Constructs: Building Knowledge of Contemporary Jewry January 2009

In This Issue
Learning to Do Good
Justice, Justice Shall They Pursue
Upcoming Presentation
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The events of the past week, highlighted by the inauguration of President Obama, are of historic import. The symbolism and rhetoric of the week were powerful statements of "responsibility and accountability." In this vein, the new President, in word and deed, began to transform Martin Luther King Day into a day of service. By doing so he reignited Americans' interest in public service. Like the President and his family, many Americans celebrated the holiday this year by volunteering with various community service programs. 

This issue of Constructs focuses on service learning, particularly among young adult Jews. Contemporary young adults are committed to issues of social justice and motivated to act on their beliefs through advocacy and volunteerism. Leading Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish World Service and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, have pressed others to see the potential of community service, both for addressing the most pressing needs of the developing world and for engaging Jewish young adults. Our data about service learning programs can help decision makers better understand and develop such programs.

Below, we profile two reports that explore the interest of young adult Jews in long-term volunteer opportunities and the link between their Jewish identities and service. Although there is clear evidence of student interest in Jewish long-term service options, even the most interested have important questions about the goals, content, and structure of these experiences. Successful mobilization of youth will require not only outreach, but also serious consideration of program goals and organization.

As always, we welcome your comments and feedback.

Len Saxe, Director

Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Learning to Do Good
Learning to Do Good: Evaluation of UJA-Federation of New York's Break New Ground Jewish Service Learning Initiative 

Fern Chertok and Nicole Samuel
Leaders of the U.S. Jewish community are increasingly recognizing the potential of Jewish-sponsored community service to address the most pressing needs of the developing world and bring young adults closer to their Jewish communities. This report examines UJA-Federation of New York's Break New Ground Jewish Service Learning Initiative (BNG). BNG brings college-age young adults and high school students together in immersive, ten-day service learning experiences in order to "strengthen the life-long connection to Jewish communal life."

Read more.

Justice, Justice Shall They Pursue
Justice, Justice Shall They Pursue: Young Adult Interest in Long-term Service Options

Fern Chertok and Nicole Samuel

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies is exploring the development of extended volunteer opportunities for young adult Jews. Similar to the Peace Corps, the proposed program would engage recent Jewish college graduates in long-term service related to international relief and development efforts. This research was designed to gather information about the level of interest, motivations, means, and commitments of prospective participants. 

Upcoming Presentation

International conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
New Orleans, March 2009

Amy Sales and David Mersky

Formula for Engaging the New Philanthropist:
Service Learning + Jewish Values = Compelling Case Statement
Recent years have seen an upsurge in service learning in the Jewish community. This activity, part of an ongoing search for ways to create meaningful opportunities for Jewish learning and engagement, received additional impetus in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This session demonstrates how the values of a community are articulated through a program and how a case statement, based on these values and program, can be written to appeal to a new generation of philanthropists.
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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