Source: The Jewish Week
Young people of Russian background, coming from secular homes and with little or no formal Jewish education, are considered among the most unaffiliated and at-risk of American Jews in terms of Jewish identity. But a comprehensive new study of that cohort finds that a Brooklyn-based program founded in 2006 to address the problem has produced some striking results.
According to the report, made public recently, graduates of the RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience) fellowship program are far more likely than their peers to study and practice Judaism, give to Jewish charities, volunteer for a Jewish organization and marry a Jewish spouse.
The program offers free, two-week trips to Israel and Europe for 18-to-30-year-olds who have completed a semester of RAJE classes (250 hours in all) on a wide range of courses on Jewish history, culture and traditions.
Of the 35 percent of RAJE alumni who married after completing the program, “94 percent married a Jewish spouse, and of them, 52 percent report having met their spouse at the RAJE program,” according to the study conducted by the Research Institute for New Americans, led by Sam Kliger, director of Russian Jewish Community Affairs at the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
Those figures indicate an intermarriage rate of just 6 percent — compared to 17 percent among Russian Jews in New York generally and far below the 28 percent found among Birthright alumni overall. (The national intermarriage rate among American Jews is 58 percent, and 71 percent among the non-Orthodox, according to the Pew Research Center’s Study of Jewish Identity in 2013.)
Among the other dramatic statistics regarding the activities of the respondents: in the last year 78 percent have given to charity, and of that group, 82 percent donated to Jewish organizations; 73 percent participated in Jewish organizational activities; 74 percent attended Shabbat dinner; and 38 percent reported that they took part in “a meeting, demonstration or other action in support of Israel.”
The study was conducted among 300 respondents who were selected randomly from a group of 2,240 RAJE alumni who graduated from the program between 2006 and 2011.
Read more at The Jewish Week.