Chabad study highlights

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A newly released Hertog Foundation study of Chabad on Campus International surveyed more than 2,400 current and former college students ages 21 to 29, all of whom had varying degrees of involvement with Chabad during their undergraduate years at 22 U.S. universities, including U.C. Santa Cruz, USC, Columbia University and Washington University. A summary of the study can be found here. Among the more notable findings:

• Chabad on campus attracts students from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, although relatively few — some 12 percent — are Orthodox.

• Alumni who were more frequent participants at Chabad during college had higher scores on post-college measures of Jewish attitudes and behavior than those who were less frequent participants.

• The apparent impact of involvement with Chabad during college is “pervasive,” affecting a variety of post-college Jewish attitudes and behaviors, among them religious belief and practices, Jewish friendships, Jewish community involvement, Jewish learning, dating and marriage, emotional attachment to Israel and the importance of being Jewish.

• The impact appears to be greatest among those who indicated they were raised Reform and those who were raised with no denominational affiliation. The effects are slightly smaller for students raised Conservative. Chabad participation appears to have little impact on those raised Orthodox, who already exhibit higher levels of Jewish involvement than their peers.

• Students more active with Chabad reported higher attendance at Shabbat meals, up to 36 percent of Reform Jews and 40 percent among the unaffiliated. And 39 percent of highly active unaffiliated Jews reported attending religious services once a month or more, as opposed to 13 percent of those who reported low participation in Chabad activities.

• Participation in Chabad activities correlates with enhanced feelings of community solidarity: Among those with high participation in their campus Chabad, 43 percent of those raised Conservative said they feel they belong to their local Jewish community, along with 33 percent of Reform and 41 percent of unaffiliated.

• One of the more statistically significant findings showed that of Jewish students raised with no denomination, only 15 percent of Chabad’s low-participation students volunteered for a Jewish group or organization, compared with 60 percent of high-participation students.

• High levels of Chabad participation in college also affected future philanthropic giving, with 75 percent of Conservative Jews, 63 percent of Reform and 61 percent of unaffiliated having made a donation to a Jewish organization within 12 months.

• On the all-important subject of dating, involvement with Chabad appears to make a big difference. Only 37 percent of Conservative Jews with low levels of Chabad participation said dating Jews is “very important,” as opposed to 61 percent of those reporting high levels of participation. For unaffiliated Jews, the differences widen from 17 percent to 61 percent.

• Disparities were greater when respondents were asked about marriage. For example, 24 percent of unaffiliated Jews reporting low Chabad participation said it was “very important” to marry a Jew, but the figure jumps to 70 percent of unaffiliated with high participation.

• Relatively few students change their denominational affiliation to Orthodox as a result of involvement with Chabad, and virtually none subsequently choose to identify with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.