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October 28, 2009

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PulpitRabbi

Interesting analysis. This once again shows how difficult it is to do meaningful statistical analysis in sociology, where real control groups don't exist (at least not like in the exact sciences).

Intuitively, I'd think that it should take more than a 10 day trip to make a lasting impact. The 10 day trip is much better as a feeder into follow up programs, not enough of which already exist.

On a different note: I found your coverage of the Kastner documentary a bit one sided. I find the following article from the Jewish week more subtle, may be you want to blog about it.

URL: http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a17098/News/New_York.html

Key quote:
At the YIVO screening, survivors of the train, one after another, rose to praise Kastner. “Even after he got his family to Switzerland, and he got out, Kastner came back to Hungary, went to Germany, went from camp to camp. He saved lives.”

The 560,000 Jews who left on 147 other trains could not be reached for comment.

Shmarya

The 560,000 Jews who left on 147 other trains could not be reached for comment.

If that quote is in the article, and the article is not an opinion piece, the writer and editor who did this should be fired.

Rachel

A free 10-day trip - as exciting and inspirational as it might be - can not be a substiutue to strong Jewish homes, Jewish day schools and Jewish living. There are no such shortcuts in life.

Shmarya

If that quote is in the article, and the article is not an opinion piece, the writer and editor who did this should be fired.

It took some time to get the page to load.

The reporter is Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark, and the piece is supposed to be a straight news piece.

As I've written several times before, Mark should be fired.

harold

All that I know is that a 10 day, all expense paid trip to Israel for young Jewish people can't hurt and could help as the article says. You may argue as to how helpful it is, but as they say "it can't hurt" so what is the problem here?

PulpitRabbi

Shmarya wrote:
The reporter is Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark, and the piece is supposed to be a straight news piece.

As I've written several times before, Mark should be fired.

Thanks for your opinion on the matter (which is what I wanted to read).

Regarding your earlier reaction, however: If that quote is in the article, and the article is not an opinion piece, the writer and editor who did this should be fired., I must disagree, and for the following reason. The opinion of those whom he did save were featured prominently in articles, including one you blogged about. However, it is quite obvious that those who were saved by him would have a favorable opinion of him, just like birthright participants may be more likely to marry Jewish because they are the kind of people who are more interested in Jewish life. I.e., there is selection bias.

Furthermore, there is no dispute that Kastner did save a large number of people. The question is only whether in the process he endangered many more who could have opposed the Nazis, and whether he also actively turned people in, as with IIRC one of the paratroopers who came with Hannah Senesh. No amount of favorable testimony by those he saved is going to answer this question. Only sleuthing, particularly through archives and through the documents that led to the findings of both the lower and the supreme courts, and comparison with material historians have on other, related situations, can shed more light on the matter.

While I didn't see the documentary yet, based on the reviews I read, I fear that there is too much of the former and too little of the latter for the documentary to be enlightening (but I hope to be able to make up my own mind in the near future, when I get to see it).

Shmarya

You can disagree all you want to. It's journalism 101. What Mark did is unethical. He should be fired.

Furthermore, there is no dispute that Kastner did save a large number of people. The question is only whether in the process he endangered many more who could have opposed the Nazis, and whether he also actively turned people in, as with IIRC one of the paratroopers who came with Hannah Senesh.

This is only a question if you disregard the facts – something Mark also did.

Only sleuthing, particularly through archives and through the documents that led to the findings of both the lower and the supreme courts, and comparison with material historians have on other, related situations, can shed more light on the matter.

This has been done by historians. Kasztner is innocent.

I didn't see the documentary yet

When you see it, you'll see how awful Mark is.

Ben

Shmarya writes: "if these same people had been taken to Brazil on a ten day trip similar to Birthright, you'd see very similar results in most study categories. " What is the point here? Is the point that young people are impressionate? If so, then why is it bad to use this youthfull feature for good purpose - impress them with Israel and Jewsish people? The young people will be impressed with one thing or another, it is feature of youthfull brain. I don't see anything bad in birthright's attempt to impress them with Jewish history and continuity.

I understand that Smaryah has a grudge with "birthright next" people. This should not be a reason to bash entire enterprise for no good reason.

By the way, the philantropists are using their own money and they have full right to use them anyway they want too (that includes both wise and stupid spending).

Shmarya

Shmarya writes: "if these same people had been taken to Brazil on a ten day trip similar to Birthright, you'd see very similar results in most study categories. " What is the point here? Is the point that young people are impressionate? If so, then why is it bad to use this youthfull feature for good purpose - impress them with Israel and Jewsish people?

My argument is Birthright does far less good than it should do, and the gap between its potential and what it actually does is caused by top down management and nepotism.

Mr. Apikorus

The survey done by Brandeis University did contain specification errors. Nevertheless, while the sample sizes of ultimately married participants are small, they are more than large enough to show statistically significant differences between participants and wannabes. Furthermore, the specification error actually helps prove that Birthright participants did in-marry at a much higher rate than those who weren't selected.

Here's how:

Those who didn't get picked (the control group) were more likely to form relationships, either with other Jews or Gentiles, than those who were participants. This is simply a matter of time passage; those who didn't win the Birthright lotto generally tried again six months or a year later. The proportion of those picked was relatively low, under 50%, in Birthright's first few years, and the study encompassed 2001 through 2004. Later (until 2009), funding increased, largely due to the Abelson gift, and the odds of getting picked were much greater.

Birthright's logistics don't lend themselves well to married couples nor to those who are in a serious relationship. Participants are generally bunked three to a room, and when Josh and Jessica are an item, who needs Joe in Bed #3? Yes, two-up rooms are theoretically available, at a cost of $300 a participant, and there aren't many of those. That's the specification error; those that became participants were much less likely to be in a serious relationship, and generally, were looking to have fun.

