Teenagers Join Jewish Groups on Own Initiative, Survey Shows

Jewish teenagers affiliate with Jewish organizations out of their own interest and on their own initiative rather than because of parental pressure, according to a study of the 236 Jewish high school age boys and girls in Savannah completed by the National Jewish Welfare Board for the Savannah Jewish Council.

Those who reported weakening association with Jewish communal organizations attributed this less to alienation from Jewish life or to acculturation and more to their search for a different type of program and to the fact that they find existing programs irrelevant to their style of life and behavioral values.

The study disclosed that the teenagers have developed their own pattern of use for leisure time, which includes primary participation in several Jewish groups but also some participation in school groups and individual recreational activities. The study’s findings indicate that an increase in the number of Jewish organizations and groups offering the same kind of program would not attract the non-affiliated Jewish teenager. It would only increase the circulation of the habitual joiners.

On the other hand, a decrease in the number of programs offered by Jewish organizations, the study established, would not give the teenager more “free” time but would be reflected in increased participation in school-sponsored and non-Jewish activities.

The study found that 90 percent of the boys had been Bar Mitzvah and 50 percent of the boys and 30 percent of the girls attended synagogue services frequently. But little evidence was forthcoming that boys who had been Bar Mitzvah were either more or less inclined to participate in Jewish communal activities. A definite relationship was established between the lack of synagogue participation teenagers and the weakening of their involvement in Jewish communal activities.

The findings were based on 188 responses, or 80 percent of the Jewish teenage population, to a 50-item questionnaire, replies to a matching questionnaire by 210 parents, questionnaires filled in by 10 percent of the advisors of Jewish youth groups, individual interviews and group meetings.

Two-thirds of the teenagers who filled out questionnaires indicated that their parents felt they had sufficient Jewish education. On the other hand, 81 percent of the youngsters and 100 percent of those whom the teenagers saw as setting the best example and those whom parents identified as setting the best example felt the need for further informal Jewish education and knowledge of Jewish tradition.

The study was guided and directed by Arthur Brodkin, director of JWB’s community planning services, and Nathan Loshak, regional consultant of JWB’s Southern Region. Irwin Giffen, executive director of the Savannah Jewish Council, served as local study director. Dr. Paul Deutschberger, professor of social work and research of the University of Georgia School of Social Work, was the study consultant. Chairman of the study committee was Mrs. Basil Lukin. Co-sponsoring the study with the Jewish Council were the Jewish Educational Alliance, Agudath Achim Congregation, B. B. Jacob Congregation, Mickve Israel Congregation, Bureau of Jewish Education, B’nai B’rith and Hadassah.

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