Constructs: Building Knowledge of Contemporary Jewry March 2009

In This Issue
Tourists, Travelers, and Citizens
Empowerment, then Citizenship
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This issue of Constructs highlights our recently released study Tourists, Travelers and Citizens: Jewish Engagement of Young Adults in Four Centers of North American Jewish Life. The monograph describes the Jewish engagement of Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni in their home communities. We discovered that although Taglit alumni return home with a desire to be engaged Jewishly, many do not find compelling outlets for extending and expressing their Jewish commitments. Our report lays out the challenges for communities that hope to engage these young adults. We ask that readers consider our findings, not as a critique, but as a constructive blueprint for thinking about young adults, their Jewish lives, and their place in our communities. For those who don't have the time to review the full report, I encourage you to read our op-ed in the Forward.

Tourists and Travelers is the latest report in a program of research on Taglit. We have several new reports and studies in the works--on Russian-speaking participants and on the long-term effects of the program. We would like to acknowledge our supporters who understand the importance of asking questions before arriving at answers. In the present research, we are particularly grateful to the Jim Joseph Foundation and the federations in the communities that we studied.

As always, we welcome your comments.

Len Saxe, Director

Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Tourists and Travlers
Tourists, Travelers, and Citizens: Jewish Engagement of Young Adults in Four Centers of North American Jewish Life

Fern Chertok, Theodore Sasson, and Len Saxe
This study aims to understand how post-college-age Taglit alumni relate to the programs, activities, and organizations geared toward Jewish young adults and identify strategies for better meeting their needs and aspirations for Jewish involvement. Drawing on survey, focus group, and interview data, the report develops a portrait of Jewish young adult life in four of the largest Jewish communities in North America: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.

Authors examine the range of programs geared toward Jewish young adults in each of these cities and describe alumni patterns of engagement. The report then discusses the factors that impede alumni participation in young adult programs, as well as their preferences, desires, and unmet needs for communal involvement. The report concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for successful initiatives that can encourage Taglit alumni and their young adult peers to become Jewish "travelers"--actively exploring what it means for them to be Jewish in a self-directed process of discovery.

Read more.

Read Executive Summary in Hebrew.

Empowerment, Then Citizenship
The Forward, March 25, 2009

Fern Chertok, Theodore Sasson, and Leonard Saxe

One of the greatest challenges facing the Jewish community is how to engage young adults during the long stretch of life between college and parenthood. Jewish young adults want to be involved with Jewish life, but to date the community's response has been limited, uncoordinated, and lacking in clear vision. Examination of the experiences of alumni of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program offers us a window onto this problem and suggests possible ways forward.

Constructs is the e-newsletter of Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Steinhardt Social Research Institute, and Fisher-Bernstein Institute.
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