August 2014

Dear Friends, Leonard Saxe 2


I am sure that you join me in welcoming what appears to be an effective cease fire in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. On the research front, earlier this summer, two prominent public opinion research groups (Pew and Gallup) reported that although Americans as a whole sided with Israel in the current conflict, young adults were different. In both surveys, young adults were much more likely to blame Israel for the conflict, rather than blaming Hamas.  


We wanted to know how Jewish young adults felt about the conflict, and whether a Taglit-Birthright Israel experience made a difference. This issue of Constructs reports on our just-completed survey of Taglit applicants. As you will see, Jewish young adults are much more likely than American young adults as a whole to blame Hamas for the conflict, and to view Israel's conduct in the war as justified. And compared to Taglit applicants who didn't go on a trip, Taglit participants were even more likely to blame Hamas and view Israel's conduct favorably.


The resilience of Jewish support for Israel is also a theme in Ted Sasson's recent book, The New American Zionism, which is also profiled in this issue of Constructs. Drawing on a wide range of CMJS studies carried out over the past decade, Sasson shows how American Jews' relationship to Israel has shifted from a "mobilization" approach, focusing on supporting Israel through consensus-type, centralized organizations, to an "engagement" approach, marked by political pluralism, personal relations, and abiding strong feelings of connection. 


In addition to these publications, we highlight below a new Israel Studies Directory, and a study of young adults and Jewish engagement. Stay tuned, also, for a new report from our longitudinal study of Jewish young adults, to be released next month. 


As we start the month of Elul reflection, best wishes from all of us at the Cohen Center, the Steinhardt Institute and the Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership.  

Best regards,
Len signature  

Leonard Saxe, PhD

Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and Social Policy
Director, Steinhardt Social Reseach Institute and Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

U.S. Jewish Young Adults React to the Gaza Conflict:

A Survey of Birthright Israel Applicants


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.

Read the report

Read the report in Hebrew

  • All applicants reported that they sought news from a variety of news sources. Participants were significantly more likely to follow the news "very closely."
  • All Taglit applicants-both participants and nonparticipants-were far less likely to blame Israel for the violence compared to all U.S. 18-29 year olds.
  • Taglit participants were far more likely than either all U.S. 18-29 year olds and nonparticipants to believe that Israel's response was about right.
  • The vast majority of both participants and nonparticipants said that they "very much" or "somewhat" supported Israel, although participants were more likely to be "very much" supportive.
  • Taglit applicants-both participants and nonparticipants-are far more liberal than U.S. young adults as a whole: almost two-thirds considered themselves liberal, compared to less than one-third of all U.S. young adults.

Recently released: 

The New American Zionism

Theodore Sasson

In The New American Zionism, CMJS 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.
Available at Amazon.

Young Adults and Jewish Engagement:

The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel


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. 



2012-13 Israel Studies Report and Directory


The 2012-13 Israel Studies Report and Directory builds on the work of previous directories through inclusion of aggregated 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 American Jewish Population Project


In conjunction with American Jewish Population Estimates: 2012, SSRI has developed the American Jewish Population Project, an innovative effort to map the Jewish population in the United States. This project is intended to allow comparative analyses nationally and locally, as well as over time.  


Visit the interactive map and learn about AJPP. 

Volume 7, Issue 4
This Issue
U.S. Jewish Young Adults React to the Gaza Confict
The New American Zionism
Young Adults and Jewish Engagement
Israel Studies Report and Directory
American Jewish Population Project
 In the News

Philanthropic Priorities in Light of Pew, articles by Fern Chertok, Amy L. Sales, Theodore Sasson, and Leonard Saxe, Contact magazine, April 2014

The Forward, April 27, 2014

JDataa CMJS signature project, collects and provides census-like information about Jewish educational programs in North America. 


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