Why Jewish Identity? Doctorate FAQs

As I’ve mentioned before, in addition to my roles of Jewish educator, crazy dog mama, consultant, and now [it feels like] professional unpacker, I’m a doctoral student. I’m currently working on my EdD, or Doctor of Education degree, and look forward to being finished within the next year. I haven’t written much about that facet of my Jewish work in this forum, but as my research picks up, I’m looking forward to sharing the process, the findings, and the outcomes with this community. So to kick things off, some FAQs:

What are you studying?

My degree will be an EdD in Educational Leadership, with a content area focus in Jewish education. My dissertation research is on Jewish teens, specifically high school students who have completed congregational b’nai mitzvah programs but have not continued with their formal Jewish engagement/education. My goal is to interview these teens about their Jewish identities, and what [if any] value add they see Judaism as bringing to their lives.

How/why did you pick your topic?

While I’ve had the pleasure with working with many diverse populations as a Jewish educator, my specialty area is teens + adolescents, and I knew going in that I wanted to focus on this stage of life. I think it’s one of the most exciting times to encounter someone on their Jewish journeys. It’s a time of exploration, growth, and countless entry points to connect with mentors, and oneself. And the specific research questions came from the collective anxieties that I see the Jewish people struggling with. Parents, professionals, and the public as a whole tend to freak out about the post-b’nai mitzvah drop off, and measure success based on the number of teens a program manages to retain. But in an era when people are affiliating in different ways than ever before, things don’t seem that black and white to me. I wanted to hear from the teens directly about their Jewish identities.

What are you hoping to find?

I’m hoping that the teens who I interview will confirm my hypothesis - that they’ll be proud to be Jewish, confident in their identities, and that they’ll be able to articulate why it matters to them. Ideally, there’ll be enough consensus in their answers to help me identify themes that I can use to form the basis for an understanding in Jewish identity in the lives of unaffiliated members of Generation Z. This will then be used to make recommendations for further exploration + professional best practices for my fellow Jewish educators who work with this demographic.

What will you do with all of this information?

Part of the work itself will include making recommendations to Jewish communal professionals about how to apply this research and its findings in their work. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit! I definitely have fantasies about speaking, books, and consulting. But ultimately, my hope is to bring added insights about my favorite population, however that manifests.

What else do you want to know? What can I share about my research that will be valuable to you?