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Interest of Youth in Jewish Activities Declines with Age, Two-year Study Establishes

Completion of a two-year study of the reactions of Jewish boys to various aspects of their Jewishness was announced today jointly by the National Jewish Welfare Board and the Commission on Community Interrelations of the American Jewish Congress, which co-sponsored the study and are now making it available.

The collective subject of the study were 166 boys, ranging in age from seven to seventeen, all affiliated with Jewish Community Centers in the New York metropolitan area. The data establishes that the younger groups have positive attitudes toward activities with Jewish content to a greater extent than do the older groups. The same applies in the matter of associating with Jews.

The study goes on to reveal that as they grow older, Jewish youngsters manifest a lessening of interest in Jewish activities and associations. This development, however, the surveyors suggest, may be the result not of a rejection of their Jewishness–as is commonly assumed–but rather to a broadening of social and intellectual horizons. This, furthermore, is accompanied by a growing reluctance on the part of the maturing youngster to be socially and culturally isolated.

Comparing the “low” socio-economic status subjects with the “high,” the study found that the former reveal a greater tendency to prefer activities with Jewish content. They are more likely to asssume that being Jewish is a sufficient reason for engaging in Jewish-content activities and indicate that they feel more at home with Jews than among non-Jews. The “high” socio-economic status subjects, on the other hand, feel that if Jews get together it is for a Jewish purpose and they therefore consider activities with Jewish content appropriate in such groups. More significant are the findings, (a) that youngsters in this group are more interested in activities that do not have Jewish content; (b) that they prefer mixed association, and (c) that they are more concerned about anti-Jewish hostility.

The study compares the attitudes of subjects coming from homes with intensive Jewish background with those of limited Jewish environment. It finds that the former are more receptive to programs of Jewish content. At the same time they indicate greater sensitivity in the matter of feeling “different” from other people. By contrast, the boys whose home environment is Jewishly limited show a preference for general-content activities and for mixed association. They also give fewer indications that they feel “different.” They tend to look upon Jewish-content activities as remote but, under circumstances which they regard as appropriate, they occasionally prefer such programs.

The study, conducted by Dr. Laidor Chein, director of research for the C.C.I., and Jack Hurwitz, former research consultant of the J.B.W., was undertaken to guide Centers in more effective programming for children and youth. The Center’s motivation in that area of programming, it is pointed out, is to help younger members to achieve a “wholesome identification with and sastisfying participation in both the Jewish and general communities of which they are a part.”

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