The good news is that a large percentage of these young adults are participating in community work at a rate of up to 86% depending on denominational and identity factors. Also, over three-quarters of them are involved in civic activity.
The bad news? Most of the volunteering takes place infrequently and is episodic.
Though the population examined is “young adults” my own experience with teens mirror these two findings. So many students have told me about their “mitzvah project” in the year leading up to and including the Bar/Bat mitzvah year.
They see the experience as an obligatory ‘check off’ on the list of tasks they need to accomplish and perhaps talk about from the podium. A small minority might even get local press about their efforts. Few, if any, continue the practice beyond the mandated time.
I don’t disagree with the idea that service is a value to be pursued, but if we desire different results, we need to examine the process of how we engage these young teens. It may be that the launch of these volunteer projects in tandem with this Jewish rite of passage feels a bit forced.
It is interesting to note that according to the survey, young Jewish adults don’t even know about volunteer opportunities in the Jewish community, and feel that Jewish organizations do not address the causes that are most relevant for them. Wow. In addition, it seems that Jewish values are not the prime motivators for their decisions, but rather universal values are. This is not a bad thing, but if Jewish identification is what we’re after when we pitch doing ‘mitzvahs’, then we are missing a big opportunity.