Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 67–84 | Cite as

Understanding Young Adult Attachment to Israel: Period, Lifecycle and Generational Dynamics

  • Theodore SassonEmail author
  • Benjamin Phillips
  • Graham Wright
  • Charles Kadushin
  • Leonard Saxe


Social scientists who study contemporary Jewry are engaged in an intense debate over trends in American Jewish attachment to Israel. The dominant view has been that age-related differences reported in surveys indicate intergenerational decline, with successive birth cohorts less emotionally attached to Israel than their predecessors. An alternative view has been that age-related differences reflect stages of the lifecycle, with members of each birth cohort becoming more emotionally attached to Israel as they grow older. Drawing on evidence from four sets of surveys administered to comparable samples at ten-year intervals, the present paper weighs the evidence for the “generational” versus “lifecycle” hypotheses about the nature of changes in attachment. The findings indicate that, across the four sets of surveys, emotional attachment increased between Time 1 (the first survey, administered in the 1990s) and Time 2 (the second survey, administered in the 2000s). The increases were for respondents as a whole as well as most age cohorts. In each of the four surveys sets, the largest increases occurred as respondents transitioned from their 30s to their 40s, i.e., from young adulthood to mature adulthood. Although increasing attachment to Israel throughout the period as a whole complicates the analysis, we conclude that the preponderance of evidence supports the view that emotional attachment to Israel increased over the lifecourse rather than declined across the generations. That said, future trends may be influenced by new dynamics including increased intermarriage, more widespread Israel travel, and a highly fluid political situation.


Israel Public opinion Diaspora 


  1. Ament, Jonathon. 2005. Israel connections and American Jews. New York: United Jewish Communities.Google Scholar
  2. Arnett, Jeffrey. 2004. Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beinart, Peter. 2010. The failure of the American Jewish establishment. New York: New York Review of Books.Google Scholar
  4. Burstein, Paul. 2010. What is really being debated in the debate on the distancing hypothesis? Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 213–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chertok, Fern, Theodore Sasson, and Leonard Saxe. 2009. Tourists, travelers, and citizens: Jewish engagement of young adults in four centers of North American Jewish life. Waltham: Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, Steven M., and Arnold M. Eisen. 2000. The Jew within: Self, family, and community in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, Steven M., and Ari Y. Kelman. 2007. Beyond distancing: Young adult American Jews and their alienation from Israel. New York: Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, Steven M., and Ari Y. Kelman. 2010. Thinking about distancing from Israel. Contemporary Jewry 20(2–3): 287–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, Steven M., and Jack Wertheimer. 2006. Whatever happened to the Jewish people? Commentary 121: 33–37.Google Scholar
  10. DellaPergola, Sergio. 2010. Distancing, yet one. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 183–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dershowitz, Alan M. 1998. The vanishing American Jew. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  12. Elazar, Daniel J. 2001. Changing places, changing cultures: Divergent Jewish political cultures. In Divergent Jewish cultures: Israel and America, ed. D.D. Moore, and S.I. Troen. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Goldscheider, Calvin. 2010. American and Israeli Jews: Oneness and distancing. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 205–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Keysar, Ariela. 2010. Distancing from Israel: Evidence on Jews of no religion. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 194–204.Google Scholar
  15. Liebman, Charles S., and Steven M. Cohen. 1990. Two worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American experiences. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Luntz, Frank. 2003. Israel and American Jews in the age of Eminem. New York: Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.Google Scholar
  17. Miller, Ron, and Arnold Dashefsky. 2010. Brandeis v. Cohen et al.: The distancing from Israel debate. Contemporary Jewry 30(23): 155–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mintz Geffen, Rela. 2010. The distancing hypothesis: Fact or fiction? A response. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 253–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Perlmann, Joel. 2007. American Jewish opinion about the future of the West Bank. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: The Levy Economics Institute.Google Scholar
  20. Phillips, Bruce. 2010. Splitting the difference and moving forward with the research. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 257–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Phillips, Benjamin. 2007. Numbering the Jews: Evaluating and improving surveys of American Jews. Ph.D. dissertation, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology, Brandeis University, Waltham.Google Scholar
  22. Putnam, Robert D., and David E. Campbell. 2010. Amazing grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Rawidowicz, Simon. 1998. State of Israel, Diaspora and Jewish continuity. Hanover: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rosenthal, Steven. 2001. Irreconcilable differences. Hanover: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Saad, Lydia. February 24, 2010. Support for Israel in U.S. at 63%, Near Record High. Gallup News Service, October 4, 2007.Google Scholar
  26. Sasson, Theodore, Charles Kadushin, and Leonard Saxe. 2010a. Trends in American Jewish attachment to Israel: An assessment of the “distancing” hypothesis. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 297–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sasson, Theodore, Charles Kadushin, and Leonard Saxe. 2010b. On sampling, evidence and theory: Concluding remarks on the distancing debate. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 149–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sasson, Theodore, Benjamin Phillips, Charles Kadushin, and Leonard Saxe. 2010c. Still connected: American Jewish attitudes about Israel. Waltham: Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  29. Saxe, Leonard, and Barry Chazan. 2008. Ten days of Birthright Israel: A journey in young adult identity. Hanover: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Saxe, Leonard, Benjamin Phillips, Theodore Sasson, Shahar Hecht, Michelle Shain, Graham Wright, and Charles Kadushin. 2009. Generation Birthright Israel: The impact of an Israel experience on Jewish identity and choices. Waltham: Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  31. Saxe, Leonard, Benjamin Phillips, Theodore Sasson, Shahar Hecht, Michelle Shain, Graham Wright, and Charles Kadushin. 2011. Intermarriage: The impact and lessons of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Contemporary Jewry 31: 151–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saxe, Leonard, Elizabeth Tighe, Benjamin Phillips, and Charles Kadushin. 2006. Reconsidering the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population. Waltham: Steinhardt Social Research Institute, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  33. Sheskin, Ira M. 2010. A geographical approach to an analysis of the distancing hypothesis. Contemporary Jewry 30(3): 219–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thorburn, W.M. 1915. Occam’s razor. Mind (new series) 24(94): 287–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Time to Act. 1990. University Press of America, Commission on Jewish Education in North America, NY.Google Scholar
  36. Ukeles, Jack B., Ron Miller, and Pearl Beck. 2006. Young Jewish adults in the United States today. New York: American Jewish Committee.Google Scholar
  37. Waskey, Andrew J. 2008. Occam’s razor. In International Encyclopedia in the Social Sciences, vol. 6, 2nd ed., ed. W.A. Darity, 19–20. Detroit: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  38. Waxman, Chaim I. 2010. Beyond distancing: Jewish identity, identification and America’s young Jews. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 227–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wertheimer, Jack. 2010. Go out and see what the people are doing. Contemporary Jewry 30(2–3): 233–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wexler, Robert. 2007. United States of America. In Israel, the Diaspora and Jewish identity, ed. D. Ben-Moshe, and Z. Segev, 268–278. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.Google Scholar
  41. Wuthnow, Robert. 2010. After the baby boomers. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Yang, Yang, Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, Wenjiang T. Fu, and Kenneth C. Land. 2008. The intrinsic estimator for age-period-cohort analysis: What it is and how to use it. American Journal of Sociology 113(6): 1697–1736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore Sasson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Benjamin Phillips
    • 3
  • Graham Wright
    • 2
  • Charles Kadushin
    • 2
  • Leonard Saxe
    • 2
  1. 1.Middlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA
  2. 2.Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Abt-SRBICambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations