Summer 2014 marked the beginning of the second decade of the Summer Institute for Israel Studies (SIIS). SIIS prepares faculty members from around the world to design and teach courses about Israel. The context of the conflict in Gaza provided the 2014 fellows with an opportunity to see and hear first-hand the diversity of Israeli opinions and responses to the war. This report attempts to capture fellows’ experience in 2014 and summarizes the first decade of SIIS influence on the academy.
The Jewish Futures Project (JFP) was launched in 2009 to assess Taglit-Birthright Israel’s long-term impact and examine the trajectory of individuals’ development. This longitudinal panel study follows the lives of a large group of individuals touched by the program, and examines their decisions and behaviors related to Jewish identity and community. The findings in this report were derived from data collected in 2013 for the fourth wave of the JFP. The expanded number of panelists with families allows for new analyses of marriage patterns and child rearing, including the study of applicant subgroups (e.g., children of intermarried parents).
This study examines the reactions of a diverse group of Jewish young adults (applicants to Taglit-Birthright Israel) to the 2014 conflict in Gaza. The report compares their responses to the opinions of young adults in the U.S. The findings are based on a survey conducted in early August 2014 of a sample of U.S. based individuals who applied to the trip--both participants and nonparticipants--from 2011 to 2013. Survey questions focused on media consumption, opinions about Israel's and Hamas' action during the conflict, and support for Israel.
The 2012-13 Directory of Israel Studies builds on the work of previous directories through inclusion of course enrollment data and identification of faculty. A key change is the recognition and addition of upper-level Hebrew language courses as Israel-focused. The Directory this year documents three important findings about the field of Israel studies: growth in the number of Israel-focused courses, albeit at a slower rate than seen in the past; the importance of institutional and external support for professorships, chairs, centers, and programs to prepare scholars to teach in the field; and student demand for Israel-focused courses in enrollment numbers and the number of faculty teaching about Israel.
The 2013 Greater Buffalo Jewish Community Study
This study of Greater Buffalo found a Jewish community comprised of 5,770 households. These households include 9,800 Jewish adults and 2,250 Jewish children, with an additional 1,000 non-Jewish adults and 200 non-Jewish children. On average, the community is older than the US Jewish population as a whole, but it also includes families with children of preschool and day care age, multiple options for supplementary and day schools, and JCC family activities. A challenge confronting the Buffalo Jewish community going forward is to find ways to maintain the loyalty of long-standing members while being welcoming to those less involved, whether they are newcomers to the area or newly seeking connections to the Jewish community.
The New American Zionism - Theodore Sasson
Senior Research Scientist Theodore Sasson argues that at the core, we are fundamentally misunderstanding the new relationship between American Jews and Israel. Conflicting viewpoints and strategies regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Iran deal reflect sharpening polarization in the American Jewish community. But contrary to what many observers have claimed, the fracturing of a unified voice within the Jewish community does not reflect diminished attachment to Israel. Sasson argues that instead we are in the midst of a shift from a "mobilization" approach, which first emerged with the new state and focused on supporting Israel through consensus-oriented, centralized organizations, to an "engagement" approach marked by political pluralism and direct and personal relations with the Jewish state.
This report looks at the short and medium-term impact of Taglit-Birthright as seen during the emerging young adult phase of life--the period immediately after the trips and the first few years that follow. The study focuses, in particular, on attitudes toward Jewish life and participation in Jewish activities.