A new study has been released by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation that takes a look at the short and long term impact of BBYO (an independent youth organization that was part of B’nai B’rith International until 2000) on Jewish youth in their teenage years. Among other significant findings, the study makes clear that with the ingredients of close friendships, Jewish experiences and leadership opportunities, participation in BBYO leads to significantly greater commitment to Jews and Jewish life, both on a communal and personal level. Across several measures, BBYO alumni demonstrate a strong sense of Jewish pride and peoplehood, desire to play leadership roles in their communities and connection to the State of Israel. They support Jewish organizations with their checkbooks and free time, participate actively in Jewish social networks and exhibit a desire and commitment to raising Jewish families. Moreover, the study reveals that these individuals directly credit involvement in BBYO for their growth on these fronts.
As BBYO assesses its impact and considers strategic decisions facing the organization, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation commissioned Groeneman Research & Consulting and Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications to conduct a comprehensive research study. This study entailed over 3,000 interviews across four separate surveys during December 2010-January 2011, including extensive interviews with high school juniors and seniors who currently participate in BBYO activities, BBYO alumni ages 18-23 (―College Age Alumni), BBYO alumni ages 24-35 (―Young Adult Alumni), and a national comparison group of American Jews ages 18-35 who have never participated in BBYO activities.
The surveys covered an array of topics that are central to BBYO‘s mission, ranging from Jewish identity and raising Jewish families to leadership skills and commitment to service. Analysis of the survey data reveals that BBYO is having a remarkably positive impact and achieving success across many of its priorities.
While BBYO participants are overwhelmingly pleased with their BBYO experience and young BBYO alumni believe the organization has played a significant role in their lives, the powerful impact of BBYO is even more evident when comparing BBYO alumni with Jews who are the same age but did not participate in BBYO. This comparison demonstrates that the BBYO experience results in young adults who are more inclined to have Jewish friends, believe that being Jewish plays an important role in their lives, and hold leadership roles in their community. In fact, this study‘s findings provide BBYO with compelling evidence that it is largely succeeding within its existing network when it comes to key aspects of the organization‘s mission.
The data also raise an opportunity for the organization to consider as it grows and seeks broader impact. Namely, the research shows significant differences between the families who send their kids to BBYO and the families that do not. Compared to other Jews, BBYO families tend to be more connected to the Jewish community, enroll their kids more in Jewish education, and place a higher priority on Jewish identity. While the organization currently reaches some of the less engaged Jewish youth, this audience is clearly under-represented in BBYO. But it is critical to understand that BBYO‘s impact is strong across all its participants – including individuals from less Jewishly engaged backgrounds – and the organization appears capable of achieving its desired impact with the large ―market of Jewish teens who are less connected to the Jewish world.