When Jews move from one local Jewish community to another, their connections to the Federation system are jeopardized more than any of their other Jewish behaviors. This is the key finding of a major new report released this week by The Jewish Federations of North America.
The study, entitled Moving: The Impact of Geographic Mobility on the Jewish Community, examines how mobility is connected to a wide range of Jewish behaviors and attitudes. The report consistently found that connections to Federations – in terms of donations, familiarity and contact – are threatened when people move. Donations to other Jewish causes are also affected, as are memberships and connections to synagogues and other Jewish institutions. In contrast, other aspects of Jewish life – ritual observance, connections with Israel, raising children to be Jewish – are affected less or not at all.
The study was a collaborative project of The Jewish Federations of North America, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago and the North American Jewish Data Bank.
“Simply put, the mobility study showed that when Jews move, they are less connected to Federation,” said Bill Berman, one of the lead funders of the study, “We can’t afford to lose these future leaders of our community and must make it a priority to do outreach, find them and reconnect them.”
Researchers examined three sources of data: nine local Jewish community studies sponsored by Jewish Federations and archived at the North American Jewish Data Bank, the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, and three decades of data from the General Social Survey, a well-known and widely used survey conducted by NORC.
The findings highlight the challenges facing the Jewish communal system – Federations, other Jewish philanthropic causes, synagogues and schools – in addressing how to engage Jews on the move. A series of focus groups reviewed the findings and helped the researchers develop a series of strategic and policy recommendations.
The major recommendations include:
- Greater information sharing about movers among communal organizations, including Federations. Emphasis should be placed on shared interests rather than on competing.
- Better understanding of consumerism. To reach Jewish movers, organizations need to focus on today’s “consumer orientation,” in which Jews (like other Americans) seek to consume, connect to and participate in organizational offerings in a flexible manner, and to take part in discrete activities, events and programs on their own terms.
- Reaching out to newcomers through marketing, communications and branding. Movers who cannot be identified have to be reached by general marketing and communication tools, including use of the Web and online social networking tools. System-wide branding is especially critical for the Federation system, whose local affiliates have historically operated without a national brand to unify them. The Jewish Federations of North America has changed its name to align with most Federations, as part of a national branding strategy to make it easier for movers to identify Federations from one community to another and see they are part of a wider system.
- Identifying ways national organizations can add value to local affiliates by validating local agency imperatives, expanding local frameworks and sharing best practices.
“The Mobility Study highlights that the only way to combat the negative impact of geographic mobility is to have more coordination across local Jewish communities, including Federations,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. “As a continental system, we have the ability to make a huge difference for the future of the Jewish community, but only if we work together.”
You can download an executive summary and the full report here.