JOFEE: Seeds of Opportunity - A National Study of Immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education

Sponsor(s): Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Hazon, Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, The Morningstar Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York

Principal Investigator(s): Ellen Irie

Key Findings:

The reports and slide presentations on immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education (JOFEE), publicly released beginning in March 2014, summarize the results of a nationally funded study of a growing movement (especially with the last 10-15 years) within diverse segments of the Jewish community to connect with Judaism and Jewish identity through a broad constellation of Jewish outdoor experiences, Jewish food and farming programs and (Judaism-infused) environmental education.

The programs are often focused on attracting younger Jewish adults; 45% of JOFEE participants are under 45, although many respondents indicated that they were involved in similar activities decades before JOFEE became a Jewish programmatic emphasis.

For over a decade, as the introduction to the main report, Seeds of Opportunity...JOFEE... noted, there has been:

"... growing interest in experiences that integrate Jewish outdoor, food, and environmental
education (JOFEE), Jewish farming programs, Jewish outdoor holiday retreats, Jewish environmental bike rides, Jewish outdoor educator training fellowships, and Jewish backpacking adventure trips are just a few of the offerings that have proliferated during this time. More Jews—from diverse backgrounds and from all ages—are choosing to engage in Jewish learning, express their Jewish identity, and connect with a like-minded community through JOFEE experiences."

The increased engagement of Jews in these JOFFE activities had resulted in an increased investment of time and resources by organizations, communities, and funders. Yet, as the main report notes, there was no full understanding of what JOFEE looked like nationally.  Among the key questions that the JOFEE study addressed were:

How many programs are there?

How have the offerings expanded?

Who participates in them?

Who leads them?

What influence do they have on individuals, organizations and communities?"


The research project included 655 surveys with JOFEE-program participants and 200 surveys with participants in similar programs, plus focus groups with participants, detailed interviews with stakeholders and funders, etc.  The research project began in the fall of 2012, when the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, The Morningstar Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and UJA-Federation of New York, in collaboration with Hazon, began the process of answering these and other questions by conducting a national research study on JOFEE.

In 2012, the Improve Group designed tools and completed data collection for the project.

Beginning in the Fall of 2013, Informing Change (Ellen Irie, Prinicpal) organized the diverse materials collected for the project, and ultimately produced the main report on the study in March, 2014: Seeds of Opportunity: A National Study of Immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE)

The DataBank files available for downloading include:

the summary Seeds of Opportunity... report;

a report on Building a Jewish Food Movement in Colorado... sponsored by the Rose Community Foundation, Hazon, the Oreg Foundation and the 18 Pomegranates Foundation;

a case study of programs funded by UJA-Federation of New York: The Influence of Immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education;

Slide set presentations to both the Rose Community Federation and UJA-Federation of New York, and

an Infographic summarizing the JOFEE programs growth since the year 2000 in terms of programs and participants.


All reports available in the DataBank archives were designed and produced by Informing Change.


The results of the 2012-2014 study process reaffirmed for the funders (and participants!) the value of these immersive Jewish experiences.  The results, summarized in Seeds of Opportunity... are organized and presented under the sub-headings of (1) growth, (2) engagement, (3) reconnection, (4) intersection & integration, (5) Jewish life, learning & meaning, (6) commitment to outdoor, food & environmental issues, (7) catalyst for wider Jewish leadership, (8) professional leadership, (9) community & social ties, and (10) hope.

One finding should provide DataBank users with a sense of the thrust of the reports and presentations: 84% of participants "...have an increased sense of hope for the Jewish people" after participating in JOFEE experiences. 

Another finding focused on bringing new professionals into the Jewish community through the JOFEE experience -  "What made you interested in this type of work?"

56% stated a passion for something outdoor, food, or environmental,

32% the integration of Jewish with outdoor, food and the environment,

31% replied a passion for something Jewish,

27% participation in a JOFEE program,

18% connection to social justice,

18% previous experiences and

17% alignment with personal interests


(Multiple answers were permitted.)

Sample Notes:

The questionnaire used for the Internet survey is available to be downloaded.  The questionnaire has been paginated to parallel the pagination/section experiences of the respondent completing the survey -  after reading an explanation of who should complete the survey, and why.

The data file from the JOFEE survey interviews is also available for downloading (zipped file includes SPSS SAV, SPSS POR and data file notes written by Informing Change, with some additions by the DataBank after consultation with Informing Change). Answers to  quantitative survey questions are in the data file.

The number of cases in the data file is 859, but the reports are based on the 655 respondents who participated in JOFEE programs.  Variable 3 "Participant" identifies the 655 respondents considered to have been participants in JOFEE programs, and which are considered to be non-JOFEE programs.

Please see the Data File Notes in the zipped data file for an extensive discussion of the definition of program participant.

When the Data File Notes were written on June 18, 2014, the date when the data file first was publicly archived at the Berman Jewish DataBank, we noted that a number of variables with potential confidentiality-violating verbatim quotes had been removed from the data file.  

The questionnaire included many questions that called for qualitative responses.  These verbatim quotes often attest vividly to the Jewish-identity building component of the JOFEE programs.

See the "Study Notes" section below for details on the Verbatim quotations from project participants.

Study Notes:

In order to protect the confidentiality/anonymity of the quantitative answers to the survey questions, the DataBank has separated the most critical verbatim quotes from the data file itself.  The DataBank has archived and posted over 5,000 of the most interesting and useful VERBATIM QUOTES in a series of excel files which are not linked to the individual respondent's answers to the quantitative survey questions.  In this way, the confidentiality of survey responses is protected, even though in their verbatim quotes, many project participants clearly wanted to identify themselves.

The Verbatim quotes are available to be downloaded at the DataBank.  They are a fascinating source of qualitative insight into the impact of Jewish food-immersion programs on the Jewish identity of the participants.  

The quotes -  5,000 of them - have been placed underneath the data file on the right bottom corner of this page in a zipped VERBATIMS file, which incorporates the quotes downloaded from the SPSS file into four excels.

(1) Each question asked of respondents is highlighted in green before the verbatim quotes begin.

(2) The quotes have been formatted minimally for reading on a computer screen.  Should anyone want to print these quotes, they should format the "page break preview" and the font size for their own printer so that the number of pages and the readability of the quotes is maximized. 

As much as possible, the DataBank has tried to minimize the spacing between quotations in case users decide to print the verbatim comments.

(3) Readers of the JOFEE summary reports may find the Verbatim quotes to be as powerful as the published project summary reports in the analysis of the growing immersive Jewish food program movement

Language: English