NEW YORK (Aug. 2)
Jewish teens follow their parents’ lead when it comes to developing a connection to Israel, according to a new survey.
The “most effective policy” in instilling teen-agers’ connection to Israel is “family education at home,” according to Barry Kosmin, whose Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London recently surveyed Conservative teen-agers and their parents in North America.
Nearly three-quarters of the parents in the study discuss Israel or current events in the Middle East with their children. Sixty-three percent of the teen- agers surveyed who discuss the Middle East with their parents consider Israel “very important” to them compared with 35 percent of those whose parents do not.
“We talk so much about money for formal Jewish education and how formal education is a key to Judaism,” but in this survey, the results are “just as much about what you do around the dinner table,” said Winston Pickett, director of media relations at the institute.
Kosmin said the study showed a stronger level of commitment to Israel from parents and children than expected.
The survey was part of a larger study of North American Conservative Jews, set up by the movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, that was based on a telephone survey of 1,412 children and parents from 115 Conservative synagogues throughout the United States and Canada.
Authored by Kosmin and Ariela Keysar of the City University of New York, the report centered around teen-agers who recently had their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. A new survey is planned for this fall.
“We are planning to follow up with the same people to measure changes in attitude and behavior as well as to relate it to other markers of Jewish identity,” Keysar said.
Overall, the study found that Bar and Bat Mitzvah students from the Conservative movement identified with Israel more than American Jews in general. Eighty-one percent said they would like to visit Israel with a teen- age group, 75 percent were interested in speaking conversational Hebrew and more than half said that Israel was “very important to them.”
Other survey findings include:
Attending Jewish day schools plays a significant role in fostering attachment to Israel.
Participation in a Jewish youth group or summer camp plays an important role in influencing a desire to study in Israel at the high school or college level.
Girls “have a consistently stronger pattern of Jewish identity and stronger commitment than boys.”
Kosmin said the religious commitment of women cuts across most religions and age groups.
“Girls are kind of holding the torch,” Keysar said.
In general, the survey made Kosmin optimistic about the future of Jewish commitment.
“We had intelligent conversations with 14-year-olds who are articulate and aware, and like to be taken seriously,” he said.
“That is an important message within itself.”