— Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel Release Findings on Impact of Volunteering in Israel —

 NEW YORK, NY; January 30, 2013—Contrary to a common assumption in the organized Jewish world that exposing young Jews to the complex issues underlying Israeli life diminishes their commitment to the country, a new study released today found that more deeply understanding these dynamics intensifies a bond to the Jewish state.  Commissioned by Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel, the study, “Serving a Complex Israel: A report on Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-learning”, shows that the more these young men and women learn about Israel–warts and all–the more they are motivated to engage in more Israel-based service.

“There’s no need for program providers and funders to present a rose-colored version of Israel to our young people,” said Dyonna Ginsburg, Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency. “Quite the contrary, we should be looking for additional ways to present Israel as it really is. Immersive Jewish Service-learning (IJSL) participants have not been shying away from Israel based on their time there. They are clearly strengthening their connections to Israel, their heritage and the Jewish people.”

According to the study, IJSL programs, which integrate full-time direct service with structured learning and reflection, offer alumni of Birthright Israel and other short-term Israel programs an opportunity to return to Israel for a longer immersive experience. Moreover, these programs answer a widespread desire among millennial Jewish adults to create change in the world, grow as leaders and connect to Jewish life. Conducted by Rosov Consulting, LLC and funded in part by the Jim Joseph Foundation and The Morningstar Foundation, the study surveyed 332 young Jewish adults who participated in at least one of 12 different IJSL programs in Israel from August 2009 to June 2012, representing 62.5 percent of the total number of program participants who were eligible to complete the survey.

“When it comes to developing service programs, authenticity is key,” said David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World. “The more people understand about their service, the more committed they will be to it. What’s more, we know that young people—particularly those from affiliated households—become more passionate when their service brings a connection to their own personal heritage. We hope these insights will spur collaboration among providers and funders in Israel to build content and positive experiences for those motivated to volunteer.”

The study found that volunteering in Israel often deepens versus distances a young Jew’s feelings for the country precisely because of its social complexity. Exposing young Jews to multifaceted issues underlying Israeli life like the divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox society, the security situation, the status of Arab-Israelis, and the growing income gap in Israeli society can, in fact, bolster their desire to serve and enroll in future opportunities. For example, as a result of participating in IJSL programs, 82% of respondents reported that they have strengthened their commitment to social justice and at the same time, 92% said they felt more attached to Israel.

In particular, the study showed that as a result of participating in IJSL programs:

  • 96% of respondents gained a more nuanced understanding of Israel;
  • 79% felt more connected to their Jewish heritage and identity;
  • 78% more connected to global Jewry;
  • 85% want to learn more about Israel; and
  • 85% of respondents reported that their conversations about social justice have increased.

The study demonstrates that respondents, like many Jewish young adults, place a premium on social change work. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the survey respondents indicated that it did not matter to them if they were serving Jews or non-Jews. Their primary motivations were to serve and to grow, which is the basic value proposition of any service-learning experience.

“I absolutely think it is important for North American Jews to come volunteer in Israel,” said a 27-year-old study respondent. “They will be exposed to elements that they certainly will not see on [other programs]. Understanding what issues are swept under the rug, and why, is very important to understanding Israel, and understanding Judaism.”

 To download the complete study, visit: repairlabs.org or www.jafi.org.il

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

Established in 2009, Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering.  Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. Visit weRepair.org to learn more. Follow us on twitter @repairtheworld.

ABOUT THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL

Established in 1929, The Jewish Agency for Israel was instrumental in founding and building the State of Israel. Today, The Jewish Agency for Israel secures the Jewish future by confronting the critical challenges of our time: growing detachment of young Jews around the world from Israel and the global Jewish family; increasing social gaps in Israel; and Jews at risk in the Diaspora and Israel.

CONTACTS:

Tali Aronsky / [email protected] / 212.339.6069

Jacob Berkman / [email protected] / 212.981.5187

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