Newsletter   /   June 2024
What’s in a Sample? Research on Jewish Girls Ensures Inclusion of JoC Voices

What's In A Sample? Research on Jewish Girls Ensures Inclusion of JoC Voices

Cheryl Weiner conducts research on Jewish activist teen girls. Though her research is not solely focused on the experiences of Jews of Color, Weiner made sure her research included a diverse sample of young women, focusing on those whose experiences are often overlooked, such as Jews of Color, those living in remote Jewish geographic areas, and those not raised in mainstream Jewish communities. In her research on how teen girls navigate their relationship with voice, visibility, and representation in the context of Judaism and activism, this emphasis on capturing diverse voices and experiences is designed to challenge prevailing norms and enrich our understanding of Jewish youth.

One aspect of Weiner’s research is focused on the concept of “voice.” “When are [Jewish activist girls] speaking up? When are they not speaking up? What are the issues that they’re speaking up about? When do they refrain from speaking up? And what are the conditions under which they do speak up?” Her research reveals a wide range of diverse experiences among Jewish girls, influenced by their various backgrounds and beliefs. She found that varying socioeconomic backgrounds and different levels of Jewish observance were major variables in determining the unique perspective and experiences with “voice.” Weiner developed a purposively diverse sample—intentionally selecting participants with diverse racial identities—to more holistically explore Jewish girls’ experiences. This approach ensures a reflection of the rich diversity of Jewish identity.

Weiner’s research revealed that her respondents often felt they had to be selective with their voice and activism, especially in Jewish contexts, due to experiences of microaggressions, racism, and tokenization. There seemed to be a shared feeling, especially among non-white respondents, that their perspectives and beliefs were only conditionally welcome in majority white Jewish spaces. “For girls of color, how selective they have to be with voice and activism in Jewish contexts is crucial,” Weiner observed. 

Yet, despite the very real presence of the challenges they faced, many of the girls expressed a strong identification with their Jewish identity. This aligns with findings from Beyond the Count, which showed that 80% of JoC who participated in the survey have experienced discrimination, and a majority of Jews of Color find meaningful connection and are deeply involved with Jewish identity and traditions. This intersection of challenges faced with powerful Jewish identity reinforces the importance of researching and amplifying the experiences of Jews of Color, and others with marginalized identities. How do experiences of marginalization affect relationships to Jewishness? What are the venues within Jewish community in which diverse girls’ perspectives are heard, and how can communal leaders create even more opportunities for engaging and reflecting with marginalized members of their community? These questions strike at the core of Weiner’s research.

Weiner was inspired to research marginalized Jewish girls and explore their relationships to Judaism after reading Beyond the Count. She believes Jewish research should incorporate the experiences of Jews of Color (as well as other diverse Jewish identities) whether or not the topic of research is focused primarily on Jews of Color; research with a diverse sample “provides a more accurate representation of the population and values a wider variety of experiences and contributions of Jewish teen girls,” Weiner says.

Her research also underscores the imperative of including JoC voices in scholarly and communal discussions. Jewish research that takes care to reflect the multiracial U.S. Jewish population will not only resonate with a wider audience, but also strengthen the research’s lasting relevancy as the Jewish community becomes increasingly diverse. Her work challenges us to rethink who we study, how we study them, and why their stories matter. By amplifying diverse Jewish girls’ voices, Weiner honors their experiences and enriches the Jewish community’s collective understanding of Jewish identity and activism today. The JoCI is excited to see the continued impact of Beyond the Count on the field of Jewish research in the community and the academy.

Date Posted

June 2024


Jews of Color Initiative