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Author(s): Miller, Stephen H.
Date: 2018
Abstract: JPR has been conducting research on Jews in Britain for many years, allowing us to explore trends in Jewish life over time. This study takes four major datasets, spanning close to quarter of a century, to investigate an important and challenging question: is there a negative correlation between high academic achievement and Jewish community engagement? Or, more simply, are the most academically qualified Jews turning away from Jewish communal life? The answer appears to be yes. It demonstrates that: • Jews with postgraduate qualifications are, on average, the least engaged members of the Jewish community; • The gap in levels of Jewish communal engagement between postgraduates and others is particularly substantial in areas such as synagogue membership, outmarriage, charitable priorities and support for Israeli government policy • Highly educated Jews are about half as likely as non-graduates to see their fellow Jews as a source of natural support, or to express concern about Jewish continuity. However, high academic achievers are more likely than others to cite positive traits and values (such as fairness, respect, dislike of prejudice, love of learning) as examples of how they feel their Jewishness has affected them. The report author, Professor Stephen H. Miller OBE, one of the leading experts in the social scientific study of British Jews and senior adviser to JPR’s research team, also notes that the drop in Jewish engagement seen in highly educated Jews can be largely attributed to their more critical evaluation of the Jewish community, rather than any weakness in their personal identity as Jews. So, in short, the fundamental message of this study is a challenging one for Jews of all types. It indicates that the most academically qualified Jews are turning away from organised Jewish life in unusually high numbers, because the types of Jewishness they find there fail to resonate with the ways in which they understand their own Jewish identities. It leaves us with at least two critical questions: (i) is academia a detrimental environment for Jews, teaching them to think in ways that implicitly undermine their links with Jewish life (or, viewed from an alternative perspective, is academia a positive environment for Jews, helping to free them from the limitations imposed by Judaism and to think more openly?); and (ii) is Jewish communal life insufficiently rigorous in its thinking to attract the most thoughtful and qualified (or, again, viewed differently, an intellectually rich environment that rightly differs from the academy and challenges its modes of thinking by offering an alternative model)?
Author(s): Leviton, Mervyn
Date: 2005
Abstract: The main aim of this research is to determine whether or not there has been any noticeable change in the level of religious observance and practice of less or non-observant parents which directly or indirectly can be attributed to the influence of their children and the Jewish primary school they attend. There is a frequently voiced assumption amongst those involved in Jewish education that parents, whose children attend a Jewish primary school, have increased their level of observance due to the influence of their children and the school. However, no previous research has been carried out in the United Kingdom in order to examine the basis of this premise. The purpose ofmy own research is to test this assumption in a thorough and rigorous manner by means of both questionnaires and in-depth interviews with parents of pupils attending three Jewish primary schools in England. In addition, there are two further specific areas that will be investigated as supplementary parts ofthe main research: [i] To compare the extent of similarities and differences of any such changes in religious observance between those Jewish families in England who formed part ofmy study, and those in the USA whose children attend Jewish day schools, who have also been the subject of separate research in the USA. [ii] To determine whether within the data of this research study, there is any correlation with previous research in the field of social psychology regarding causes and effects of social conformity and deviation. The data from this specific area of research will be used to focus on the effects of a crucial inter-connection between parents, children and the school. The thesis includes an examination of previous allied research and its implications relating to the nature of religious identity and changes in parental behaviour attributed to the influence of their children's Jewish education. It also contains chapters outlining the historical and social background which led to a weakening ofJewish religious observance in the UK during the zo" century and a study of the changing role of the traditional Jewish family and its effect on the levels of religious observance in Anglo-Jewry. The data from questionnaires and interviews are analysed in a thorough manner. The results and conclusions of this thesis should be of benefit to those planning and administering Jewish primary schools in the UK.
Author(s): Tabick, Jacqueline
Date: 2013
Abstract: I examined the characteristics of converts to Judaism through the Reform Synagogues, 1952-
2002, exploring the psychological impact of conversion, the nature of their Jewish identity and
the durability of their religious commitment through time. Recognising the large variation in the
Jewish practice and attitudes displayed, I also examined the influence of motivational, family
and biographical factors on their Jewish identity.
Motivation for conversion was multi-dimensional. The instrumental desire to create family
unity was identified as the most powerful motivating factor. The strength of this variable
was found to be a significant predictor of the level of behavioural changes in the converts’
Jewish lifestyle. Counter-intuitively, this motivational factor formed negative correlations
with ethnicity and a non-significant relationship with ritual behaviour.
The data highlight differences between the factorial structure of the Jewish identity of converts
and born Jews. For converts, four identity factors were identified: ritual practice, ethnic
belonging, Jewish development and spirituality. Miller et al. have identified three factors
underlying the Jewish identity of born Jews under 50: behavioural ethnicity, religiosity and
mental ethnicity. Survey data of converts has shown a clear division of ritual and ethnic
behaviours, whilst in born Jews, the same differentiation is not demonstrated.
Like moderately engaged born Jews, converts emphasised the notion of affective identity rather
than the actual performance of Jewish ritual acts, though it is clear that ‘on average’ converts
have a somewhat more intense pattern of ritual practice than born (Reform) Jews.
The majority of the converts felt content with the results of their conversion but the relative lack
of emphasis placed on Jewish continuity as opposed to the convert’s individual self-fulfilment,
can be seen as an indication of a possibility that the conversion process may only delay
demographic decline in the Jewish community for just one or two generations.