I’m Nicole Samuel, research associate at CMJS. My research portfolio includes Jewish identity, Jewish education, and communal organizations. As a researcher, I’ve had different opportunities to do fieldwork, including spending several weeks in summers 2007 and 2008 traveling to Jewish overnight camps. I didn’t attend overnight camp as a child, but I think I made up for it with my field work. I saw the power of experiential Jewish education and learned how friendships at camp translate into life-long social networks. I observed campfires, Shabbat under the stars and even a production of “High School Musical” in Hebrew. I spoke with Israeli emissaries who were learning about the diversity of Jewish life in America and counselors who were deciding to dedicate their careers to Jewish education, and specifically, overnight camp. Continue reading
Last year, along with several of my colleagues at the Center, we published a paper in the journal Contemporary Jewry that reported, contrary to the conventional wisdom, that American Jews’ emotional attachment to Israel was not declining. Rather, according to the annual surveys conducted by the American Jewish Committee since the mid-1980s, the level of attachment had held fairly steady—or slightly increased—over the past quarter century. As often occurs when conventional wisdom is upended, our paper elicited challenges from skeptical colleagues.
Our colleagues’ challenges were both methodological and conceptual. The AJC surveys included only respondents who said their religion is Jewish. What if we had examined surveys that included respondents who identify as Jewish but not by religion? Moreover, almost all contemporary surveys report that older Jews are more attached to Israel. If declining attachment across the generations doesn’t explain this finding, then what does? Continue reading