Tourists, Travelers and Citizens
The Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University has released their latest study, Tourists, Travelers, and Citizens: Jewish Engagement of Young Adults in Four Centers of North American Jewish Life.
Here’s an excerpt from the Executive Summary:
Contemporary North American Jewish young adults live in a society where Jews have achieved unprecedented social, educational, and economic success. However, with little Jewish education past their early teen years, and coming of age in an era of deferred marriage and family formation, most of these young adults go through long periods without a meaningful connection to the Jewish community. Communal concerns regarding whether the next generation of Jewish young adults would see themselves as Jews and connected to other Jews led to the creation of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Taglit’s ten-day educational trips have a consistent and strong impact on participants’ Jewish identities and feelings of connection to Israel and the Jewish people. The challenge now for the Jewish community is to enable alumni to translate their Taglit-inspired feelings of Jewish peoplehood and identity into meaningful engagement with Jewish life.
This study aims to understand how post-college-age Taglit alumni relate to the programs, activities, and organizations geared toward Jewish young adults and identify strategies for better meeting their needs and aspirations for Jewish involvement. Drawing on survey, focus group, and interview data, the report develops a portrait of post-college Jewish young adult life in four of the largest Jewish communities in North America: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.
Jewish young adults, relative to other Jews, are organizationally and institutionally under-served. Especially in the post-college years, Jewish young adults often do not find appealing and accessible ways to connect to Jewish life. Prompted in part by Taglit and affiliated organizations, this situation is
changing. In the four cities studied, there has been a recent upsurge in the number and range of programs designed for young adults. In particular, each of the four cities has a partnership with Birthright Israel NEXT, a Taglit alumni association. In addition, each features educational, recreational, religious, and social action programs sponsored by synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Federations, campus Hillels, and other nonprofit organizations.
Alumni respondents to our survey reported modest levels of involvement with these programs. Just over half reported participating in such programs, most attending one or two. Most respondents characterized their level of involvement with the programs they had attended as “a little” rather than “a lot.” But these young adults also made clear, both in their responses to our survey and in focus groups, that they would like to be more involved in Jewish life. Their Taglit experience showed them how intellectually stimulating and personally meaningful Jewish engagement can be and created a thirst for the types of Jewish involvement they currently seek.