Atra: Center for Rabbinic Innovation
The first study of its kind in a generation, “The Rabbi Effect” explores the impact of rabbis on Jewish young adults (ages 18-44) in the United States. This study examines their experiences with rabbis and how those experiences have influenced their connections to Judaism and Jewish communities, shaped their perceptions of rabbis, and their ideas of what a rabbi should be.
The Perception and Impact of Rabbis Among American Jews 18-44 was commissioned by Atra: Center for Rabbinic Innovation in 2022 with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation. This study was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) using qualitative journals and a quantitative survey.
Overview of the Findings
American Jews age 18-44 want to have a relationship with a rabbi who accepts and guides them.
Younger American Jews want to access rabbis in ways that are meaningful and accessible to them - in and outside of synagogue and life cycle events.
Most younger American Jews think having a relationship with a rabbi is important.
of Jews Age 18-44 are connected to Jewish community
of Jews Age 18-44 have interacted with a rabbi in their lives, 58% do currently
of Jews 18-44 years old have had a rabbi in their life who knows them by name
of Jews Age 18-44 say that having a relationship with a rabbi is important to them
Young Jews largely feel connected to a Jewish community, and nearly half desire even more connection
7 in 10 young Jews feel connected to some form of a Jewish community today, with 1 in 3 feeling very connected. Encouragingly, almost half would like more connection to a Jewish community, including 1 in 3 (33%) who currently feel disconnected.
Among the 36% who say having a relationship with a rabbi is not important to them today, most are open to it being important to them later in life.
“The research is both compelling and affirming in what it tells us about young people and how they navigate the world today. Young people want leaders in their lives who relate to them, accept them, and who signal to them that it's ok to be vulnerable, to be unsure of things in life. With the right training and support, rabbis are those leaders! Now we need to figure out how to match as many rabbis as possible with as many young adults as possible to develop these meaningful relationships.”
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Executive Director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and Co-director of the NYU dual MA in Jewish nonprofit management