Guest Blog

Why We Need to Know How Jewish American Teens Are Really Doing

– by Sara Allen, JFNA

June 5th, 2024

An Update on the National BeWell Survey in Partnership with Stanford University

BeWell, the Jewish Federations of North America’s youth mental health and wellness initiative, is addressing this important issue within the Jewish world. BeWell recently led a landmark national research project—which was first conceptualized nearly three years ago—examining teen well-being, in partnership with Stanford University. Here’s why the leaders of this research say this is so important:

“The data from this groundbreaking research project will help us better understand how Jewish American teens are faring in this post-pandemic, post-October 7th era, and how we can best meet their needs. This study will provide insight into teens’ relationship with Jewish culture and tradition in relation to their peers, family and social supports. The aim is to pinpoint both their greatest sources of stress, and their strategies for thriving—so the Jewish community can best design opportunities to build resilience and support them when they need it,” says Kate Greene, a social worker and BeWell’s Director of the Resiliency Roundtable, which unites hundreds of professionals and clinicians from across the country for shared learnings, best practices, and other collaborations. Beyond that national network, 20 local communities have launched their own, local Resiliency Roundtables with BeWell support to meet Jewish well-being needs on the ground in their communities.

Dr. Ari Kelman, a professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and Principal Investigator for the project, explains, “American teens are facing a series of crises on all sorts of levels. The research examines experiences among American Jewish teens with regard to pressures for achievement, the pressures of social media, antisemitism, and the war. At the heart of this project is an opportunity to look very closely at American Jewish teenagers and to see whether or not they are experiencing this moment in the same way as their peers.”

Dr. Laura Brady of the Stanford research team adds, “There’s no existing peer-reviewed study that provides the information that we are going to gather through this research. What we learn is going to be something that no one currently knows from an empirically validated standpoint. We don’t want a lack of information to be a reason why Jewish teens aren’t getting the support they need.”

The response to the survey was overwhelming. As the field leader, BeWell leveraged its deep relationships, and activated dozens of national Jewish organizations as well as local leaders, educators, clinicians, parents, grandparents, and other family members to share this with the young people in their lives. To ensure a diversity of backgrounds and experiences were captured, teens were also encouraged to share the survey widely with their friends and schoolmates. More than 4,000 teens from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, completed the survey. The research team will analyze findings over the summer and results will be made publicly available later this year.

“The findings will be so important to national organizations and local communities alike. We are raising awareness and clarifying what Jewish teens are experiencing. We know this research will inspire solutions that most effectively promote teens’ well-being, drawing on Jewish life and resources,” adds Greene.

To learn more about this research, check out BeWell’s website and sign up to receive BeWell’s monthly newsletter and hear the findings as soon as they are released.

Sara Allen is Associate Vice President of Community & Jewish Life at JFNA. She is also the Executive Director of the Funder Collaborative, powered by Jewish Federations.