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Raising Jewish Children: Research and Indications for Intervention

Are social networks the untold secret to Jewish identity? Charles Kadushin, among others, faults Jewish educational studies for virtually ignoring the pervasive effect of social circles or networks.41 The organizations that Jews get involved with may “have no direct Jewish connection,” Kadushin points out, and yet they serve to express and reinforce Jewish identity.42 Organizations themselves, overtly Jewish or not, are critical to the existence of social networks–without them the Jews do not find each other, develop relationships, and strengthen their sense of Jewishness. “Non-school ethnic networks are heavily dependent on the embeddedness of social relations in organizational contexts,” Shaul Kelner warns. “Without them, the chances for Jewish community in ethnically sparse areas are slim.”43 Formal and informal Jewish educational settings at all ages may succeed not because of their curricular excellence or pedagogical strategies but because they bring Jews together to form social circles. New educational research should directly examine the role of institutions and organizations in creating social networks that reinforce Jewish identity–and should also examine the failure of existing frameworks to do so. Organizational and educational frameworks themselves may arguably be in need of critical attention and revisioning. Arnold Dashefsky suggested that new research should “develop one or more theoretical frameworks within which an examination of the relationship between Jewish education and identification can be more fruitfully explored.”44

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