New Study: Teens More Engaged After Israel Program


Alumni of the Orthodox Union’s (OU) The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ) teen Israel experience exhibit higher levels of engagement and Jewish identity than comparable young adults who didn’t share this experience, a new study out today shows.

The Jewish Impact of The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ): Increasing Jewish Engagement among Conservative, Reform & Non-Denominational Youth, commissioned by the NCSY, the international youth movement of the OU, was authored by Professor Steven M. Cohen (of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz (of Israel).

The report found that “non-Orthodox TJJ alumni significantly out-perform comparable Jewish young adults on several critical indicators of Jewish engagement [including attending services monthly and attending a Shabbat meal, dating mostly Jews and feeling that it is very important to marry a Jew]… The results suggest that TJJ – the trip, the subsequent educational activities, and other consequences of participation – played a major role in generating increased Jewish engagement in these areas, and undoubtedly many others as well.” Ninety-two percent of TJJ alumni feel emotionally attached or very attached to Israel.

“The results testify to the power and potential of The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey,” said Professor Cohen. “But more than that, they also testify to the educational power and potential of Israel and, specifically, of teen trips to Israel. Not every teen will have the opportunity to take a Jerusalem Journey. But in a world where they will soon be facing enormous challenges to their commitment to Jews, Judaism and the Jewish people, young people before college need to have the opportunity to encounter Israel, its meaning and its complexities.”

The study compared responses from TJJ alumni to three other recently collected data sets: the Pew Research Center survey of Jewish Americans (2013); the Jewish Community Study of New York 2011 (2011); and the Birthright survey of applicants for years 2001-5 (2010), but who never participated.

Additional highlighted findings, statistically adjusted to resemble the pre-trip Jewish background of the TJJ alumni, include:

  • 86% of TJJ alumni state that it was very important to raise children as Jewish, compared to 69% of Birthright applicants
  • 80% of TJJ alumni fasted for the whole of Yom Kippur compared with only 48% of 18-29 year olds in the statistically adjusted 2013 Pew survey
  • 75% of TJJ alumni stated that it was “very important to marry a Jew” compared to 55% of Birthright applicants
  • 73% of TJJ alumni usually attended a Shabbat meal compared to 34% of Birthright applicants

The survey can be found at

About: TJJ is an NCSY program designed for public high school teens looking to learn more about their Jewish heritage through hands-on, meaningful experiences. The four-week summer program brings teens together from all different social, geographic and religious backgrounds. During the trip, participants travel around the country and gain an appreciation for all the historical and modern sites of Israel.