New Study Will Provide Insights on Wide Diversity of Jewish Families Today

December 8th, 2023

A new study is exploring the interests, needs, hopes, and challenges of a wide diversity of Jewish families, including those with more than one religious or cultural tradition, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, single parents, and families experiencing economic insecurity. More diverse families are an increasingly higher proportion of Jewish communities and may, at times, feel marginalized in Jewish communal settings.

“This research will help organizations that work with Jewish families and engage Jewish youth better understand their audience,” said Alex Pomson, Managing Director of Rosov Consulting, which is conducting the study. “As the Jewish community becomes more diverse, more knowledge will help communal leaders meet people where they are—and design Jewish experiences that are meaningful to them.”

The research team will engage directly with families who are raising children ages 0-8, who want some kind of Jewish content or experiences in their children’s lives. What do their Jewish lives look like, and what kinds of Jewish lives do they seek to construct? From where do they derive their Jewish inspirations? Which organizations do (and don’t) they feel understand who they are, and which have (or have not) brought them meaning? What are their educational and engagement interests and needs, and how and where are those needs being met, if at all?

Funded by Crown Family Philanthropies, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and the Jim Joseph Foundation, the study’s findings will be shared publicly throughout the research process. The first part of the study is a review of relevant research literature on factors shaping contemporary family life, available here. Researchers also conducted 40 regionally diverse focus groups with 182 individuals. One set of focus groups was with parents raising their children as Jews who are not typically active in Jewish organizations. The second set was with parents who participate in some aspects of Jewish communal life. Researchers will next conduct follow-up interviews with select focus group participants.

Key findings from the literature review:

  • Rising housing costs mean that many people are priced out of areas with greater Jewish infrastructure, impeding their ability to participate in local Jewish communities.
  • Literature on multi-faith and multi-ethnic families dispels the still-common belief that mixed-heritage families represent a “threat” to Jewish continuity.
  • Extended family networks – especially grandparents – can play an important role in children’s lives; relatedly, researchers understand households not as self-contained units, but rather as embedded in broader social networks.

Adds Pomson, “Jewish families have been impacted by the Israel-Hamas war, rising antisemitism and political polarization, the COVID-19 pandemic, school shootings, rising housing costs, and more frequent and widespread climate catastrophes in recent years. It is not an easy time to raise children; this research will shed light on the kind of support, connections, and experiences parents want to navigate these and other challenges.”

photo courtesy of Keshet