Russian American Jews: A Bright Spot for Jewish Peoplehood

Published: 
July 6, 2012

Source: eJewish Philanthropy

 

The recent UJA-Federation of NY communal study provided some very surprising findings about the Russian Jews living in the eight county New York area. They experienced an unprecedented decrease in intermarriage, from 17% in 2002 to 13% in 2011, an almost 25% drop. Mordechai Tokarsky offers an explanation of this phenomenon, a unique experience called the RAJE Fellowship program.

 

Over the past six years, 3000 Russian American Jews in the New York area, roughly 10% of the entire target population of marriageable age have participated in a unique transformational experience called the RAJE Fellowship program. The semester long program consists of ten, 4.5 hour sessions, two weekend retreats and a two week educational trip to Europe and Israel. Over the course of a single semester, the students experience over 250 hours of highly impactful and transformative programming, a deeper level engagement then any program of its type within the Jewish community. As a direct result, most have remained involved in Jewish communal life by actively participating in follow-up programming or finding alternate venues of engagement within the community; continuing their Jewish education in one form or another and getting involved in countless Jewish organizations.

 

A 25% drop in intermarriage within RAJE's target population is only the latest indication that something seems to be working right, a bright spot which must not be ignored. In an American Jewish communal landscape, which is so used to segmenting itself by denominational lines and particulars of religious observance, a very different type of ‘peoplehood centric’ Russian American Jewish community is emerging. It is a community where those who observe Shabbat and those who do not, naturally sit at the same Shabbat table and feel a connection to each other which goes way beyond religious particulars.

 

Tokarsky concludes:

When it comes to Jewish continuity, at least for the estimated 750,000 Russian Jews in America, a bright spot has emerged. A blueprint, which if nurtured and embraced, can be scaled both in the New York area and nationwide, strengthening the Jewish people and leading to more positive reports in future communal studies.

 

See the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jul. 15, 2012
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