Article Library / 2015

2014-2015 Annual Assessment

A second area of exciting and hopeful news is that interventions – especially Jewish educational interventions of both day schools and supplementary schools can make a significant, measurable difference: Educating children more than seven years in Jewish day school or in supplementary school settings, through the teen years, exerts positive Jewish impacts on family-related outcomes as well as upon adult Jewish engagement. Our analysis of the recent Pew data set revealed that Jews who study in either day school or even supplementary (largely, congregational) schools for more than seven years are more likely to marry a Jew and more likely to raise children who are “Jewish by religion.” Jewish summer camps also exert a significant positive effect.30

We also must note that all available studies of the impact of Israel travel point in the same direction: Visiting Israel produces elevated measures of Jewish involvement and engagement. The impact of Birthright trips is well documented.Less often realized, teen trips also exert lasting impact. For example, in a recent study of the Robert I. Lappin Foundation’s Youth To Israel program,31 of the married alumni – all of whom originated from nearly two dozen small towns north of Boston – 72 percent had married Jews. In contrast, using the recently conducted 2013 Pew study as a comparison group, for young adults with Jewish educational and parental backgrounds resembling “Lappin’s kids,” just 50 percent had married Jews.

In sum, Jewish education functions as an intervention partially because it fosters peer Jewish social circles. Such interventions have become more and more significant because for Jews to experience Jewish social circles (and find Jewish spouses) is now not a common experience for large numbers of American Jews. Moreover, such in-group friendship and marital patterns run counter to American society’s celebration of ethnically diverse or transcultural relationships, to the extent that Jews who outspokenly promote endogamy (in-marriage) are sometimes accused of being “racist.”32 Having Jewish friends helps young Jews experience warm feelings toward and good memories of such Jewish groups.33

The clear policy implication of these newly mined data on Jewish education, consistent with a long research literature, is that Jewish schooling matters. The creation, expansion, and effective marketing of excellent, attractive, and affordable Jewish educational non-Orthodox day school programs and supplementary school programs for teenagers, is an area where communal intervention can make a measurable difference in the quality of American Jewish identity and the transmission of Jewish identity to the next generation of American Jews.

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