Five Questions with Kim Pesses

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Kim Pesses

The Cleveland Chesed Center, jHUB, the Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Caregiver Support program – these are just a few of the many programs and initiatives that were launched in our community to address the findings of the 2011 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study.

In the fall of 2021, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Community Board of Akron began work on a new 2022 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study. This study’s findings will impact the direction of long-term planning throughout the Cleveland Jewish community over the next decade and beyond. This study will be led by the leading research firm with expertise in Jewish community demographic studies, NORC (National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, along with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

Kim Pesses is chair of the Federation’s Population Study Committee. We had the opportunity to chat with Kim about the population study, its significance, and how it will help Jewish Cleveland moving forward.

Here is Five Questions With ... Kim Pesses:

What is the 2022 Cleveland Jewish Population Study and what is it used for?

Just about every ten years, the Federation looks at our local Jewish community to address our growing needs – how can we improve what is currently happening and how can we improve issues or needs in the future? The population study looks at the ever-changing demographics of Jewish Cleveland and uses that data to educate the Federation, our community’s Jewish organizations, as well as the broader community about the composition, trends, and potential needs within Jewish Cleveland.

What are the key issues the population study will research?

We’re honestly looking at everything that involves the Jewish community. We want to know how Jews in Cleveland are expressing their Jewish identities – what they believe, how they behave, and where they feel they belong. We are looking to get representation from everyone – from interfaith, LBGTQ, Jews of Color, and more. But most importantly, we want to know how many Jews there are in Cleveland and where they live. Having a demographic profile like this will help us determine more about the Jewish population in and around Cleveland. We’re very curious how this compares to the 2011 study and how it’s changed since then. We want to perform this study in a broad way, so we don’t assume things. And there is going to be a real focus on trying to reach all pieces and parts of the Jewish community – topics like mental health, antisemitism, security – things that are extremely important today. We’re also looking at geographic areas that we wouldn’t have focused on 10-15 years ago. I’m really excited to involve as broad a perspective as we can.

Why was it important for you to be a part of the committee and the Population Study?

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Nakum Task Force, which helps individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. There are real services and programs that are going to come out of the study. During my time on the Federation’s Allocations Committee, I got a feel for the needs in the community – the breadth of the services provided. One of the main reasons that I’m excited to be chairing this study is that I know it’s not going to produce a document that’s not just going to sit. The documentation, the statistics, the demographic information is going to be interesting, and I’m excited to see how it’s going to be used.

How will the population study be conducted and how will the data be collected?

The Population Study Committee consists of roughly 25 people from across the community, each chosen specifically because of their involvement in the community and what they can bring to the table, personally and professionally. Around 1500 survey interviews will be sent out to people around our community. These surveys will have various questions that address the topics we are hoping to answer. Once that data is collected, it will be sent to a research firm that will break down the responses. The Population Study Committee will work with Federation staff to provide the first level of oversight and contact with the research team. Our role is to provide a community-wide lens to the research team as they get to know Cleveland and help to determine what will be highlighted in the final reports. The data from this study is going to inform the Federation on its future plans over the next ten years.

What is the timeline for the study and when will the results be shared with the community?

The overall process will take about a year and a half. We are now in the process of finalizing our survey to send to the community. Once that data is collected, it will be broken down by the research firm. That information will then be sent to Federation so our committee to begin to understand what our community needs are and could be. We expect to release this next Cleveland Jewish Population Study in January 2023.

It’s so important that people participate in this study if they receive a request for the survey. We want everyone to pay attention to it and understand its importance. We are trying very hard to have that broad representation because we will use the data to create programs and services that meet the needs of everyone in our community. We want to thank everyone who participates in this process and we’re so grateful for their input!

For more information on the 2022 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study, contact Melanie Halvorson at mhalvorson@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2868.

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