The Museum of the Jewish People's Response to the Pew Study on Jewish Americans: Tell the Story and Record it for Generations to Come

Jan 21, 2014, 08:30 ET from Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People

NEW YORK, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pew Research Center published a major study of Jewish Americans pointing out that there are weaker connections to Judaism through religious affiliation and practice and stronger connections through ancestry, heritage and culture. Also pointed out in the Pew study is that there is a durability of Jewishness in America with 94 percent of the respondents stating that they are proud to be Jewish.

Several Jewish organizations and leaders have had mixed reviews on how to interpret the findings and how to respond to them with action. However, Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, has recommended a simple family practice to keep Jewish identity alive and well. The practice is to tell the family story, connect it to the compelling narrative of the Jewish people, and record it for future generations. In fact the Museum was so determined to demonstrate the powerful messaging and connectivity of storytelling that they created a short film entitled: You Are Part of the Story, which may be viewed on YouTube.

"The concept of a special Jewish connection has framed and defined Jewish civilization for generations, says Irina Nevzlin Kogan, Beit Hatfutsot Chair. "That unique sense of belonging; inspiring, an unparalleled, geographically transcending brand of collective and person identity, is based on common heritage and moral underpinnings, history, purpose, family backgrounds, spiritual and physical yearning, and an attachment to the State of Israel."

"Developing a strong family narrative is probably the most important thing you can do to create family identity and a sense of belonging," adds Dan Tadmor, Beit Hatfutsot CEO. "Children in particular want to know about their grandparents, how they grew up, what kinds of obstacles they faced, how they lived. These stories often prepare children for facing life's challenges, developing self-confidence, and character building."

According to Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University and his wife Sara, also a psychologist, who have been advocates of the family narrative and have conducted studies into this theme, "Children who have the most self-confidence have a strong 'intergenerational self.'  They know they belong to something bigger than themselves."

Dr. Duke joined forces with a colleague Robyn Fivush, and set out to test this hypothesis. They developed a measure called the "Do You Know?" scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

"This building of a compelling and content-filled narrative is Beit Hatfutsot's primary mission in reaching out to people all over the world," said Shula Bahat, CEO, Beit Hatfutsot of America, as it clearly states that "You Are Part of the Story."  It is a simple solution stemmed in re-uniting families and connecting them to Jewish life and identity for generations to come.  It is a practice designed to engage family members of all ages in coming to know and understand Judaism."

To further engage Jewish youth in researching and learning about family legacies, Beit Hatfutsot sponsors My Family Story, a far-reaching experiential program and an international competition that offers includes long-distance educational support to teachers around the world. It My Family Story includes a specially-designed interactive six-unit curriculum available in several languages.

For more information regarding Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, visit:

Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, is a vibrant, interactive educational and cultural institution enterprise dedicated to celebrating Jewish history and peoplehood and presenting fundamental aspects of the global Jewish experience from ancient times through the present. Since its opening in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1978, Beit Hatfutsot has been promoting a sense of belonging and reinforcing Jewish identity through engagement in Jewish identity by telling the remarkable story of the Jewish People., It engages visitors of all ages, all religions and backgrounds, in the incomparable narrative of Jewish survival and thriving. Through its core exhibition, vast database, archives, genealogy center, experiential programs and special .exhibits, Beit Hatfutsot empowers people to explore their personal story and serves as an indispensable platform that provides all visitors from Israel and abroad, in person and online, with a deeper understanding of the Jewish people and the meaning of Jewish identity.

SOURCE Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People