July 9, 2012

Kosher Eclipses Other Observances for Most American Jews

NEW YORK -- Recent studies in New York and other cities show a significant upswing in religious observance amongst all categories of Jews, with the exception perhaps of the non-affiliated. But kosher food retailers in many markets including New York, South Florida and Los Angeles indicate that when it comes to kosher, even the non-affiliated seek out kosher foods, particularly deli and takeout. 

Several Chabad emissaries told KosherToday that buying kosher is for many of the unaffiliated Jews a “way to connect with their past.” In Henderson, NV Harold on Thursdays shops for challah, a rotisserie chicken and chopped liver at the local Albertson’s. By his own admission, the 68-year old retired transplant from New Jersey does not participate in Jewish life in any other way. “It’s just been a tradition, a kosher habit, for my family for three generations.” He is not alone as the “kosher habit” is repeated in many markets.

The just released 2011 New York Jewish Community Study indicates that kosher foods consumption continues to increase. While the study by UJA-Federation says that 32% keep kosher homes, indications are that the number of Jews who eat kosher on a fairly regular basis is more than double to nearly 70%. 

The UJA study reveals that 68% light Chanukah candles, 69% participate in at least one Passover Seder, and 46% take part in a Shabbat meal. The Passover observance is the reason why 40% of all kosher sales annually take place around Passover time. 

All of the studies also point to sales increases of 12% - 18% over the next five years. This will be due to a combination of natural growth amongst the Orthodox, increased availability of kosher foods in non-Orthodox areas (which seems to attract even the non-affiliated), more kosher products bought by non-traditional consumers, and even participation by children in mixed marriages that are raised Jewish.