The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandies has released a study of the Jewish communal involvement of Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni. Focusing on the four North American cities with the largest Jewish populations (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto), the study (called Tourists, Travelers, and Citizens: Jewish Engagement of Young Adults in Four Centers of North American Jewish Life) finds that by and large, the young adults remain “tourists” in their North American Jewish communities.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency had an article earlier today summarizing the findings, but it seems to have been taken down. [Edit: later this afternoon, it’s back up.] Luckily, I copied down the part I found most interesting:
The alumni surveyed in all four cities said they would like to be more involved than they were in Jewish life. Most preferred small gatherings to large, anonymous “meat market” Jewish events.
“They’re happy to eat free food and drink free beer at those big events, but they don’t feel it meets their needs to find Jewish community,” [study co-author Fern] Chertok reports.
Respondents also said they were interested in learning more about Judaism and Jewish culture and history, including Hebrew, but were wary of outreach groups with a perceived “religious” agenda. They also wanted a network of friends to share those experiences as a way of re-creating the camaraderie they felt on their Israel trips.
Without spending too much time wondering where the article has gone, I’d love to think through this a bit more. Do these results sound like your experiences with the Jewish community? Do you know of people or organizations that are doing it right? (The article also talked about Birthright’s own alumni engagement program, Taglit-Birthright Israel NEXT, although it sounds like NEXT has grown a bit since the study was completed.) And if Birthright is (as all evidence seems to imply) awakening great feelings of Jewish identity in a new generation of Jews, why is it so hard for the Jewish community to make room for them?