5% of this group)."

The study concludes at p.77 given the numbers above of Winnipeggers who are thinking about leaving the city it "seems likely that the size of the Winnipeg Jewish community is likely to continue to decline in the foreseeable future." The study shows the percentage of Winnipeg respondents who have thought about moving away in the past few years, think it is very or somewhat likely they will leave in the foreseeable future, and say they are most likely to leave within five years. The study concludes at page 77, "Thoughts, expectations and plans change. There can often be a large gap between thoughts, expectations and plans, on the one hand, and actions, on the other. It nonetheless seems likely that the size of the Winnipeg Jewish community is likely to continue to decline in the foreseeable future. [emphasis added]"

The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, what, if anything can it do to help ensure that Winnipeg`s Jewish Community doesn`t continue to shrink as a community as this study suggests will be the case in the foreseeable future. Zachary Minuk, Director of Marketing & Communications of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba responded on March 19,2019 that "Right now, I do not have an answer to your question. Now that we have the results, we are in the process of internally beginning a full analysis of them. We are going to look at what these results mean and where we need to be going from here. Once we have done our full analysis, I will share with you what our plans going forward will be."

It should be noted that during the years 1999-2011, there were 3,898 new immigrants that came to Winnipeg (The Winnipeg Jewish Review received this number from Dalia Szpiro, Grow Winnipeg Director of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg). The new study, based on Statistics Canada data, says that during the period of 1991-2011, Winnipeg`s Jewish Community population declined by more than 10% even taking into account all these new immigrants to Winnipeg . (Editor`s comment: This would mean that according to the new study, without the influx of these 3,898 new immigrants, the Winnipeg Jewish community would have suffered a very serious decline in its population--far far greater than 10%.) 

As per p. 75 of the new study, "Survey respondents in Winnipeg were asked about the financial resources of their local Jewish community and whether they believe they are adequate in terms of providing the programs and services needed by the community and its members. Seven in ten say they believe the resources are adequate (59%), if not more than adequate (13%), to meet the community’s needs. The remainder believe the resources are less than adequate (13 %) or are unable to offer an opinion (15%). The view that local resources are not adequate is somewhat more prevalent among women and residents who belong to both a synagogue and one or more other Jewish organizations.

From the data of the survey, "it seems that Canada's Jeish communities exhibit less cohesiveness as one moves westward," (p.36) but there is one exception. The main exception to the general pattern is that 57 percent of Winnipeggers belong to a Jewish organization other than a synagogue, compared to 48 percent in Montreal, 48 percent in Toronto, and 36 percent in Vancouver. Winnipeg's first-place  ranking on this indicator is probably due to the remarkable success of the Asper Jewish Community Campus, which involves a large proportion of Winnipeg Jews in its many and diverse cultural, educational, and recreational activities (at p 36).




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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.