This report, funded by Repair the World, examines contemporary Jewish young adults and their attitudes and behaviors towards community service. The study reveals that Jewish millennials, most of whom engage in volunteer work, believe their service can make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. While most of these young adults currently do not connect their service with Jewish values and identity, the findings provide a path forward for Jewish leaders who believe that making this connection is important for strengthening the Jewish community.
The goal of the current study was to understand the full extent of Jewish young adults’ volunteer habits and preferences. This research was commissioned by Repair the World and was conducted as a collaborative effort between researchers at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS) at Brandeis University and Gerstein|Agne Strategic Communications. The major component of this research was the development and administration of a survey of the volunteer commitments, motivations, and attitudes of a sample of Jewish young adults between the ages of 18-35 from across the spectrum of Jewish identities and levels of Jewish engagement. The report develops a portrait of the motivations that cause Jewish young adults to volunteer, the varieties of service in which they engage, and the ways in which they construe the connections among their involvement in volunteering, Jewish values, and identity. The report concludes with discussion of the most promising points of leverage to increase commitment to service and encourage Jewish young adults to see volunteering as a Jewish act.
Repair the World has positioned itself to influence the intersection between Jewish young adult involvement in volunteering and the development of a Jewish lens for understanding the meaning and salience of service. The current survey data provides some important guidance as to how to more effectively engage Jewish young adults in service and help them to see their volunteer work through the prism of Jewish tradition, values, and identity.
- Start early to build the habit of volunteering:
- Develop effective framing messages:
- Expand volunteer options that relate to core concerns:
- Create flexible, local options for volunteering:
- Recruit through existing social networks and build new ones around volunteering.
Partner with non-Jewish organizations:
- Leverage “low-threshold activism” and Jewish young adults’ belief that they can make a difference:
- Frame volunteering as a Jewish act
- Build the knowledge base regarding harder to reach groups
Jewish young adults believe they can make the world a better place, and they want to work toward the common good. Repair the World’s mission to make service a defining part of Jewish life for young adults faces a unique set of challenges and will require navigating generational as well as Jewish identity dynamics.
However, equally apparent is the potential of Jewish young adult volunteering to address pressing social issues domestically and abroad and to bring Jewish identity and values into the forefront of efforts to serve the common good.