January 2016

Topic of the Week: Research Profile

January 18, 2016

On the Market: A Study of Millennial Jewish Young Adults Seeking Identity a study by Rachel Bernstein

How do you find a Jewish husband? This is not your bubbe or your mother talking, but a young Jewish millennial woman interviewed Rachel Bernstein, recipient of one of the 25 HBI 2015 Research Awards. Bernstein’s project, “On the Market: A Study of Millennial Jewish Young Adults Seeking Identity,” explores the cultural and ethnic connections of Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s on both a personal and academic level. As a member of this age group, Bernstein, a doctoral candidate at Brandeis in Sociology and Near East and Judaic Studies, is going through “many of the same life transitions as my interviewees—I moved to Boston in my 20s, had to make new friends and figure out relationships, and was getting started in my career. Those kinds of changes had an impact on my Jewishness, and I knew there was a larger story to tell.” 

The intersection of emerging adulthood and religion is interesting from a sociological perspective. Understanding how young adults work out their own identities, including their Jewishness, can impact how we understand what religion is and how it works in individuals’ lives, as well as the cultural tools that Judaism provides for young adults to understand their world, according to Bernstein.  One cultural tool that Judaism imparts are or is? notions about gender. As young adults build friendships, seek romantic relationships, and talk with their family and friends, they may draw on expectations stemming from gendered notions of Jewish family life and stereotypes about other Jews. “Using a gender lens to understand how young adults work through their Jewish identities is central to my study,” Bernstein said.

No stranger to HBI, Bernstein spent the last six summers as research adviser to the Gilda Slifka HBI Intern program. She is a graduate research associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, where she works on socio-demography projects. Bernstein holds a bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University.