By eJP Staff
A new report about to be released by The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) focuses on best practices for informing, advising and supporting Federations across the continent in their efforts to engage Millennials in Jewish life and community. This report was developed by JFNA’s Education and Engagement department. Launched earlier this year and headed by Dr. Beth Cousens, this initiative is focused on building Federations’ capacity to empower a new generation as well as propelling the Federation movement to connect Jews more deeply with Jewish life.
Engaging the emerging Millennial generation has proven to be a challenge for religious groups and other traditional organizations. Like their non-Jewish peers, Jews born between 1980-2000 are substantially less likely than their forebears to join synagogues or support the sorts of Jewish charities, like Federations, that defined Jewish life in the twentieth century.
It’s not that their Jewish connection isn’t strong. It’s just highly personal. They are hungry for meaning and feel proud to be Jewish. Federation communities that have prioritized engaging Millennials on their own terms are already reaping the rewards of smart strategies. In Detroit, for example, effective engagement of Birthright alumni increased the rate of communal involvement of that crucial demographic from five percent to more than 90 percent in just a few years.
But there is still a great deal of change to facilitate.
This report, conducted to learn about what effective Federation-based models of engagement look like, tells the story of an evolution within Federations from one young adult engagement paradigm to another. It also makes clear that to do this work well communities must work together.
“The work of engaging younger adults in Jewish life is not Federations’ alone,” Cindy Shapira, chair of JFNA’s Jewish Education and Engagement initiative told eJP. “Federations play an increasingly critical role in building, convening and nurturing a table at which legacy agencies are able to collaborate with newer groups in a shared vision. Federations’ greatest value is to be proactive in nurturing a robust ecosystem of engagement opportunities for Millennials.”
“This report is meant as a starting point, not a finished conversation,” Shapira continued. “Our goal is to pique interest and stimulate dialogue within the Federation system, to motivate work that is bigger, bolder and of sacred importance to the Jewish people.” (emphasis added)
With the report now completed, JFNA will host workshops, conference calls and one-on-one consultations to support Federations’ Millennial engagement efforts. They have already launched a blog highlighting ideas, resources and best practices.
“Our future is integrated, co-reliant,” Shapira said. “Federations’ role in this arena is one of facilitative leadership. To that end, we hope that this report is of great benefit not only to Federations but also to the larger field, as we all strive to increase the engagement of adults in their twenties and thirties.”
The report will be available next week; register here to receive a copy.