Jewish Futures Project/Birthright Israel

Research Team

Birthright Israel/Jewish Futures Research Group

The faculty and staff involved in Birthright Israel-related research have extensive experience studying Jewish young adults. The biographies of the key staff are below.

Leonard Saxe, PhD is Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and directs the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. He is the recipient of the 2012 Marshall Sklare Award. Professor Saxe's current research on the Jewish community involves socio-demographic studies of American Jewry and a program of research on Jewish education and its relationship to the Jewish engagement. He is the principal investigator of a longitudinal study of Birthright Israel. At the Steinhardt Institute, he is leading a program that is investigating the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population. Among his recent publications, he is co-author of a 2008 book, Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity, the story of Birthright Israel, an intensive ten-day educational program designed to connect Jewish young adults to their heritage.

Shahar Hecht, MA is a senior research associate at CMJS. She received a joint BA in Psychology and Business Administration from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also received an MA in Criminology. At CMJS, she is the project manager for the Birthright Israel evaluations and the Jewish Futures Project. She has worked on the evaluation of Birthright Israel international programs and on a study of Israelis who participate in Birthright Israel. In addition to Birthright Israel projects, Hecht has contributed to numerous other studies, including a study of Jewish young adults on college campuses and an evaluation of the needs of Nazi victims.

Graham Wright, PhD is an associate research scientist at SSRI and CMJS where he coordinates online survey implementation, survey design, and statistical modeling. He has also served as a teaching assistant for graduate and undergraduate level classes on statistics, survey methods, and evaluation research. Wright is a co-author and key analyst for numerous CMJS projects including the 2005 Boston Jewish Community study, the PEJE Day School Evaluation Study, Birthright Israel evaluation and long-term impact studies, and evaluation of the greater Boston IACT initiative. He is a co-author of "Intermarriage: The Impact and Lessons of Taglit-Birthright Israel" published in Contemporary Jewry, Vol. 31, 2011. Wright received his PhD and MPP from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. 

Micha Rieser, MA is a research associate at CMJS. He has a BA in Religion from the University of Rochester and a MA from the Communication, Culture & Technology Program at Georgetown University. At CMJS Rieser works on managing and preparing survey data for analysis and on the preparation and documentation of public use datafiles.

Stevie Howland is a research specialist at CMJS. She graduated in 2018 from the University of Florida with a BS in psychology and minor in history. At CMJS she develops online surveys, manages data collection, and provides research support.