Largest study ever on American Jewish teens depicts cohort wrestling with modern challenges, while embracing family, culture

Understanding and Connecting with Jewish Teens Today shares survey results and interview responses from a total of 17,576 teens

TeenStudy image
Photo credit: Jewish Education Project.

The largest study ever on American Jewish teens paints a picture of a cohort that simultaneously embraces family, Jewish culture, and friends, while also grappling with anxiety and pressure to succeed-in a world permeated by social media and constant communication. Researched and written by The Jewish Education Project and Rosov Consulting, GenZ Now: Understanding and Connecting with Jewish Teens Today  shares survey results and interview responses from a total of 17,576 teens to reveal data and insights about their interests, challenges, and passions in all facets of life.

The report covers a range of areas:   

On family:

·        Jewish teens  like their parents and value their perspectives.  

·        Being Jewish is  often about family  and is an expression of family bonds.

On contemporary challenges:

 ·        Teens in the  GenZ Now  study believe  adolescents need help with social-emotional issues.  Similar to other American teens, teens in this study named coping with anxiety, academic pressure, self-esteem issues, and failure as the biggest needs of their peers.

·        Jewish teens see  positives and negatives to social media.  Teens acknowledge that social media can cause them stress, but many also believe it   helps cope with stress, connect with friends, and organize for change.

On religious practice:

·        Americans increasingly describe themselves as having "no religion." But even many "no religion" teens-a sizeable minority in the study-are interested in engaging with Judaism at certain points in their life.

·        Teens feel  Jewish culture is something to celebrate  and most commonly use the word "culture" to express what it means to be Jewish. The concept of Jewish culture captures the elements of being Jewish about which teens feel good.

On antisemitism and Israel:

·        Many of the teens interviewed for  GenZ Now  report  antisemitic experiences, but do not feel personally threatened  or see it as a primary lens to understand their life experience.

·        Teens from the study are  interested in Israel and believe that as Jews they have a special connection  to the land and country. They want to ask trusted adults questions about Israel, and most teens who have not traveled there yet, hope to do so one day.

Researchers also looked closely at the  influence of 14 Jewish youth-serving organizations (YSOs)- representing a range of ideologies and interests-on teens and teens' abilities to flourish in life as defined by a 14 item framework that was developed in the 2016 Generation Now study (Available at JewishEdProject.org/GenerationNow).

The survey found that teens who participate with YSOs feel  more of a connection to being Jewish, feel better about themselves, have deeper relationships with family, friends, and mentors, and feel empowered to make change in the world.

"A major shift is occurring in how the Jewish community understands its relationship to teens," adds David Bryfman, Chief Innovation Officer and incoming CEO of The Jewish Education Project. "We no longer engage teens simply for the sake of Jewish continuity. Rather,  GenZ Now  is a call to engage teens on a deep level because Jewish experiences and community can be sources for their own personal growth and well-being. Teens care deeply about their friends, family and the broader world around them-and they want to create change that positively influences peoples' lives. Jewish engagement that is  meaningful  to them will integrate those values and desires."

Researchers gathered data from 17,576 Jewish teens between the ages of 13 to 19 in a national survey administered through the 14 participating YSOs: BBYO, Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada, The Bronfman Fellowship, CTeen, Diller Teen Fellows, Friends of Israel Scouts/Tzofim, Habonim Dror North America, JCC Association of North America, Jewish Teen Funders Network, Moving Traditions, NCSY, URJ Youth/NFTY, USY/USCJ's Youth Movement and Young Judaea.

"Our GenZ Now research is premised on a framework of thriving," adds Wendy Rosov of Rosov Consulting. "What conditions do teens need for optimal development? This study helps us understand how participating in Jewish activities helps teens grow in different aspects of their lives-personally, socially, and Jewishly. So, when we hear that they like being with their family, engaging in Jewish holidays and culture, asking questions about Israel, and more-those are important findings to understand and to bear in mind when creating programs and initiatives to engage and support teens."

GenZ Now, along with a related 2016 study on Jewish teens, was funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

 

""We no longer engage teens simply for the sake of Jewish continuity. Rather,  GenZ Now  is a call to engage teens on a deep level because Jewish experiences and community can be sources for their own personal growth and well-being." "



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