This study, commissioned by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation —the first of its kind—gathered the views of almost 4,000 young Israel advocates in an effort to gain a better understanding of what compels young people to become involved in Israel advocacy, to become leaders in this area and to maintain their involvement during high school, college and beyond.
The research explored: 1) the factors that lead teens and young adults to engage in Israel advocacy, 2) the role that organizations play in their involvement, and 3) the influence of mentors in supporting advocates’ commitment over time. A group of particular interest in this research was those individuals who have the highest levels of involvement in Israel advocacy, known as the “leader advocates.” For the purposes of this research, a leader advocate was defined as “an individual involved in initiating, organizing and galvanizing peer involvement in educational, political or cultural activities seeking to build support for the state of Israel.”
Factors Central to Involvement
- Strong Jewish Upbringing
For most of the leader advocates, exposure to Israel and Israel advocacy is part of their upbringing.
- Leader Advocates are Driven by Identity Rather than Political Ideology
For the vast majority of the leader advocates, the desire to support Israel is an expression of their Jewish identity, rather than an endorsement of a particular ideological or political world view.
- Organizations Key in Converting Interest into Advocacy
Family experiences, childhood education and Israel travel expose individuals to Israel and nurture their interest. Without these pre-conditions, there would not be many leader advo¬cates. The survey and focus group data show that this initial interest in Israel is converted into Israel advocacy through participation in Israel-related programs sponsored by Jewish and Israel advocacy organizations.
A particular combination of interactions with organizations that stands out is the 70% of currently active leader advocates who report having traveled to Israel with a school, camp, community center, synagogue or church and having attended an Israel advocacy seminar while in Israel (not necessarily at the same time).
- Desire for More Knowledge
Leader advocates seek to learn more about Israel and regard the intellectual benefits and offerings of Jewish and Israel advocacy organizations as important reasons for their involvement.
Given the strong desire for knowledge about Israel and relatively high feelings of inadequacy in this area, investments in programs that focus on learning about Israel in combination with exposure to Israel advocacy opportunities are likely to attract participants and encourage them to become leader advocates.
- Mentors Play a Critical Role
The survey data reveal that mentors play a critical role in the development and reten¬tion of Israel advocates. The research found that 66% of currently active leader advo¬cates said that a staff member or volunteer at an Israel advocacy or Jewish organization was an important factor in their involvement in Israel advocacy.
- Guidance Desired at Key Transition Points
Israel leader advocates are passionate about Israel and view their advocacy work as a means for expressing their values and concern for the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people.
Yet, only 27% of the high school seniors and 33% of the college seniors report being contacted by an organization that advocates for Israel in the school or community they intend to go to after graduation. Leader advocates in transition who want to remain active express a desire for increased exposure to available Israel advocacy opportunities.
There is clearly a need for improved coordination and collaboration to increase the number of Israel advocates who are contacted by Jewish and Israel advocacy organizations at these key transition points in their lives in order to improve retention and prevent attrition from the ranks of leader advocates.
Read the entire report at the Schusterman Foundation website.