Strong correlation found between Israel experiences, marriage within the fold

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May 18, 2015 02:12

The survey was based on the responses of several hundred alumni of a four-week Israel program run by the National Council of Synagogue Youth.

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ORIEL AND VERED Cohen stand under their wedding canopy at Jerusalem’s La Gondola hall last Thursday, after their ceremony in Kiryat Gat was canceled due to rocket fire from Gaza.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There is a strong correlation between support for endogamy and intensive Israel experiences among those raised in non-Orthodox homes, a study by sociologists Steven Cohen and Ezra Kopelowitz has found.

The survey of several hundred alumni of the Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), a four-week Israel program run by the National Council of Synagogue Youth, was sponsored by the Orthodox Union to find out if the project “help[s] make non-Orthodox- raised Jewish youngsters ‘more Jewish.’” NCSY is the youth wing of the OU.

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Previous studies have shown that Israel experiences are likely to lower the rate of intermarriage among participants, with a 2010 Brandeis University study finding that coming to Israel on a Birthright tour is “strongly associated with measurable decreases in the probability of intermarriage.”

However, while 55 percent of Birthright alumni believe that it is very important to marry a Jew, “as many as 75% of TJJ alumni believe it is,” Cohen and Kopelowitz found.

Alumni of the program were also more likely to date other Jews, attend synagogue on a monthly basis, fast the whole day on Yom Kippur, usually attend Shabbat meals, feel very attached to Israel and attend a Seder.

Eighty-six percent of TJJ alumni state that it is very important to raise children as Jewish, compared to 69% of Birthright applicants, the study found.

While nonreligious participants in the Orthodox trip have shown measurable increases in a number of metrics related to Jewish identity and performance, and the program “produces significant Jewish engagement and identity among young people who were not raised in Orthodox homes,” the researchers did caution that “we need to bear in mind that, to an unmeasurable extent, TJJ participants are self-selected” and “are already predisposed to greater Jewish engagement.”

TJJ, they asserted, “serves to attract those poised to increase their engagement.” The OU published the study online late last week.


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