Jewish Engagement

Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement

– by Atlantic 57

April 30th, 2020

Research on the American Jewish population in recent years has measured everything from educational attainment to religious composition, attitudes toward the elderly, views on Israel, geographic dispersal, and political persuasion. Yet, studies to date have not deeply explored the nation’s Jewish young adult population.

Increasingly, young American Jews are being recognized as an independent group within the larger American Jewish community—one that engages with being Jewish in ways that differ from previous generations. Approaches to research, however, have not been updated to reflect that this cohort engages with being Jewish differently. As a result, young American Jews’ attitudes and behaviors are not adequately reflected in research that is based on more long-standing metrics related to ritual and religion. Just what these young people make of their Jewish upbringing and values, and how they self-identify, requires further exploration.

Seeking to fill these gaps and to provide a comprehensive and multi-faceted view of Jewish young adults, a consortium of Jewish philanthropies commissioned Atlantic 57 to conduct a rigorous study of Jewish young adults across the United States. For the purposes of this research, young adults were included in the study if they self-identified as Jewish in any way. By focusing on self-prescribed definitions of being Jewish rather than external measures of such identification, this study allows for a nuanced approach to understanding Jewish engagement. It also challenges definitions of what it means to be Jewish today.

The aim of this research is to provide practitioners and philanthropies with rich context on what being Jewish means to these young adults and on how they engage or aspire to engage in Jewish life. This research does not aim to assess the effectiveness of specific programs on Jewish engagement or to make a value judgment about right and wrong ways to be Jewish.

This research was funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Maimonides Fund.

Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement, Atlantic 57, March 2020