Taglit-Birthright Israel

Research Team

Taglit-Birthright Israel/Jewish Futures Research Group

The faculty and staff involved in Birthright Israel-related research have extensive experience studying Jewish young adults. The biographies of the key staff are below.

Leonard Saxe, Ph.D. is Professor of Jewish Community Research and Social Policy at Brandeis University where he also serves as chair of the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership and directs the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute. His current research focuses on Jewish identity and the Jewish community. He is principal investigator of a longitudinal study of Taglit-Birthright Israel and a study of the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population. He is co-author of a 2008 book, Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity (with Barry Chazan) and a 2004 book, How Goodly are Thy Tents: Summer Camps as Jewish Socializing Experiences (with Amy Sales). Professor Saxe has been a Science Fellow for the United States Congress and a Fulbright Professor at Haifa University. In 1989, he was awarded the American Psychological Association’s prize for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, Early Career.

Theodore Sasson, Ph.D.  is a senior research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, Brandeis University. He is also Associate Professor of International Studies at Middlebury College, and Visiting Research Professor, Sociology Department, Brandeis University. Author of books and scholarly articles in the fields of political sociology and criminology, Sasson’s current work examines Israeli political culture and Israel-Diaspora relations. His recent articles and research monographs include: “The New Realism: American Jews’ Views about Israel” (American Jewish Committee, 2009); “Tourists, Travelers and Citizens: Jewish Engagement of Young Adults in Four Centers of North American Jewish Life” (with Fern Chertok and Leonard Saxe, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, 2009);  “From Shrine to Forum: Masada and the Politics of Jewish Extremism (with Shaul Kelner, Israel Studies, Spring 2008); and “A House Divided: Grassroots National Religious Perspectives on the Gaza Disengagement and Future of the West Bank” (with Ephraim Tabory, Journal of Church and State, 2007).  Sasson serves as co-principal investigator on numerous studies related to the educational program Taglit-Birthright Israel, as well as projects for the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Committee, and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

Charles Kadushin, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus Sociology, Graduate Center, CUNY; Distinguished Scholar, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and Visiting Research Professor, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University. He has also taught at Columbia University in the Sociology and Social Psychology Departments and at Yale University in the School of Management and in Graduate Sociology. Kadushin received his Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia University and his AB at Columbia College. He is one of the founders of the social network field. Kadushin is the author of five books including: The American Intellectual Elite, Boston: Little Brown, 1974, (republished by Transaction Press with a new introduction in January, 2006), and numerous journal articles.

Shahar Hecht, M.A. is a research associate at the Cohen Center. She received a joint BA in Psychology and Business Administration from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also received an MA in Criminology. At the Cohen Center, she is the project manager for all studies related to Taglit-Birthright Israel. She oversees data collection and data analysis for Taglit-Birthright Israel evaluations and the study of Birthright Israel alumni in communities across the United States. She has worked on the evaluation of Birthright Israel international programs and on a study of Israelis who participate in Birthright Israel. In addition to Birthright Israel projects, Hecht has contributed to numerous other studies, including a study of Jewish young adults on college campuses and an evaluation of the needs of Nazi victims.

Graham Wright, B.A. is a senior research analyst at the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. Wright has contributed to database management and statistical analysis for a number of Cohen Center projects including the 2005 Boston Jewish Community Study, and the national study of Jewish day schools. He also coordinates the implementation of the Cohen Center’s web based survey platform. Wright graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in Philosophy and Music Theory.

Matthew Boxer, M.A., M.S.
is a research associate at the Cohen Center. He received a B.A. in Judaic Studies (Honors) and Sociology (Honors) from the State University of New York at Albany, an M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and an M.S. in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, where he is currently writing his doctoral dissertation. He has advanced training in survey research, social psychology, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. At the Cohen Center, Mr. Boxer works on projects analyzing Birthright Israel, Jewish summer camps, and Jewish community service programs.

Michelle Shain, M.A. is a research associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. She received a BA in Anthropology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and an MA from the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her primary research projects at the Cohen Center are studies of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Before coming to the Cohen Center, Shain worked for Research Success Technologies, doing program evaluation for Jewish non-profit ventures, and for the Jewish Policy Archive, building a database of current academic literature pertaining to Jewish communal policymaking in North America. She also worked with Synagogue 3000’s Synagogue Studies Institute and Mechon Hadar to prepare their 2007 report “Emergent Jewish Communities and their Participants: Preliminary Findings from the 2007 National Spiritual Communities Study.”