Camp Ramah and Adult Jewish Identity: Long-Term Influences on Conservative Congregants in North America [1997-1998]

Sponsor(s): Melton Centre for Jewish Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Principal Investigator(s): Steven M. Cohen

Key Findings:

Secondary analysis study by Professor Steven M. Cohen of Jewish adults who attended Camp Ramah as children examines the extent and nature of impact Ramah exerted on several aspects of their current Jewish identity. The analysis tries to discern the independent impact of the Ramah experience upon the chances of marrying a Jew, taking into account the Ramah alumni's many Jewish socialization advantages.

Professor Cohen's analysis uses data drawn from the 1995 Study of Conservative Synagogue Members, conducted by the Ratner Center for Conservative Judaism of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  The "Ratner" data are then compared to Conservative respondents from NJPS 1990 in order to understand the representative of the 1995 Conservative study.

Conclusion:

"...as a pilot study, this analysis clearly establishes the likelihood that the Ramah experience – albeit measured in crude, imprecise, and conceptually limited terms – has exerted a long-term influence on the Jewish identity of adults several decades after they attended camp. In particular, it points to the success of Camp Ramah in producing a Jewish elite, perhaps a success greater than in elevating the average level of Jewish involvement of the average Ramah camper. To be sure, the elite Ramah shaped constitute only a minority, albeit a significant one, of its alumni. Moreover, Ramah did not succeed in isolation, but was complimented by families, schools, congregations, and communities. And last, the production of a Jewish elite comes with the price of some alienation. Some of the most committed Jewish “products” of Camp Ramah dropped out of North American Jewish life by moving over to Orthodoxy or eastward to Israel. As we have seen, those who remained within Conservative Judaism harbor reservations about its leaders, congregations, and services. But all this is to be expected when one develops people who are more educated, committed, and proficient in Judaic skills."

Language: English