As one needs to be Jewish to be a participant (one Jewish parent is fine), it's unlikely that a mixed couple would apply in the first place.

Even among those participants who weren't married when surveyed (the majority), an overwhelming majority believed that in-marriage was important.

Now, why was the proportion of in-marriage among those participants who subsequently married so high, while other measures of religious observance was statistically indistinguishable from the control group? My theory is that Birthright participation significantly increased one's favorability towards Israel, and it would be more likely for a Jew to find a mate with similar feelings if that mate were Jewish. Religion, and "we must preserve the Jewish (master) race" feelings played a lesser role. This would be particularly important among college and grad students, as there is a much higher proportion of Israel-hating lefties on college campuses than elsewhere.

I wholeheartedly agree that Birthright should lighten up on the propaganda (the "Gala" has been compared to a Nuremberg Parteitag by quite a few observers), and allow participants to pick and choose among a pod of excursions. These people are adults, and don't need to be treated like babies. If some go to Mea Sheirim or B'nai Brak and discover the warts in Israel, so be it.

Birthright has been a huge success in its primary mission, to increase awareness and knowledge of Israel among secular Jews. This would be true even if the percentage of intermarriage among participants and the control group had been statistically indistinguishable.

Kudos to Steinhardt.

Mr. Apikorus

And Chuck Bronfman.

R

Birthright is great for a free trip to Israel. The people who take advantage are religious or are affiliated with a jewish organisation. I do not think a 10 day biased trip will make people suddenly change their whole life if they are the sort to marry out.

It reminds me of the holocaust trips to Poland. The people on those excursions come back feeling that Poland is a horrible, dark, drab place with no colour and all the people in it are horrible and anti semitic. The reality is far from it.
If they happened to visit Poland as a tourist they would find a different side to it entirely. As for the people. You get anti semites everywhere, not just poland.

Mr. Apikorus

Birthright participants don't have to be religious, and in fact, most aren't. It's easier for them to get on a trip if they join their local campus Hillel, but that hardly would make them religious.

I don't believe there's anything wrong with intermarriage; I've done it, and am about to do it again. Love works in mysterious ways; I got married to a non-Jewish woman three years after my first trip to Israel, and that trip lasted far more than 10 days, with its highlight being meeting Gen. Moshe Dayan. That trip was entirely unorganized, and I returned with a great love of the country. (My second trip, years later, was another story because of an unpleasant encounter I had with the ultra-Orthodox.)

Nevertheless, the Brandeis study clearly showed that Birthright participants are less likely to intermarry than other non-Orthodox Jews. I'd like to see it repeated on more recent crops of Birthright alumni, as it was easier to get on a Birthright trip in the middle and latter part of this decade, thus reducing the selection bias in the just-released Brandeis study.

Michelle Shain

As a co-author of the report, I would like to correct some of what is written here.

(1) It is NOT true that applicants with greater existing connections to the Jewish community have a higher chance of being accepted to Birthright Israel trips. There were no significant differences between participants and nonparticipant applicants on a scale of high school ritual practice, years of supplementary Jewish school, years of Jewish day school, parental intermarriage or denomination raised. See Appendix 1 of our report for the data (technical appendices available at http://www.brandeis.edu/cmjs/researchareas/taglit.longterm.html). Nonparticipant applicants are, in fact, an ideal natural control group for a scientific study of this nature. The differences that we report ARE attributable to the Birthright trip.

(2) Like all good social science researchers, we only report findings that are statistically significant. The difference in intermarriage rates between participants and nonparticipants WAS statistically significant at the p≤0.001 level. See Tables 73 and 74 in Appendix 4 of our report. (Note that we did not report any differences in the way participants and nonparticipants are raising their children, precisely because we did not have enough cases. That was NOT the case with the intermarriage analyses.)

Michelle Shain
Research Associate
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Brandeis University

Shmarya

1. You forget unreported selection within those groups – which happens. You also don't talk about CURRENT (at time of application) affiliations and level of connection.

2. All you reported is what former participants said they would do.

Give those same people a free trip to Brazil and ask them a few years later about doing something Brazilians greatly dislike, most will say they would never do that thing.

But, in actual practice, many more will do it – especially if that thing involves sex.

Shmarya

Send in via email by a reader who can't post due to a system bug:
No one is necessarily arguing that Birthright picks candidates from
stronger Jewish backrounds to skew the results. However, it is the people
from stronger Jewish backrounds who are more likely to apply for Birthright
trips simply because they come from stronger Jewish backrounds. It is no
different than saying that children who go to Jewish day schools or Jewish
camps come from stronger Jewish backrounds beforehand. It's just that
parents with stronger Jewish backrounds themselves are more likely to send
their children to Jewish day schools and Jewish camps. A social scientist
can find correlation easily enough. The trick is to find which correlating
factor is the causative factor. Birthright, like every other vested
interest in the Jewish community, has inverted the causation. In this way,
it is no different than the day school lobby or the camp lobby.

Levi Reisman

Mr. Apikorus

The comparison isn't between those who applied and those who didn't. It's between those who applied and were picked and those who applied and weren't selected. I'd be quite surprised if there is a statistically significant difference between the two groups at the time of initial application, and everything I've seen in the study indicates there isn't.

This has nothing to do with Brazil. For that to be a valid comparison, you'd need an organization which sends young Americans of Brazilian descent (and there are plenty, some of whom are even Jewish) on a free trip to Brazil and ask them years later if their ex-ante attitudes towards Brazil have changed.

Although I've already been there twice, you can sign me up for a free trip to Rio anytime, btw. Just as long as we stay away from the favelas.

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