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
Access the data files to Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement from the Berman Jewish Databank.
Moishe House is the global leader in creating meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults in their 20s and early 30s, and now provides 10,000 programs annually, engaging more than 50,000 unique young adults (with more than 200,000 in total attendance each year). This evaluation is a follow-up to studies conducted in 2011 and 2015. It assesses the ongoing impact of the Moishe House model, with an emphasis on examining the newer Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) program. Evaluation findings presented in this executive summary are drawn from a survey conducted in late 2017 through early 2018, modified from the previous evaluation survey, as well as from program tracking data.
- As Moishe House expands its reach and offerings (by 150% since 2011), it continues to yield a high impact, deepening participants’ connection to Judaism, Jewish community, and Jewish life. Moishe House helps young adults become stronger leaders in the Jewish community.
- As Moishe House continues to grow, it may be gradually attracting a growing proportion of participants with more nominal Jewish backgrounds.
- Beyond Moishe House’s house-based programs, MHWOW is a strategic way to engage young Jewish adults in Jewish experiences that are meaningful to them.Moishe House leaves a lasting impact on hosts, residents, and participants alike.
- Over time, people maintain their feelings of connection, continue their engagement in Jewish life, and retain knowledge and confidence in leading certain aspects of Jewish life.
Moishe House: 2018 Evaluation Findings, May 2018, Informing Change
The Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming, and Environmental Education (JOFEE) Fellowship began in 2015 with the goal of placing three cohorts of Fellows at host institutions nationwide. To date, the Fellowship is halfway to this goal—the 17 Fellows of the first cohort have fully completed their Fellowship, and the 18 Fellows of the second cohort are well under way with theirs. Through the JOFEE Fellowship, Hazon, which designed and is implementing the Fellowship, and the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is funding the Fellowship, aim to:
1. Develop a training program that integrates Jewish and JOFEE learning and develops the Fellows as JOFEE educators;
2. Implement JOFEE programs across host institutions to help them sustain and invest in JOFEE programming; and
3. Create partnerships and resources for the JOFEE world.
The main focus of the Fellows’ work is to design and implement JOFEE programming at their placements. To support them, Fellows also receive training throughout the Fellowship, along with mentorship from a seasoned JOFEE professional.
JOFEE as a field is a relatively new concept for those involved in Jewish education. However, as revealed in research conducted in 2014 for the Seeds of Opportunity report—which evaluated the state of JOFEE overall—it is a powerful tool for targeting and engaging members of the Jewish community, particularly younger members. The Fellowship is a direct offshoot of the 2014 report, created with the primary goal to build the capacity of JOFEE educators, leading to a broader, more robust field.
The Jim Joseph Foundation and Hazon engaged Informing Change to conduct a four-year evaluation of the Fellowship. Rooted in the expected outcomes for the JOFEE Fellowship, this evaluation is designed to examine the components of the Fellowship within the framework of five evaluation questions.
Learnings from the JOFEE Fellowship, Year 2 Evaluation Report, September 2017
The purpose of this qualitative research project was to understand the Moishe House Peer-Led Retreat Program and to gain insight intofurther improvements to be made to the existing model. The Peer-Led Retreat Program currently recruits and equips Jewish young adults with the skills to lead a weekend Jewish retreat for a group of their peers. Data for this research were gathered during the 2016 calendar year through review of nine responses to a written feedback survey designed and administered by Moishe House, and through phone interviews conducted by the Jim Joseph Foundation with five retreat facilitators and two retreat participants. The common themes that emerged were used to organize and frame the insights, recommendations, and questions below.
Moishe House Peer-Led Retreats – Interview Highlights and Insights, August 2017