By The Jewish Education Project
At this week’s Jewish Funders Network Conference, The Jewish Education Project unveiled what we believe to be the largest study of American Jewish teens ever conducted, with 17,576 teens participating. GenZ Now, Understanding and Connecting with Jewish Teens Today deepens our understanding of the complexities of being a Jewish teen in the United States today.
Among the key headlines from the report:
- Participation in Jewish youth movements, youth groups and other organizations – collectively referred to as youth-serving organizations, or YSOs – measurably contributes to teens connecting to being Jewish, and to feeling good about themselves, their relationships, and their ability to make change in the world.
- Jewish teens get along with their parents and often reflect their Jewish values and practices.
- For Jewish teens, being Jewish is often about family, holiday celebrations, and cultural practices.
- Jewish teens share the troubles and concerns of other American adolescents, notably managing anxiety and depression, and coping with academic pressure.
Perhaps the most important message that communities and organizations can take away from this study is that youth-serving organizations are awesome. Teens who participate in a youth-serving organization (or at least the organizations studied in the report) score higher on almost every outcome measured by our researchers, including affinity toward Israel and behaving with the intention of making world a better place.
The findings of this report suggest an imperative to invest further in youth-serving organizations as a model for teen engagement, both to champion the invaluable work that YSOs are already doing, and to imagine new possibilities, including opportunities that appeal to teens who are underrepresented and not yet engaged.
Beginning with a VIP reception on May 28th in New York City, The Jewish Education Project will explore the findings of this monumental study with funders, lay leaders and leadership of participating YSOs. We hope this report provides youth professionals and other stakeholders with constructive insights that enrich their capacity to work with Jewish teens.
Beyond the considerable amount we have learned about American Jewish teens themselves – their essence, their interests, and the ways in which youth-serving organizations matter in their lives – this project serves as a paradigm for collaboration among funders, researchers, and practitioners.
This study would not have been possible without our partners at Rosov Consulting; lead researchers Arielle Levites, Ph.D., and Liat Sayfan, Ph.D.; or the goodwill of the 14 participating youth-serving organizations – from across American Jewish communal life, representing an extraordinary breadth of ideologies and interests. By mobilizing as a field to advance this research, these partners have set an example by prioritizing the teen experience over specific organizational needs.
Their openness to work together to elevate the field and to enrich teens’ development beyond the walls of their own institutions is truly admirable – and indicates a continued, positive shift in organizational mindset and approaches in Jewish teen engagement efforts today.
On behalf of our partners, The Jewish Education Project offers its sincere gratitude to the Jim Joseph Foundation, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation for their support in this long-term effort. Their vision and commitment enabled us to complete this complex and robust multi-year, multi-stage study, which we hope will serve as a model for Jewish communal and educational research in the future.
GenZ Now, Understanding and Connecting with Jewish Teens Today will be released digitally in June. Click here to sign up for a copy of the report, which includes findings based on the following Jewish Youth Servings Organizations:
- Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada
- The Bronfman Fellowship
- Diller Teen Fellows
- Friends of Israel Scouts/Tzofim
- Habonim Dror North America
- JCC Association of North America
- Jewish Teen Funders Network
- Moving Traditions
- URJ Youth/NFTY
- USY/USCJ’s Youth Movement
- Young Judaea