Amy L. Sales, PhD
Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Amy L. Sales is associate director and senior research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. A social psychologist, she conducts research on Jewish institutions and their role in creating Jewish life and community.
In her 25 plus years at Brandeis University, she has led a number of major research initiatives on an array of Jewish institutions including synagogues, and Jewish schools, summer camps, campus organizations, and women’s organizations. Her main concerns are institutional strength and sustainability, leadership and leadership development, and Jewish purpose and impact.
She is the currently co-director of Thriving Synagogue, a multiyear effort to develop a measurement system for synagogues. The system, in use in Greater New York, generates data that are being used to help synagogues assess their current status and their future possibilities.
Since 2000, she has led a program of research on Jewish overnight camps that has examined Jewish life, Jewish learning, professional development, and culture change at camp. She is co-author of the seminal book on overnight camps, How Goodly Are Thy Tents: Summer Camps as Jewish Socializing Experiences (2004) and two policy papers that have set the course for development of the field:Limud by the Lake (2002) and Limud by the Lake Revisited (2011).
She specializes in evaluation research and believes that the best way to understand a system is to try to change it. Studies have examined, for example, the impact of Synagogue 2000 on synagogue practice, the impact of The Re-Imagine Project on congregational education, the impact of Boston’s Family Educator Initiative on family engagement in Jewish life, and the impact of various other educational, professional, and organizational development initiatives.
She also conducts studies designed to provide basic understanding of Jewish life and generate recommendations for its enhancement. These have included, among others, a national study of Jewish life on college campuses, a study of teen engagement in New York, and studies of Jewish fundraisers and Jewish family foundations.