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Engaging Jewish Teens

Engaging Jewish Teens

A Study of New York Teens, Parents and PractitionersVolunteering + Values

Amy L. Sales, Nicole Samuel, and Alexander Zablotsky

November 2011

Engaging Jewish Teens describes Jewish teens, their everyday reality, and the factors that contribute to or detract from their engagement in Jewish life.

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The study employed multiple surveys in order to view Jewish teens and their relationship to Jewish life from three perspectives: that of the teens, their parents, and communal professionals involved in the work of teen engagement.

The study is based on teens who celebrated a bar/bat mitzvah between 2006 and 2009 and were in 9th, 10th or 11th grade in school year 2010-2011. The survey of teens and their parents looks most closely at four areas in the life of teens: school and friends, extracurricular activities, Jewish engagement and identity, and views of being Jewish.

The results of the current research make clear that programs designed to increase teen participation in Jewish life and activities compete with teens' absorption in academics and college preparation, their lack of “free” time, and their commitment to their friends.

Programs will have to stimulate interest among those who do not place Jewish life high on their list of priorities. They can build on the positive feelings that teens have about being Jewish (the pride, the family celebrations), but they will also have to circumvent the negative feelings that some hold. They will need to impress teens from across the spectrum, from the relative “elites” in our study to those who are less engaged, more marginal to the Jewish community.

Researchers conclude by suggesting steps to facilitate planning in these specific areas.