Constructs: Building Knowledge of Contemporary Jewry December 2009

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Dear Friends,

It is with great pride that I share the news that Professor Charles Kadushin, distinguished scholar at the Cohen Center, has been awarded the Marshall Sklare award at the annual meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies this weekend. Although the Nor'easter that blanketed the East Coast kept several of us away from the AJS meeting in Los Angeles, Charles gave his award address, "Social Networks and Jews" to an enthusiastic audience.   

The Marshall Sklare Award is given by the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry (ASSJ) and honors the memory of the Cohen Center's founding director. Marshall Sklare (1912-1992) is acknowledged as the "founding father of American Jewish sociology" and was the Klutznick Family Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and Sociology at Brandeis University. The ASSJ award recognizes "a senior scholar who has made a significant scholarly contribution to the social scientific study of Jewry." 

Charles is a pioneer of the social network field. His book, "Making Connections: An Introduction to Social Networks Concepts, Theories and Findings," will be published by Oxford University Press in late 2010. He has conducted many large survey research projects, including a congressionally mandated study of the adjustment of Vietnam Veterans. His current work with the Cohen Center includes surveys of Jewish populations and evaluation studies.

On behalf of all of us who work with Charles, we are delighted to see him receive such a well-deserved honor. Other researchers from the Cohen Center will present at the conference as well. Please see abstracts of their presentations below.

May this season continue to bring us light and peace,
Leonard Saxe, Director
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Steinhardt Social Research Institute
Social Networks and Jews

Charles Kadushin
Social networks are the latest buzz in social science, the popular press, and the blogosphere. Social network analysis has been increasingly applied to a variety of topics and fields, from train schedules in China to the HIV epidemic. Although many of the leading intellectual forerunners and founders of the social network field were Jews, as are a great many of its leading contemporary figures, Jewish social science has invested relatively little in network analysis. Kadushin provides an historical analysis of particular Jewish social networks and suggests methods for network analysis of contemporary Jewish life.

Read the address (Note final version will appear in an upcoming issue of Contemporary Jewry).

Other CMJS presentations at AJS

Matthew Boxer
"Jewish Identity on the Suburban, Urban, and Rural Frontiers"
In sociological research of the American Jewish community, the strongest predictors of Jewish identity are associated with Jewish education, both formal and informal, and social networks. Jews who live outside the major centers of Jewish life typically have lesser access to these forms of Jewish education than their counterparts in large communities, and the services available to them are often of lower quality. Using survey data from applicants for the summer 2008 cohort of the Birthright Israel program, this paper will account for the impact of Jewish community size on Jewish identity.

Fern Chertok
"Guarding the Gates on Shifting Sands: Rabbis, Intermarriage, and Officiation"
Perhaps no issue has caused more consternation among contemporary Reform rabbis than the question of whether to marry a Jew to a non-Jew and, if so, under what circumstances. Rabbis have seen themselves as the guardians at the gates, protecting the authenticity and strength of the Jewish family as the basic building block of the Jewish community. Over the last half century, however bridges of perceived similarity between Jews and non-Jews and between inmarried and intermarried families have been building. In many ways the boundary that rabbis see themselves as defending is in flux.  

Using data from interviews conducted with 30 CCAR rabbis from six large Jewish communities around the United States, we describe the factors influencing the evolution of rabbinic policy on officiating as well as the criteria used to determine which interfaith weddings rabbis are willing to perform. Our data also suggests strategies to reposition rabbis in order to maximize their avenues of influence on unmarried young adults as well as engaged and newly married couples, whether or not they are inmarried or intermarried. 

Benjamin Phillips
"Evaluating the Use of Opt-In Internet Panels for Surveys of American Jews"
Surveys of consumer panels have been used for several decades to study the American Jewish population, most notably the American Jewish Committee's Annual Surveys of American Jewish Opinion. The past few years, however, have seen a dramatic increase in their use. Concomitant with increased use has been a change in mode, with panels shifting from mail-based samples to Internet opt-in panels. This presentation examines the seriousness of threats to the validity of inference from opt-in Internet consumer panels and discusses ways to ameliorate these concerns.

Leonard Saxe
"Taglit-Birthright Israel: Where Does the Journey Lead?"
Taglit-Birthright Israel is about to celebrate its tenth year, during which time it has provided more than 200,000 Diaspora young adults with an Israel experience. This presentation reports the results of a long-term follow-up study of more than 900 program participants and 300 equivalent non-participants. The study discusses the impact of the program on Jewish marriages and conversions and a range of variables related to Jewish identity and engagement. The findings will be framed in social psychological terms and with respect to their implications for the future of Jewish life in the largest Diaspora community.

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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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