What do we know about the experiences and attitudes of girls coming of age in today’s Jewish community? By many measures, we observe that the girls commonly served by Jewish communal institutions—many of them socially, economically, and racially privileged—are thriving. We see these “alpha girls” all around us: leading their extracurricular activities, bettering the world around them, excelling in sports, and matriculating to elite universities. And yet, these same girls report feeling intense pressure to accrue academic and extracurricular distinctions and fulfill the expectations of parents, friends, community leaders, media images, and more. As young women, they are surrounded by mixed messages about femininity and ambition, anger, affluence, and more. In our roles as Jewish youth professionals, as parents, as teachers, as members of extended families and close communities, we have seen ample evidence of these challenges and these strengths in the girls in our own lives.
At Ma’yan, we hear these stories frequently from the concerned adults in Jewish girls’ lives. But our mission – to be a catalyst for change to make the Jewish community more accessible and responsive to the next generation of Jewish women – demands that we ground our advocacy in something more substantive than anecdote. To serve Jewish girls, we need to know more: what moves and inspires and worries them, where they excel and where they are struggling, what they say they want from the adults who care for them. Remarkably little research has looked specifically at this population, and virtually none has involved girls in framing the questions the research pursues. The Ma’yan Research Training Intensive was initially created as research team designed as a collaboration between Ma’yan staff and Jewish teen girls to explore the needs of self-identified Jewish teen girls.
Download the document belowe to see the first RTI research product: Pretty Soon We’ll be Taking Over.