Jewish Engagement from Birth: The Promise of Outreach to New Jewish Families

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Jewish Engagement from Birth: The Promise of Outreach to New Jewish Families

  1. 1. Jewish Engagement from Birth: A Blueprint for Outreach to New Jewish Families Mark I. Rosen, Ph.D. Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University Prepared for CAJE St. Louis, Missouri August 7, 2007 Photo Courtesy of Stroum JCC
  2. 2. Baby Demographics <ul><li>Across the country, approximately 50,000 babies are born each year to families with two Jewish parents </li></ul><ul><ul><li>figure represents approximately 1% of the Jewish population </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The number of babies born to intermarried couples is impossible to estimate </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Jewish Future <ul><li>How many of these families will end up being connected to community institutions? </li></ul><ul><li>How many of these children will attend Jewish preschools, congregational schools, or day schools? </li></ul><ul><li>How many of these children will grow up with a Jewish identity? </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Challenge <ul><li>What can the organized Jewish community do to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>provide support to these parents? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>encourage them to raise their children with a Jewish identity? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>connect them to Jewish institutions? </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. National Study <ul><li>Funded by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Helen Bader Foundation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Two basic questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Regarding parents: What do Jewish parents with young children want? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Regarding programs: What are the best programs around the country? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Answered through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>site visits to ten communities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>focus groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interviews with Jewish professionals, experts, and businesses/nonprofits that cater to parents with young children </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. What Do Parents Want? <ul><li>Information about how to be a better parent </li></ul><ul><li>A value system to raise their children </li></ul><ul><li>Friendships with other parents </li></ul><ul><li>A place to go outside of the house </li></ul><ul><li>A place where they can have fun with their infants and toddlers </li></ul><ul><li>Unengaged Jewish parents are very similar to other parents </li></ul><ul><li>The secret to engagement is to give them what they want in a Jewish setting </li></ul>
  7. 7. A Window of Opportunity <ul><li>Life changes dramatically when a couple has their first baby; normal routines are disrupted </li></ul><ul><li>Finances, work, identity, and relationships are all affected </li></ul><ul><li>It takes about two years until parents are comfortable in their new routine and lifestyle </li></ul><ul><li>During this time, parents are very receptive </li></ul><ul><li>The Jewish community has a window of opportunity to reach parents who have not previously been interested in Judaism </li></ul><ul><li>The window tends to close around the time their child turns two </li></ul>
  8. 8. Where Do Parents Go For Information About Parenting? <ul><li>Many sources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Internet, classes/workshops, friends, the baby’s grandparents, books, parenting magazines </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most are secular </li></ul><ul><li>If Jewish organizations provide parenting information, parents will: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>develop a positive view of the community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>make Jewish friends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>learn about Jewish tradition </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Parents Want to Make Friends With Other Parents <ul><li>Many parents have relocated and do not have extended family in the communities where they now live </li></ul><ul><li>The desire to make friends is often the biggest motivation to attend programs </li></ul><ul><li>If parents attend Jewish programs, they will make Jewish friends instead of non-Jewish friends </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish friends lead to Jewish choices </li></ul>
  10. 10. Peers Can Influence Educational Choices <ul><li>“ [When we] moved to Seattle a year and a half ago… we randomly met this woman… and she said you have to [send your children to] the JCC preschool… that’s actually how we met our community of Jewish friends.” </li></ul><ul><li>- Seattle parent </li></ul>
  11. 11. When Parents Select a Preschool It Is Their First Opportunity to Make a Jewish Educational Choice Choice Availability of Openings Preschool Cost Hours and Location Preschool Quality Friends’ Advice
  12. 12. What Are the Most Important Considerations When Choosing a Preschool? <ul><li>Location, hours, and quality are primary </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish sponsorship and cost are usually secondary </li></ul><ul><li>Parents rely mainly on peers to assess quality </li></ul>
  13. 13. Peers Can Influence Choice of a Religion for Children of Mixed Marriages <ul><li>“ I think the issue with mixed marriages is that people don’t know how they are going to raise their kids until they start going to preschool and they start meeting other families…” </li></ul><ul><li>- Boston parent </li></ul>
  14. 14. Influencing the Intermarried <ul><li>Many intermarried couples avoid discussions about their child’s religion </li></ul><ul><li>The issue becomes harder to avoid as children grow older and start asking questions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mommy, am I Christmas or Chanukah? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If non-Jewish spouses have positive Jewish experiences, they will be more inclined to agree to raise a Jewish child </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish peers can influence this decision </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish mothers appear to be more likely to make this choice than Jewish fathers </li></ul>
  15. 15. What Are Communities Currently Doing for Parents? <ul><li>Four major types of programs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prenatal education programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shalom Baby gift basket programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jewish education programs for parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Infant/toddler programs and parenting centers in JCCs and synagogues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sponsored by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federation, JCC, Jewish Family Services, Board of Jewish Education, Synagogues, Chabad </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Prenatal Education Programs <ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Judaism, pregnancy, and childbirth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often co-taught by rabbis/Jewish educators and childbirth experts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Groups often continue to stay in touch after babies are born </li></ul><ul><li>Primarily attracts the already affiliated </li></ul><ul><li>Hard to find a large enough group of expectant parents in the same trimester of pregnancy </li></ul><ul><li>Model program: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rose Community Hospital - Denver </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Shalom Baby Programs <ul><li>Gift basket for new parents from JCC or Federation </li></ul><ul><li>Programs in 30 communities </li></ul><ul><li>Goals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find unengaged parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide a warm personal welcome </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inform them about follow-up programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Invite them to join Jewish playgroups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Model programs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lawrence Family JCC - San Diego </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>St. Louis JCC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Robert Loup JCC - Denver </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Keys to Success <ul><li>Find a funder who “gets it” </li></ul><ul><li>Hire a devoted, passionate, charismatic staff person to do it full-time </li></ul><ul><li>Create a comprehensive baby-finding infrastructure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>utilize obstetricians and pediatricians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>develop a network of “informants” consisting of parents and Jewish professionals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Involve all of the Jewish organizations in the community </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Keys to Success (continued) <ul><li>Make extensive use of peer volunteers to welcome parents and provide community information </li></ul><ul><li>Enter information about parents into a database </li></ul><ul><li>Send regular follow-up emails about events: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sponsored by the JCC, Jewish Family Services, synagogues, Chabad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the more options parents have, the better </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No solicitations for two years </li></ul>
  20. 20. Jewish Education Programs <ul><li>Variety of multi-session programs for parents or families </li></ul><ul><li>Offered by a variety of institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to get unengaged parents, especially those with young children, to sign up for a multi-session adult education course </li></ul><ul><li>Child care is a must </li></ul><ul><li>Model program: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ikkarim - Boston </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Infant/Toddler Programs <ul><li>Attended by both parent/nanny and child </li></ul><ul><li>Offer: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Speakers on issues of concern to parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support groups and mentoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tot Shabbat/Jewish holiday programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Activities (music, crafts, baby massage) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Main draws </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information about how to be a better parent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Friendships with other parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A place to go outside of the house </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A place to have fun with infants and toddlers </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Parenting Centers <ul><li>“ One-stop shopping” for a variety of infant/toddler programs </li></ul><ul><li>About 25 in JCCs around the country </li></ul><ul><li>About 15 in synagogues </li></ul><ul><li>Many have drop-in facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Some programs attract hundreds </li></ul><ul><li>Model programs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Harry and Rose Samson JCC - Milwaukee </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stroum JCC Parenting Center –Seattle </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Manhattan JCC </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. What Should We Be Doing to Engage More Parents? <ul><li>Plan as a community and involve all relevant community institutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work to overcome institutional barriers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize that the real competition is with secular institutions, not other Jewish institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Make sure there are programs for each stage of parenthood: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prenatal programs prior to birth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shalom Baby visits at birth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Infant/toddler programs/Jewish education after birth </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Recommendations <ul><li>Make sure parents have lots of options </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer a variety of programs – no single program will have universal appeal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer a range of Jewish content – some want rich Jewish learning, while others are not interested in learning about Judaism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer programs in a variety of venues – some will prefer synagogues while others will be more comfortable at the JCC or a parent’s home </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Recommendations <ul><li>Do a better job of finding the babies </li></ul><ul><li>Partner with secular experts so that: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>programs are cutting edge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>program reach is expanded </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Make sure that those who work with parents are carefully selected and trained </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize the Internet </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To connect parents with each other </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To provide information about programs, local resources, and Jewish tradition </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Recommendations <ul><li>Emphasize relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>between parents and Jewish professionals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>between parents and peers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Parents should have lots of opportunities to connect with peers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create multiple opportunities to meet and socialize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most mothers join playgroups – facilitate the creation of Jewish playgroups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify, cultivate, and develop mommies with leadership potential in each neighborhood </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Recommendations <ul><li>Be sensitive to non-traditional families </li></ul><ul><ul><li>parents who adopt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>single parents </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hire a “Birth to Three” community coordinator to facilitate cooperation across institutions and agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Make parents a greater community priority </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Jewish future is at risk if children don’t grow up with a Jewish identity </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. For More Information… <ul><li>Jewish Engagement from Birth: A Blueprint for Outreach to First-Time Parents </li></ul><ul><li>can be downloaded at: </li></ul><ul><li>www.cmjs.org/parents </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Rosen can be reached at: </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>

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