Study Finds Israel Program for Teach for America Deepens Commitment to Social Justice

Repair the World, a national organization dedicated to making service a defining element of America Jewish life, will host a call today with Teach For America and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to announce results of a new study that finds the REALITY Israel Experience for Teach For America Corps Members – which provides an immersive leadership experience in Israel for Teach For America corps members – had a significant impact on participants’ commitment to social justice and on their leadership abilities to advance educational equity.

While the majority of REALITY participants were Jewish, the success of the program has wide implications for secular and interfaith service communities looking to deepen their members’ commitment to service, namely: ground service in your members’ faith, identity, or heritage. “REALITY’s success strengthens Repair the World’s mission to make service a defining element of American Jewish life and to engage in dialogue with other communities seeking to deepen their members’ commitment to social justice,” said Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World.

In 2009 and 2010, the REALITY Israel Experience brought more than 80 Teach For America corps members who identified as Jews or had an affinity for Judaism on a 10-day trip to Israel that focused on leadership, education and service. Both trips included exposure to Israel’s approach to national and community service, exchanges with young Israelis involved in community service, an exploration of Israel’s educational system, exposure to Israel’s top service leaders and programs, and shared experiences with Teach For America’s international counterpart Teach First Israel. The trip also provided corps members the opportunity to explore the values that drive their commitment to expanding educational opportunity for all students and time to reflect on injustices that exist in the world and how they can serve as leaders to effectively address them.

The REALITY Impact study showed, among other promising findings, that the trip had:

  • Strengthened participants’ commitment to social justice;
  • Strengthened the link between members’ faith and their passion for service;
  • Strengthened participants’ commitment to Teach For America’s mission; and • Strengthened participants’ leadership skills and effectiveness in the classroom.

Founded and jointly funded by the Schusterman Family Foundation and the Samberg Family Foundation, the REALITY Israel Experience is run in partnership with Teach For America and is open to corps members of all faiths. It is built upon the recognition that a disproportionately high number of young Jews participate in secular service experiences but do not connect the motivations for that service with Jewish values or ideas. Later this year, Repair the World will release the first “Repair the World Index Report” of service-related attitudes and behaviors by North American Jewish young adults. Early review of the report data verify this disconnect. On the other hand, currently at least 10 percent of Teach For America’s 8,200 corps members identify as Jewish, and half of all corps members indicate that their faith was a motivating factor for joining Teach For America.

The REALITY trips proved very successful in providing Teach For America participants the opportunity to root their commitment to service in the Jewish value of tikkun olam. An overwhelming majority of TFA participants also reported a desire to remain dedicated to service and to be involved in the Jewish community over the long haul, as a result of their REALITY. Several expressed a greater interest to build Jewish networks and pursue volunteer or professional opportunities with Jewish organizations.

The study findings released today have broad implications for future partnerships between identity groups and secular service organizations. REALITY’s positive outcomes demonstrate to faith-based and secular service communities the long-term benefits gained when a commitment to service is grounded in a participant’s heritage, identity or background. The value of inspired and rooted service-oriented individuals seeking to make a difference on an ongoing, sustained basis is vast and, as this study shows, can be further tapped, deepened and ignited to great benefit to communities-in-need and to inequalities in need of repair.

To participate in today’s call, or to download the Overview of Findings, click here.