Dispersed community outbreaks of Shigella sonnei have occurred cyclically among traditionally observant Jews in the United States. In February 2000, we investigated a S. sonnei outbreak in one Jewish community in New York City. To determine risk factors for introduction of infection into households, we conducted a cohort study of households to compare risk factors for illness among primary subjects within households and age-matched well siblings. Isolates were subtyped by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). We used a random effects model to assess extra-household vs. intra-household transmission in households with multiple ill household members. Daycare or pre-school attendance [matched odds ratio (mOR) 16·1, P<0·001] and age <60 months (mOR 6·3, P<0·001) were independently associated with index subject illness. Outbreak isolates were closely related by PFGE analysis to the strain previously observed in Jewish community outbreaks. The random effects model strongly indicated that multiple illnesses in a single household are due to secondary transmission. Disease containment efforts should focus on reducing Shigella transmission in childcare settings and within homes.