Press Releases

Jun. 24, 2011

What are the experts saying? “Volunteering + Values” Testimonials

Read what the leading figures in the secular and Jewish service world are saying about “Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World report on Jewish Young Adults”:

  • “Through my work as a public servant and community leader, I know my service has strengthened my personal commitment to tikkun olam — repairing the world. It gives me great pride to know that Jewish young adults of all backgrounds are so motivated to serve others in ways they find deeply meaningful and impactful.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), U.S. Representative for Florida’s 20th Congressional District
  • “Repairing the World – tikkun olam – is an abiding Jewish value, and I am grateful not only for this report that proves that our young adults are dedicated to this value, but also for an organization like Repair the World that works at so many levels to help Jews make a real difference in their cities and communities – and around the world.” — Susan K. Stern, Appointee for Chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service
  • “Repair the World’s strategies are not unlike Teach for America’s: through a term of service, inculcate a life-long commitment to positive social change. Recent research about TFA’s REALITY program for Jewish corps members demonstrated that connecting personal religious values and identity to one’s service not only strengthens connection to that identity; it also strengthens one’s commitment to serve in very powerful ways. I applaud Repair for its contributions to our understanding of this demographic and for its commitment to high-quality service as a shared goal.” — Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach For America
  • “‘Volunteering + Values’ represents an extraordinary contribution to the field of Jewish service learning and to the Jewish community as a whole. It lets us know more about Jewish young adults’ motivations to serve and it charts a path forward for our work as a community to make service an integral part of Jewish life and identity. We must take up the challenge that Jewish young adults don’t know about volunteer opportunities in the Jewish community, and we must ensure that the powerful values that inspire Jewish service are leveraged into a commitment to service in support of justice for all people everywhere. We at American Jewish World Service are thrilled to partner with Repair the World in support of this critical work.” — Ruth W. Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service
  • “It is thrilling to know that a significant majority of young Jews participate in volunteer activities. These young people have absorbed the best lessons of citizenship. They are dedicated to giving back to their community, to ensuring opportunity for everyone, and to creating a more just world. But as a Jewish community, we have failed to instill in many of these young people the knowledge that Judaism has much to say about what a just world might look like, and about how to go about creating such a world. We are the proud inheritors of thousands of years of tradition about giving tzedakah, eliminating inequality, and addressing difficult societal issues. As rabbis, educators, communal professionals, and lay leaders, we have a responsibility to help the next generation to access this wisdom, to feel pride in this rich heritage, and to look to Judaism to guide our involvement in the world.” — Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
  • “This is a wonderful study. It shatters the stereotypic image that describes young men and women as an overly self involved generation who as a result of over use of social media are increasingly lacking social skills. It crystallizes most of the assumptions that are beginning to emerge i.e., young adults volunteer and desire to make a difference. They are their parents’ children most of whom were and are more attracted to secular and humanitarian causes and are less likely to be synagogue engaged. It stands to reason that children of an intermarriage, who up until recently have not been welcomed into the synagogue community, are less inclined to volunteering in the Jewish community. Most importantly, this study recognizes that men are less engaged and new strategies are called for to correct this volunteer imbalance.” — Rabbi Charles Simon, Author of Building a Successful Volunteer Culture, Director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
  • “This is a fascinating and important report, as it begins to peel back the layers of what it means to be engaged in the community, and specifically of what this means for Jewish young adults. I applaud Repair the World for an insightful examination of the challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish service movement. They have set the stage for important work that must be done by all of us if we are to help young adults become more fully engaged to truly make a difference in our local and global communities.” — Dan W. Butin, Dean of the School of Education at Merrimack College and author of the award-winning book Service-Learning in Theory and Practice: The Future of Community Engagement in Higher Education
  • “‘Volunteering + Values’ is a careful and insightful study of young Jewish Americans’ volunteering and service. For Jewish groups and leaders, it offers important practical guidance. The future of their organizations and communities depends on a generation whose members expect to serve but who define service in universalistic (not explicitly Jewish) terms and whose concern for domestic American poverty and social inequality far outweighs their interest in Jewish or Israeli issues. ‘Among the vast majority of Jewish young adults who say it does not matter if they volunteer with a Jewish or non-Jewish organization, the reasons they give for choosing any volunteer option center on whether the activity involves a cause or issue that is personally meaningful to them.’ Anyone who hopes to sustain organized Judaism in the United States needs to tap their idealism and their habits of service in ways that strengthen Jewish organizations and communities. Meanwhile, this portrait of young Jewish-Americans reinforces generalizations about American civil society, overall. A century ago, civic participation mostly meant fulfilling one’s duties to the groups to which one belonged by birth. Individuals were taught that they owed personal support to the religious denomination, town, political party, newspaper, ethnic group, state, and country of their parents. Congregations, schools, and universities often explicitly exhorted young people to honor the duties conferred on them by their inherited identities. Good citizens viewed their own contributions as part of grand narratives and ideologies. Beginning in the Progressive Era, however, critics emphasized freedom of personal choice and the responsibility to act in accordance with information and conscience for the public good. These critics won a whole series of concrete reforms, from the secularization of universities to the secret ballot. Today’s prevailing ideal is citizenship as informed choice, not inherited duty. The disadvantage arises when citizenship becomes episodic, superficial, and designed more to satisfy the one who serves than to address underlying injustice. “Volunteering + Values” provides some encouraging evidence of young Jewish Americans’ idealism and service, but also troubling indications that many are volunteering in ways that satisfy their preferences more than the demands of social justice. — Peter Levine, Director of Research and Director of CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University
  • The new Repair the World study provides an important new window into the world of young Jewish adults and their commitments. At a time when, alas, academic institutions – both secondary and higher education – are increasingly arid expanses devoid of passion and commitment, volunteer opportunities may well be those places where young adults try on a mode of living that is noble and ennobling, a way of life that is idealistic and aspirational rather than cynical and materialistic. What we learn from this study is that most young adults are already finding their way to volunteering opportunities — but that much more can and should be done. It is refreshing, although not exactly surprising, to learn that young Jewish adults engage in volunteer work or other forms of civic activity at such high rates (78%). The challenge, then, is how to develop what is often a set of one-off acts of volunteering or a donation of money into a sustained and purposeful life of service, a life of service that is understood to be the enactment of the highest values of the Jewish tradition. The study also helps us to see that the mission and purpose of Repair the World is an important one, but a complicated one. Some may believe that Jewish service is the “next new thing,” i.e., that service is the antidote or silver bullet that will ensure ongoing Jewish involvement for those who are unaffiliated religiously and who have not participated in Jewish education in schools or camps. But this study raises questions about that simple “next new thing” conclusion, indicating that Jewish educational experience leads to volunteering under Jewish auspices but the absence of Jewish education does not. In fact, the population with less Jewish education tends not to associate the values of compassion and social justice with the Jewish tradition! Of course, this is not a reason to abandon efforts to provide meaningful Jewish service opportunities to the unaffiliated, those young adults who are not interested in or who have not had serious exposure to Jewish education. But it does highlight the challenge – first and foremost, an educational challenge – and it should warn us away from any simplistic conclusions about employing service as a mechanism for Jewish involvement of the currently unaffiliated.” — Jon A. Levisohn, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education and Assistant Academic Director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University