Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 64–71 | Cite as

Exploring jewish social networks

  • Rela Mintz Geffen


Jewish Community Jewish Identity Jewish Woman Contemporary JEWRY National Jewish Population Survey 
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  1. 1.
    When I teach the concept of reference group to my students, I often use the example of putting a ketchup bottle on the dining room table. If I do so, I will invariably return to the table within a few minutes and remove it. It does not matter that my mother is not in the room, she is indelibly present in my head, part of my reference group, reminding me of such important rules as those about bottles on tables.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    An exception to this rule is found in Bruce A. Phillips’ 1998 analysis of some social networking variables inReexamining Intermarriage, Trends, Textures, Strategies, published by the Wilstein Institute and the Petchek National Jewish Family Center. For example, he analyzes the impact of a range of high school dating patterns and non-formal Jewish educational experiences on later interfaith marriage. To be fair, he had more to work with. Most of the demographically based studies funded nationally or by communities have not asked the kind of questions, the answers to which would enable such analysis.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Peter Y. Medding, Gary A. Tobin, Sylvia Barack Fishman and Mordecai Rimor, “Jewish Identity in Conversionary and Mixed Marriages.”Jewish Sociology Papers, published originally in the 1992American Jewish Year Book, p. 27.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    A quick look at Ira M. Sheskin’s excellent summary work,How Jewish Communities Differ: Variations in the Findings of Local Jewish Population Studies, published by the North American Jewish Data Bank, reveals the paucity of indicators of social networks. Table 56, titled Jewish Friendship Patterns, shows responses of respondents from eight communities where they were asked the actual number (as opposed to proportion or percentage) of three best friends who are Jewish. Unfortunately, frequency distributions only reveal the fact that over 80% of respondents in the eight communities had a least one close Jewish friend.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sidney Goldstein and Alice Goldstein,Jews on the Move Implications for Jewish Identity, Chapter 7, “Informal Networks,” pp. 302–303.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hayim Herring and Barry Shrage:Jewish Networking: Linking People, Institutions, Community, The Susan & David Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies, Boston and Los Angeles, 2001. Herring’s work ties in with that of Steven Cohen and Arnold Eisen in their book on moderately affiliated American Jews entitledThe Jew Within and that of Bethamie Horowitz in her reportConnections and Journies: Assessing Critical Opportunities for Enhancing Jewish Identity written for the UJA Federation of New York in 2000. They suggest a much more individuated path to community and identity, stressing the hegemony of the “sovereign self” and individual “journies.” They recommend a communal public policy where organizations adapt to individuals rather than assuming that individuals will “live up” to a certain set of Jewish behaviors.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The central thesis of Daniel Elazar’s work can be found inCommunity and Polity: The Organizational Dynamics of American Jewry, 2nd Edition, Jewish Publication Society Revised Edition, 1995. The concentric circle paradigm of community organization that Herring calls the magnet theory of Jewish identity was first put forth in the 1976 edition ofCommunity and Polity.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For an extended explication of this theory, see “Religious Extremism: Origins and Consequences” by Laurence R. Iannaccone in Vol. 20 ofContemporary Jewry 1999, especially pp. 17–19.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    From the article on “Neighborhood” by Scott Greer in theInternational Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, David L. Sills Editor, The Macmillan Company & the Free Press, 1966, Volume 11, p. 121.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    I think of this last part as the Sesame Street neighborhood effect-as in the now classic song that introduces people with various occupations whom children will encounter regularly. The chorus goes like this: “Who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street, they’re the people that you meet each day.” One of my learned colleagues suggested that I had given short shrift to Mr. Rogers, known to millions of children through his creation of a whole virtual neighborhood for children introduced daily with the song, “Oh, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, won’t you be my neighbor?” Both programs are interesting examples of the kind of “neighborhood” which is completely ignored in our research, but is very powerful and present in North American life.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Odd Ramsoy in the article on “Friendship”in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Ibid, Volume 6, pp. 12–17.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rela Geffen Monson,Jewish Campus Life, A Survey of Student Attitudes Toward Marriage and Family, American Jewish Committee, 1984, p. 23.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rela Geffen Monson,Jewish Women On The Way Up-The Challenge of Family, Career and Community, American Jewish Committee, 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rela Mintz Geffen
    • 1
  1. 1.Baltimore Hebrew UniversityUSA

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