Constructs E-Newsletter

May 2008

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

Over the past two months, our research has been much in the news. Articles about our studies of attachment to Israel, intermarriage, and Taglit-Birthright Israel have been reported in the Israeli press, as well as in leading Jewish newspapers. Below are links to several of these stories and to two op-eds written by our research staff.

Overall, the coverage is good and validates our role as a leading research institute. But some of the reporting and editorializing about our work has given me pause. I'm not of the school that believes "as long as they spell your name correctly, any mention is good." As researchers, we are committed to applying rigorous conceptual and methodological tools to further understanding of the Jewish community. Along with being knowledge creators, we are also educators. News reports that treat research results like sports scores and differences in conclusions as if they were different positions of political candidates are problematic.

When I was a Congressional Science Fellow, policy-makers sometimes quipped, "Send me a one-armed scientist" who does not say "on the one hand this..., and on the other hand that." Indeed, those of us in the social sciences see the world in complex ways and often can't provide a simple answer because there isn't one. On occasion, we even conclude that there is merit in both sides of a debate. We won't shrink from stating bold conclusions, but we also won't avoid equivocating when that's what the data suggest.

In terms of the specific role of our work in aiding Jewish communal planning, our goal is to provide accurate data and sophisticated policy analyses. Perhaps the utility of our research is most recognizable when those with very different policy perspectives use our work to further their respective objectives. As you become familiarized with the research conducted by our staff, I hope that whatever your position about policy for the Jewish community, you will find our data useful and our ideas valuable.

Enjoy this issue of Constructs and please share with us your questions or reactions.

Len Saxe
Director, CMJS and SSRI

It's Not Just Who Stands Under the Chuppah: Intermarriage and Engagement

Fern Chertok, Benjamin Phillips, Leonard Saxe

Contemporary debates concerning assimilation and continuity in the Jewish community tend to focus on whether the couple standing under the chuppah is inmarried or intermarried to the exclusion of all other factors. Our analysis suggests, however, that Jewish socialization in the form of Jewish education, experience of home ritual, and social networks plays a far more important role in determining Jewish identity, behavior, and connections than does intermarriage.

In the News

Recent News Stories

Recent Papers and Presentations

All papers & publications

  • "Inspiring Jewish Connections: Outreach to Parents With Infants and Toddlers"
    Donald Wertlieb & Mark Rosen

    This article, appearing in the January 2008 issue of the journal Zero to Three, follows up on Mark Rosen's CMJS report "Jewish Engagement from Birth: A Blueprint for Outreach to First-Time Parents." The article describes Jewish programs that inspire parents of young children to become more connected with Judaism and simultaneously provide them with information and support about everyday parenting issues.

  • Experiment on Web-Based Recruitment of Cell Phone Only Respondents
    Chintan Turakhia, Mark A. Schulman, Seth Brohinsky, & Benjamin Phillips

    Annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research
    May 17, 2008
    New Orleans, LA.

  • Genetic algorithms in complex sample design
    Benjamin Phillips

    American Association for Public Opinion Research
    May 17, 2008
    New Orleans, LA

  • Exploring Day School Pathways: Reanalysis of Day School Alumni Data
    Fern Chertok, Leonard Saxe, & Graham Wright

    PEJE Assembly 2008
    April 8, 2008
    Boston, MA

    The recent study, "The Impact of Day School: a Comparative Analysis of Jewish College Students"(Chertok, Saxe, Kadushin, Wright, Klein, & Koren, 2007), provided a positive portrait of college-age day school alumni. Questions remain, however, about the outcomes associated with diverse day school experiences. Many students from non-Orthodox backgrounds leave day schools following primary or middle school, and a growing segment enter day school education for the first time in high school. This session presented findings focusing on college outcomes for non-Orthodox students with different day school histories.

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