Jewish Adolescents Found Lacking Conception of Jewish Identity

Jewish adolescents have been found to lack a clear conception of their Jewish identity in a survey of attitudes among 180 adolescents with relatively strong backgrounds in Jewish education. The finding, made public today, is based on a three-year study conducted by second-year students at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. The survey was taken as part of the students’ social research requirements and was conducted primarily in Jewish community centers affiliated with the Associated YM-YWHA’s of Greater New York.

Dr. Victor D. Sanua, Associate Professor of Social Research at the Wurzweiler School and director of research for the “Ys,” said that according to the survey, about one-third of the approximately 180 respondents indicated that they either did not know what being Jewish meant or gave a negative response. Another one-third, he said, answered only that being Jewish means “it’s a religion,” while the final third indicated that it is something to “be proud of.” Moreover, Dr. Sanua continued, only 8 percent of the adolescents said they thought their parents considered being Jewish something “to be proud of.”

A large majority of the respondents, he added, had received some type of Jewish education and approximately 60 percent of them had received four or more years of Jewish education. He also noted that the boys, whose mean age was 15.1 years, gave even more negative responses than the girls, whose mean age was 14.1 years, in spite of their older mean age and the fact that they had received more extensive religious training.

Expressing “some concern about the lack of Jewish identity on the large majority of respondents,” Dr. Sanua said the findings indicated “the need for concerted measures to make Jewish education more meaningful.”

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