Parents today are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their children to Jewish day schools and Jewish summer camps but their offspring tend to be less connected to Israel than they are.
That is the results of a new poll that found that 45 percent of those ages 18-29 have attended a Jewish day school or yeshiva, compared with just 24 percent of those 50 and older. In addition, 56 percent said they attended a Jewish summer camp compared with just 36 percent of those 50 and older. And 81 percent had a bar/bat mitzvah, compared with 58 percent of those 50 and older.
At the same time, 87 percent of those above the age of 50 strongly agreed that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my Jewish,” compared with 66 percent of those 18-29.
Laszlo Strategies conducted the poll online for Jerusalem U, an online portal for Jewish distance learning founded in 2009 to inspire and activate people of all ages to become passionate supporters of Israel and the Jewish people. The poll was sent to those for whom it had email addresses associated with Jerusalem U, as well as several other Jewish databases. The results are based on responses from 1,874 Jews as of Aug. 23.
Amy Holtz, president of Jerusalem U, said the poll demonstrated that “Jewish parents are working hard to give their children the Jewish education they may not have gotten for themselves when they were growing up; clearly it is a high priority.”
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder of the public relations company that bears her name, said in a conference call with reporters: “The parents’ generation is saying that Judaism is so important to me that I am going to spend $200,000 to $300,000 in family resources for a Jewish education that I did not get.”
“So we’re talking of a $300,000 per child investment, and at the end the child is less committed than they are,” she added. “This is an enormous sacrifice [they are making]. … They are committed at a high level, but [the commitment of younger Jews] is significantly less intense than the older generation.”
At the same time, nearly 90 percent of respondents and 84 percent of young Jews agreed that “having a Jewish spouse/partner is very important to me,” and 93 percent said that “raising my children to be Jewish is very important to me.”
In addition, the poll found that 54 percent of those 18-29 agreed that Judaism is “central” in their lives, to the lives they want for their family, and that it “factors into” their daily lives and decisions. Only 3 percent agreed with the statement, “I was raised Jewish but frankly it just isn’t that important to me today or in how I see my future.”
When viewed by their denominational attachment, 95 percent of Orthodox Jews agreed with the statement that Judaism is central in their lives, 71 percent of Conservative Jews agreed, 44 percent of Reform Jews agreed, as did 27 percent of those who identified as “Just Jew/cultural.” Interestingly, 14 percent of the latter group said they would like Judaism to play a “more significant role” in their lives – as did 11 percent of the 8-29 age group.
The poll found also that more than two-thirds of respondents believe that the largest barrier to encouraging young Jews to be proud of being Jewish and connected to Israel was that “young Jews don’t see it as relevant to their lives.”
Rabbi Raphael Shore said he founded Jerusalem U “to win the hearts and minds of young Jews to stay involved in the Jewish community. We know that young Jews need to see that Judaism is relevant in their lives. That is why we offer them the opportunity to hear from leading Middle East experts and world-renowned authors, educators and speakers … who can help their lives in concrete ways.”
Laszlo pointed out that the “cost would be prohibitive” to do a totally random national Jewish survey that placed phone calls to people based upon Jewish sounding surnames. But she said the “massive swings between age groups and denominations” this survey found lends it credibility. The respondents were evenly divided between men and women. There were 1,242 respondents who were 50 and above, 326 ages 18-19, and 300 ages 30-49.