February 2015

Dear Friends,

Greetings from snowy Boston. I am pleased to share the news that we recently released two major reports: a community study of Seattle Jewry and a survey on the effects of Taglit-Birthright Israel's 2014 summer programs, conducted before and during the Israel-Hamas war.

Our report on the Greater Seattle Jewish community is the latest in a series of population studies that uses both meta-analysis data and new surveys to estimate the size and characteristics of the Jewish population. The resulting analysis found that Seattle Jewry has grown nearly 70% in the last 13 years, fueled both by highly educated newcomers arriving in Seattle and by the large proportion of intermarried families who identify Jewishly. The study also found that Seattle has a substantial proportion of individuals who identify as culturally Jewish or as secular Jews. Over the course of January, members of the research team (Janet Krasner Aronson, Matthew Boxer and myself) spent several days in Seattle discussing the results of the survey and its potential implications for the community.

The second report released just this week is entitled, Discovering Israel at War. This study has as its particular focus the summer 2014 trips and the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on trip experiences and attitudes toward Israel and Jewish identity. The findings suggest the experience of participants was extremely positive. Most surprisingly, and contrary to suggestions that the war created a rift in Jewish support for Israel, the findings indicated that support for Israel increased among both participants and nonparticipants, regardless of political orientation. An essay further exploring this issue appears today in Tablet Magazine.

As always, I welcome your comments and reactions to our work. It appears that we have a few days of respite from snow ----right now it's only bone-chilling cold. I look forward to sharing additional news in the coming, hopefully warmer, weeks. It's Adar, we should be happy!


      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
2014 Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study

In collaboration with the  Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle 


Matthew Boxer, Janet Krasner Aronson, Matthew A. Brown, Leonard Saxe

The 2014 Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study, provides an up-to-date description of the size and character of Seattle-area Jewry. Included in the study are demographic findings, information on the religious background and geographic profile of Greater Seattle's Jewish population as well as descriptions of participation in Jewish life and volunteer activities.

The narrative is supplemented with community members' own words on topics related to Jewish identity, diversity, and community resources. The report also includes special sections devoted to issues confronting families with children, young adults, senior adults, inmarried and intermarried couples, and synagogue members.


Read the report

Read the technical appendices  



Discovering Israel at War
The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel in Summer 2014

Michelle Shain, Leonard Saxe, Shahar Hecht, Graham Wright, Theodore Sasson  

Focusing on findings from a study of summer 2014 applicants and participants, this report is the latest in a series of studies of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Summer 2014 was notable for three reasons. First, the summer trips attracted the largest group of applicants from this region since the program's inception. Second, for the first time, applicants who had had a peer educational experience in Israel during their high school years were eligible to apply to the program. Third, the program occurred during a six-week war in which missiles were fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers and Israel responded with a military intervention in Gaza, "Operation Protective Edge." 

The report focuses on understanding the degree to which the change in the applicant pool affected perceptions of the trip experience, the impact of the trip itself on connection to Israel and sense of Jewish identity, and the impact of the conflict in Gaza on trip experiences and trip impact.   



How Do Young American Jews Feel About Israel?

New study assesses impact of 2014 Gaza war on Jewish opinion


Theodore Sasson, Leonard Saxe, and Michelle Shain


February 24, 2015




I s rael retains broad support among Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but that has not prevented fractious debate about Israeli policies.

Today's divisions over Prime Minister Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress have a partisan hue, with Republicans largely supporting the speech and Democrats largely opposed. Last summer, although national surveys reported substantial support for Israel in its war with Hamas, they also reported a generational divide, with older Americans more likely than younger Americans to view Israel's conduct of the war as justified.

With fractures in the pro-Israel consensus developing along partisan and generational lines, observers of American Jewish opinion are once again warning that Israel's policies ---on Iran, Gaza, Palestinian peace talks, and Israeli democracy --are alienating liberal American Jews, especially in the younger generation. Given that three-quarters of American Jews vote democratic and nearly half identify as liberal, it is a reasonable concern. But is it true?

Continue in Tablet Magazine ...


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Constructs is the e-newsletter of Brandeis University's  Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies