(November 10, 2022, Jerusalem, Israel, JNS Wire) What, exactly, are young unaffiliated Jews looking for and how do they connect to Judaism? This was the key question asked in a recent survey commissioned by Aish’s online education and content platform, Aish.com, in advance of relaunching the look and content of the extremely popular website.
Aish.com commissioned international insights and branding consultants Finch Brands to help identify how and what connects young Jews to their Judaism, specifically, those who are not particularly religious or necessarily engaged in Jewish learning on a regular basis. Through focus groups and surveys, young Jewish adults were asked about their Jewish behavior, opinions and interests.
The results were surprising: While much of the behavior, politics, faith, and affiliation mirrored findings of the 2022 Pew Study, the Finch data found that most young people consistently connect Jewishly through food (don’t we all??) This of course came as no surprise to Jamie Geller, who joined Aish as Chief Media and Marketing Officer after more than a decade of building her own kosher food brand and online community.
“I knew we would see a connection to Jewish food and an interest in learning about Jewish recipes and culinary traditions straight across the board,” Geller explained. “I’ve been living that reality for the past 15 years. Jewish food as a meeting point for culture, camaraderie, comfort, entertainment, nostalgia, and identity is so well-established that we now see Jewish food content across the media landscape, both online and offline, including prominent features in mainstream publications and digital publishers.
An additional surprise came when participants were asked to define the type of Jewish wisdom they seek. The areas of greatest interest cited most often were philosophy and history, an unexpected response, perhaps due to the fact that many online Jewish learning sites do not include these topics, or at least do not organize their content around them. Many popular Jewish websites mostly categorize information according to the useful content that revolves around holidays, food, life-cycle events, mourning, praying, and text study.
“This is how we’ve arranged our content for over two decades as well,” explains Aish.com founder and editor in chief Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith. “These new findings help us understand that while our content on these more traditional subjects still matters, and will still be available, what’s needed are clear, accessible answers to broad and basic questions such as ‘where do I come from?’ and ‘what is my purpose?’ That’s the content that needs to be brought to the forefront.”
A recent study by the Springtide Institute, “The State of Religion & Young People 2022: Mental Health – What Faith Leaders Need to Know,” found that the growing trend in lack of affiliation with a religious stream or institution is not due to lack of interest, but rather in the search for wisdom and connection through new modalities.
“The Springtide study showed that while only 30% of young people in the US today attend religious services once a month or more and 68% of young people consider themselves religious, 77% consider themselves spiritual,” commented Springtide’s Executive Director Josh Packard.
“The concept of “faith unbundled,” used by Springtide to describe the way young people are constructing the elements of faith and turning to many religious and non-religious sources, shows a new way of thinking about this generation’s approach to faith. One thing is abundantly clear. This youngest generation — Gen Z — is pressing forward, exploring the boundaries of their faith, constructing meaning, navigating uncertainty, and encountering the Divine in new ways. The only question that remains is whether there will be someone there to guide them.”
Aish’s website overhaul is one part of an ambitious new strategic plan to get 3 million Jews – 20% of global Jewry – engaged in learning Jewish wisdom by 2030. Aish.com gets routine updates and facelifts much the same way any large-scale site would, explained Geller.
“This time, however, we are making major structural changes in addition to design updates. For example, having new mini-sites will allow us to create digital communities around niche areas of interest, resulting in more streamlined and segmented content so users can explore in-depth areas of greater interest with fewer distractions. We are also modernizing the site to integrate the social media experience with stories and live features that mimic social media, making it intuitive for first-time visitors.”
“User behavior is consistently showing us that the Jewish view of the world – content about our purpose and mission and the story of the Jews from the beginning of time – continues to perform, and sometimes surprise us,” said Aish.com Editor and co-creator, Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith.
“I believe this is the beginning of a shift across the Jewish world of information. As we allow user behavior to lead us, we will see an explosion of content that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions while telling our origin story.”
“Aish set an ambitious goal and must apply what we learn from user data if we are going to lead the way in bringing the Jewish people back to engage with our timeless legacy.”
About Aish: With a singular focus of imparting timeless Jewish wisdom, Aish uplifts and inspires people to live more thoughtful, spiritual, and impactful lives. Aish connects with millions of people from all backgrounds through digital content, in-person discovery and exploration at the Dan Family Aish World Center in Jerusalem, and enlightening experiences in over 100 cities in 11 countries on 6 continents around the globe.
About Aish.com: Aish.com is a leading provider of Jewish online content, with 9 million annual visitors, over 50,000 articles and videos published in four languages, 100 million views and more than half a million email subscribers. The website’s 24-hour live webcam from the Western Wall has logged over 50 million visits, and has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times.
About AishVision2030: Aish’s vision for the next 10 years is to create a culture change that returns Jewish learning to the core of Jewish expression, with three million more Jews around the globe studying and sharing timeless Jewish wisdom and values with their peers by 2030. For more information about the new 10-year strategic plan, AishVision2030, or about Aish in general, visit www.about.aish.com.
The Finch Consulting Group Market research data will be made available upon request.
Available for comment:
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Lauren Collier, Chief Experience Officer at Finch Brands – firstname.lastname@example.org