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New Study Reveals Power of Chabad on Campus

  • Hertog study analyzes Chabad on Campus, including at Columbia

    The Hertog study, to be released Sept. 20, 2016 by a team of NYU and Brandeis social scientists, analyzes the impact of Chabad on Campus. The study redefines how Jewish leaders should focus their efforts to engage college students.
  • On Tuesday, September 20th, 2016, "The Hertog Study of Chabad on Campus," a years-long study of the impact of Chabad on Campus on college graduates, will be released by a team of Brandeis and NYU social scientists.  The study uses innovative measurements to understand the impact of campus programs; its results demonstrate Chabad’s success and redefine where Jewish leaders should focus their efforts in engaging college students.

    According to the study, Chabad representatives on campus achieve many goals that evade and perplex contemporary Jewish leadership, such as fostering Jewish identity and continuity, a connection to Israel, and participation in the Jewish community; this study provides a stark contrast to the somber conclusions of the famous 2013 Pew study on modern Jewish life.  Some of the most powerful factors are the acceptance, personal relationships, and authenticity modeled by campus Chabad Houses.    Anyone who has been to a Chabad House has first-hand experience with these activities, but the study provides the tools to quantify and explore their impact.  

    The Hertog study was commissioned and funded by the Hertog Foundation, and researched and written by widely published Jewish social scientists Mark Rosen and Steven M. Cohen, along with Arielle Levites and Ezra Kopelowitz. The study was designed to learn who comes to Chabad on college campuses, what impact Chabad involvement has on the post-college lives of young Jewish adults, and what is it that Chabad actually does with undergraduate students. The researchers conducted qualitative research at 22 campus Chabad-Lubavitch centers, analyzed survey data from over 2,400 alumni under the age of 30 to measure Chabad’s impact on 18 different measures of Jewish engagement, and conducted interviews with parents, faculty, university officials, and Hillel leaders.

    Columbia University was included in the Hertog study.  The results demonstrate that Chabad at Columbia has had a lasting and meaningful impact on students and their families for decades after graduation.  Those who participated in Chabad’s activities and developed relationships with the Blums and their children were more engaged in Jewish communities and general volunteerism, more passionate about Israel, and more likely to identify as Jewish and marry Jewish.  

    The strong personal relationships that Chabad Rabbis and Rebbetzins develop with their students is a key factor in this success, according to the study.  Half of the students who were more heavily involved in campus Chabad Houses were still in touch with the Chabad family seven years after graduation.  Many asked the rabbi to officiate at their wedding.  They see their rabbi and rebbetzin as "personal rabbis," and in some cases as surrogate parents.  Chabad on Campus has a deep, meaningful, and long-term effect on its participants.

    In the authors’ words: "Post-college impact of involvement with Chabad during college is pervasive, affecting a broad range of Jewish attitudes and behaviors. These include religious beliefs and practices, Jewish friendships, Jewish community involvement, Jewish learning, dating and marriage, emotional attachment to Israel, and the importance of being Jewish."

    In addition to personal relationships, the study identified some other key factors to Chabad’s success, including lean spending, a strong commitment to traditional values, acceptance of other backgrounds and beliefs, and modeling Jewish home life.

    The striking results of the Hertog Study call for today’s Jewish leaders to change the way they engage college students in Jewish life.  The results provide insight into methods that work at creating a positive Jewish identity not only when young people are in college, but just as importantly, when they are young adults making very significant choices about their futures.  Home-cooked meals, personal in-person relationships, unwavering values and simple acceptance of one Jew by another can deeply alter the attitudes of college students who walk through the doors of a Chabad on Campus.

    (A link to the study will be available upon its release.) 

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