Wishing For More: Jewish Boyhood, Identity and Community

By Sharon M. Ravitch, Michael C. Reichert

Moving Traditions, March 4, 2008

This research, based in the metropolitan Denver area, discovered teenage boys whose connections to Judaism and Jewish life offered them resiliency, constructive identities and relational opportunities for their development. The Jewishly-affirming young men in our sample described adaptations that were more independent of adolescent peer group norms and freer, especially in terms of masculine identities, with more expressive communication styles and close male friendships, than less Jewishly-connected boys. For the most part, these boys were able to find their way to the Jewish community, fashioning a home for themselves by cobbling together their own particular mix of relationship, education, symbol and religious practice. However, their Jewish community did not make it easy for them to accomplish this outcome; on the contrary, most of the boys complained about the offerings available to them within organized Jewish institutions. From stale and dogmatic supplemental education, preachy youth outreach, anxious parents or overly secular youth groups, even the boys who were most Jewishly-affirming explained that they had had to construct their Jewish identities despite significant barriers.

This research further suggested that engaging in systematic inquiry with boys about their lives can help those interested in supporting them. We found boys who were quite open to talking about themselves, both in terms of their secular contexts and in relation to their religious and cultural identities. It was obvious to us that they were quite prepared to provide insight and answers to key questions. While this study was a response to specific concerns about Jewish boys, by engaging our subjects in a more open-ended exploration of their lives and identities, we gained sufficient trust that they could trust us with stories about their lives. Drawn from a careful ear to these stories, this study begins to answer the many questions about boys' needs and hopes, with encouraging detail.

Topic: Gender, Youth, Engagement, Boys, Research, Discourse and Dialogue, Programming, Friendship, Jewish Identification, Affiliation, Outreach, Identity Formation, Study

Name of Publication: Campaign for Jewish Boys

Funder: Rose Community Foundation

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Genre: Report

Coverage: Denver, Colorado , United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Ravitch, Sharon M. Reichert, Michael C. Wishing For More: Jewish Boyhood, Identity and Community. Campaign for Jewish Boys. Moving Traditions. 4 March 2008: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=7463


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