By Robert Gluck/JNS.org
Is the age-old trend of Jews retiring to South Florida on the decline? It depends how you look at the numbers, according to demographer Dr. Ira Sheskin. “Even though the percentage coming to Florida may be down, the number coming is probably not decreasing and it’s not going to decrease,” Sheskin, a member of the committee that completed both the 1990 and 2000-01 National Jewish Population Surveys, told JNS.org.
Why is that the case?
“Starting last year the baby boomers began to retire,” said Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. “There are 10,000 baby boomers a day in this country turning age 65. Even though the percentage coming to Florida may be somewhat lower, because there is an increase now of people retiring in this country over the next couple of decades, the number coming to Florida will still continue to increase.”
What Sheskin has seen in South Florida is that the Jewish population in Miami-Dade County has been decreasing since 1975. His last estimate of Jews in Miami, taken in 2004, was 113,000. Broward County in 2008 had 186,000 Jews, and Palm Beach County had 255,000.
Sheskin estimates that there are 555,000 total Jews living in that three-county area – half of them 65 and over.
“Jews are continuing to come here, but they are more frequently settling in Palm Beach County than in Broward County, and probably more frequently in Broward than in Miami-Dade County,” Sheskin said. “Miami has become this major metropolitan area.”
The demographer’s latest estimate for Jews in Miami Beach is 19,000.
Sheskin’s figures show that many so-called “snowbirds” – seniors who travel to Florida seasonally, for a warmer winter – turn into full-year residents.