Constructs: Building Knowledge of Contemporary Jewry October 2009

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At a briefing held at Brandeis House in New York City this morning (October 26), we released our latest study of Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni, Generation Birthright Israel: The Impact of an Israel Experience on Jewish Identity and Choices. The new study is the first systematic inquiry into whether the strong positive attitudes expressed by participants after their Birthright Israel trips affect their long-term development and engagement with the Jewish community. The simple answer is that the impact appears to be profound.

In our study, we interviewed alumni who participated in Birthright Israel five to eight years ago and compared them to similar peers who applied to the program but did not go. Participants, many years after their trip, describe their experience as "life changing." Compared to their peers who did not participate, alumni expressed stronger connections to Israel, connections to the Jewish people, and were more highly motivated to create Jewish families. But, even more striking was the finding that among married non-Orthodox respondents, participants were 57% more likely to be married to a Jew. Notably, the program's effects were stronger for participants who came to it with relatively weak Jewish backgrounds. Because more recent Taglit cohorts (those after 2005) included larger proportions of less engaged participants, it is possible that future research will show an even larger impact.

The findings have obvious significance for Jewish community leaders concerned about promoting Jewish continuity and ties to Israel. But perhaps more importantly, Taglit has provided an extraordinary laboratory to understand the development of Jewish identity and a window on how contemporary Jewish young adults think about their lives and find meaning.

We hope that you will review the study. As always, my colleagues and I welcome your comments.

Leonard Saxe, Director
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Steinhardt Social Research Institute
Report Cover Image
Generation Birthright Israel:
The Impact of an Israel Experience on Jewish Identity and Choices

Leonard Saxe
Benjamin Phillips
Theodore Sasson
Shahar Hecht
Michelle Shain
Graham Wright & Charles Kadushin
Generation Birthright Israel: The Impact of an Israel Experience on Jewish Identity and Choices finds that a 10-day educational
program in Israel continues to build Jewish identity years after the participants have returned. Approximately a quarter million young
adult Jews ages 18-26 from around the world have experienced Israel under the auspices of Taglit-Birthright Israel. This study takes a look at the early participants and their decisions and attitudes regarding marriage, community, and connection to Israel. The report finds, most dramatically, a deepening attachment to Israel and commitment to Jewish family.

Read the report.
Read the technical appendices.
Read the executive summary in Hebrew.

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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