Seeds of Opportunity is a collaborative research project, providing a data-driven mapping of the successes of JOFEE across the United States. As the various groups engaged in JOFEE programming have coalesced into a community, the report offers a bird’s-eye view into how our partners are working together to promote Jewish engagement, environmental commitment, community building, and leadership development. With generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, the Morningstar Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and UJA Federation of New York, the strategic learning firm Informing Change was invited as an outside evaluator to prepare this groundbreaking report, highlighting the past successes, and future potential, of JOFEE programming.
Looking at 41 JOFEE programs spanning fifteen years, the report found nothing but growth across the board. In 2012 alone, JOFEE had reached over 2,400 program participants, up from less than 200 only twelve years earlier, and the number of people working for JOFEE programs more than quadrupled in that same time span. During this formative period, the range of JOFEE programs has increased, too, branching out into retreats, summer programs, bike rides, fellowships, apprenticeships, and more.
JOFEE has been, and continues to be, a catalyst for Jewish engagement among young Jewish Americans. While JOFEE programs reach a wide range of age groups, the majority of participants are in their twenties and thirties, who run the full gamut of Jewish backgrounds and experiences. Over 70% of survey respondents said that JOFEE experiences influence the ways they find meaning in their lives through Judaism/Jewish tradition, which correlates with how many programs participants had participated in.
At the same time, JOFEE also impacts perspectives on outdoor, food, and environmental issues. The significant majority of participants say that JOFEE has influenced their feelings regarding food production, environmental stewardship, and the importance of outdoor activities, with 86% agreeing that “how I relate to the outdoors, food, or environment is an expression of my Jewishness.”
As a professional field, JOFEE provides a collaborative community, dedicated to working together, sharing ideas, and maintaining a strong network. JOFEE attracts self-starters and leaders, with three quarters (73%) of participants saying they are leaders in their own Jewish communities, and many others returning for multiple programs on the way to becoming JOFEE professionals and eventually leaders of new JOFEE efforts.