Effective Strategies for Educating and Engaging Jewish Teens

Mar. 26, 2013

Source: Jim Joseph Foundation


For the past two years, the Jim Joseph Foundation has been collaborating with other funders to explore possible funding strategies to further address the dramatic drop in young peoples' Jewish educational engagement during the teen years. Under the guidance of an Advisory Group that included funders, teen education experts, and teens, the Foundation commissioned research to examine pluralistic educational programming for Jewish teens in the United States.


The Foundation engaged BTW informing change and Rosov Consulting, LLC to conduct a broad scan of teen and young adult education and engagement efforts from a variety of spheres, including those outside of the Jewish community. The purpose of the scan was to identify examples of programs that are scalable (i.e., programs that could attract substantial numbers of participants) and employ innovative practices (including funding approaches and community collaborations), and to identify the components, parameters, structural considerations and limitations of such programs.


The scan was meant to stimulate the thinking of funders, practitioners, and Jewish communal leaders as they consider ways to dramatically expand and strengthen community-based Jewish teen education and engagement by highlighting select efforts aimed at attracting and involving teens in compelling and substantive learning experiences.


Report Overview

This report offers 10 overarching observations of key themes that emerged from the research about the programs included in the scan, as well as from consultations with leading innovators inside and outside the Jewish world. Importantly, our reflections in this report have also benefitted from a series of group and one-on-one meetings with the Advisors throughout the 18-month process as well as a half-day focus group conversation with a diverse group of Jewish teens. Accompanying this report are 21 in-depth program summaries that include background information and details about key programs and activities, along with some noteworthy characteristics and qualities. This report is intended to be read in conjunction with the accompanying program summaries.


Key Learnings

The sheer diversity of programs in this scan illustrates a fundamental lesson: no single effort could reasonably be expected to unilaterally address the challenge of Jewish teen education and engagement. Teens have differing interests, motivations and attachments that vary according to any number of variables that include, but are not limited to, gender, ethnicity, age, geography, religious practice and socio-economic status, to name but a few.


Teens are multi-faceted individuals, with fluid and emerging identities. Their developmental needs evolve significantly as they journey though middle school, into high school and then prepare for college or work beyond. When considering a community-based initiative, a broad range of opportunities, some targeted to particular sub-cohorts within the 13- to 18-year-old age group, will be needed to attract, involve and be developmentally appropriate for this diverse and variegated target population.


See the full text of the report here.

Updated: May. 20, 2013