By Lee M. Hendler and David Raphael
When the Jewish Grandparents Network (JGN) embarked on the first national study of Jewish grandparents in November, in partnership with 17 national organizations and Jewish Federations, we didn’t know exactly what to expect.
The fact that the study’s launch ended up being one of eJP’s top 10 most popular posts of 2018 should have given us a hint that today’s Jewish grandparents are committed to their roles and excited that the Jewish community is interested in them. Nearly 8,000 of them chose to participate in the study – over 7,000 in response to outreach from our partners, social media, and personal referrals, along with 1,000 recruited from a nationally representative panel.
As Jewish grandparents, we were not surprised to learn that the vast majority of our peers (94%) find grandparenting to be a joyful experience. However, we learned that grandparenting can also have its difficulties:
- 19% of respondents nationally told us that their adult children don’t fully appreciate all that they do as grandparents;
- 16% reported struggling to balance being a grandparent with other demands; and
- 11% said that grandparenting was stressful.
The study confirmed some of our expectations and challenged some of our assumptions about Jewish families today:
- We were not surprised that nearly half of the grandparents (46%) nationally have a child married to a non-Jewish partner but were heartened to discover that only 20% are raising their children solely in another faith.
- And while we assumed that most families are scattered across the country, we were surprised to learn that close to half of grandparents (47%) live an hour or less (by car, train or bus) from their grandchildren.
Importantly, we learned that grandparents differ in terms of their commitment to transmitting Jewish values, traditions and practices to their grandchildren. Our research partner, Karen Radkowsky of Impact:NPO, employed multivariate segmentation to identify five segments or groupings of Jewish grandparents, based on shared attitudes and beliefs:
• Joyful Transmitters (20%) – love being grandparents and feel it’s important to transmit Jewish values and beliefs.
• Faithful Transmitters (16%) – want their grandchildren to have a strong connection to Judaism and to marry Jews.
• Engaged Secularists (23%) – engaged grandparents, but don’t model Jewish involvement for their grandchildren.
• Wistful Outsiders (20%) – want to be more involved with their grandchildren, but family dynamics get in the way.
• Non–Transmitters (20%) – not Jewishly-engaged nor interested in passing on Jewish practices to their grandchildren.
The segmentation gives us a rich understanding of each cohort’s attitudes, practices, needs and interests and can provide significant insights to Jewish organizations and communities on effectively engaging Jewish grandparents in Jewish communal life.
The first national study of Jewish grandparents offers a rich trove of data to mine – and these findings represent just the tip of the iceberg. In the months ahead, we look forward to collaborating with educators, professionals, community leaders and academic to further analyze the study’s extensive data and to understanding how it can inform communal and organizational priorities and practices.
Perhaps of greater importance, the study presents new opportunities for Jewish communities and organizations to ask new questions about the challenges of engaging today’s Jewish grandparents and supporting them as they navigate their essential roles in today’s complex and changing “new Jewish family.” Grandparents are saying, work with us! Jewish transmission is our legacy and the ways and places we interact with our families have changed.
We believe that the challenge for Jewish organizations is to pivot towards the remarkable opportunity to engage grandparents as vital partners in creating Jewish experiences of purpose and belonging so essential to our families and communities.
We anticipate releasing the complete report in 6-8 weeks.
Lee M. Hendler and David Raphael are Co-Founders, Jewish Grandparents Network.
The first national study of Jewish grandparents was conducted online by Impact:NPO, and underwritten by the Jewish Grandparents Network (JGN) with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Covenant Foundation, Lee M. Hendler and Mike Leven.
JGN is the first and only national organization empowering grandparents as they embrace both traditional and radically new roles in their families. Through research, network-building, advocacy, and institutional partnerships, we foster new models of grandparent engagement for the benefit of our families, our communities, and our future.
For more information about the first national study of Jewish grandparents and the Jewish Grandparents Network, please email David Raphael, firstname.lastname@example.org.