The Alumni of Ramah Camps, 2016: A Long-Term Portrait of Jewish Engagement

Sponsor(s): Berman Jewish Policy Archive at Stanford, Eileen and Jerry Lieberman, National Ramah Commission

Principal Investigator(s): Steven M. Cohen

Study Dates: May 30, 2016 - July 28, 2016

Key Findings:

"The Alumni of Ramah Camps: A Long-term Portrait of Jewish Engagement," reports the results of Professor Steven M. Cohen's study for the National Ramah Commission on the impact of Ramah camping experiences on the Jewish lives of camp alumni.

Internet survey of 5,260 former campers at Ramah Camps explores the long-term impact of Jewish camping on Jewish identity.  Survey conducted via Internet May-July 2016; report issued February 2017 focuses on Ramah camper alumni only (see the discussion of other Ramah-related groups in the survey under Sample Notes below).

Ramah camper respondents range in age from teens through seniors, with about half between the ages of 25 and 49; median age starting Ramah camp was 11 years old; median years spent as camper was 5 years; median years as staff after camping experience at Ramah was 2 years.

Data from Ramah camper Internet survey compared throughout the executive summary and the detailed slide analysis report with "other adult Jews with similar backgrounds"  - -respondents raised by inmarried Conservative parents (" were the vast majority of Ramah alumni....").  Comparative analysis by Professor Cohen using data from the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 and the 2013 Pew Portrait of Jewish Americans.

Among the key findings and conclusions: 

• Being Jewish is important to Ramah alumni: “How important is being Jewish in your life?” 83% say “very important,” compared with 60% for children of inmarried Conservative parents from the New York (“NY”) study and 54% in the USA from the 2013 Pew Portrait (“Pew”).

• Intermarriage rates are lower among Ramah alumni - 7% of Ramah alumni respondents report being intermarried compared to 35% in the Pew comparison sample of children raised by inmarried, Conservative parents.

• Similarly, Ramah alumni show higher rates of ritual observance, higher rates of synagogue attendance, higher rates of Jewish community involvement and Jewish organization affiliations, almost universal and frequent visits to Israel, stronger attachment to Israel and higher rates of family-friends who live in Israel, stronger commitments to raising children as Jewish.

• In sum, "Years after the Camp Ramah experience, Ramah alumni show high levels of Jewish engagement, as evident in their ritual observance, congregational involvement, liturgical leadership, Conservative identity, Israel attachment, and having Jewish friends and spouses."

• "Rates of Jewish involvement for Ramah alumni exceed those of adults who are the children of inmarried Conservative parents. In general, the comparisons with the
country at large (Pew) show larger gaps than those with the New York area. However, most gaps between Ramah alumni and the NY comparison are rather substantial."

"Ramah alumni are highly connected with each other, and with Ramah itself. They have numerous Ramah friends, spouses, and children. They recommend Ramah to others."

• Critically, the data show the combined impact of Ramah camper and Ramah staff member experiences.  Ramah alumni who also served as staff members report higher Jewish engagement levels than those who never served as staff members.

• Moreover, "...the number of years as a Ramah staff member strongly predicts higher levels of adult Jewish engagement."


5,260 former campers at Ramah Camps provided data for survey report -  72% had also served as staff members at Ramah.  

Sample Size: 5,260 Raman Camper Alumni among total of 9,553 respondents

Sample Notes:

Internet survey conducted from May 30 - July 28, 2016 with sampling frame of 45,000 invitations, 28,000 of whom were former campers.  Report indicates that survey questionnaires were returned by 9,533 respondents, "...suggesting an overall response rate of 21%."  [Data available includes 9,141 survey responses, eliminating several hundred unusable responses.]

5,260 usable completed surveys from former campers.  In addition, the data file includes responses from Ramah staff who had never been campers at Ramah and parents of campers; total of 9,141 respondents to the Internet survey in the data file.

Key Variables to replicate (and expand analysis if desired):  

• Variable 92, "Camper."  Published reports focus on 5,260 Campers=1 on this variable.

• Variable 95, "Role" provides researchers with ability to analyze Ramah campers who did not serve as staff members later (N=1,478, camper only), Ramah campers who also served as staff members (N=3,782, camper and staff), 1,160 respondents who were Staff only, 2,478 respondents who were parents of Ramah campers and another 245 respondents best described as "other."


Study Notes:

Downloadable files from the Berman Jewish DataBank for the Ramah Alumni Study, 2016:

Reports and Summaries

• Executive Summary written by Professor Cohen.

• Summary of Findings report from the National Ramah Commission. 

• Complete Slide Set of study results from Professor Cohen.

• Professor Cohen's reflections: "Why is it that Researchers Can’t Talk Straight?"

While repeating his strong sense of Ramah's effectiveness in supporting (Conservative) Jewish identity, Professor Cohen's remarks are a broader reflection on effectively presenting survey results to non-technical audiences.

Questionnaires and Data Files

• Questionnaire from the survey

Data file in SPSS SAV format with 9,141 respondents, 5,260 of whom are campers.

• Frequency responses  from the SAV file exported to Excel format

• SPSS Syntax for SAV file.

• SPSS POR file has been included only for those who need a portable file version; SPSS users should analyze data with the SAV version.  

• Caution: since many of variables names are truncated during transition from the SAV file to the POR file, complete names of the original variables in the SPSS SAV file may be found in the Frequencies document (excel).


Language: English