Jewish Identity and Volunteerism at Temple Emanuel
The purpose of this Capstone project was to examine Jewish identity and its impact on volunteerism at Temple Emanuel (Winston-Salem, NC). This study assessed Jewish identity of members of the Temple and their motivation to volunteer within this congregation. Following from the research on identity and volunteerism, the primary focus was the extent to which the congregants embrace a Jewish identity and the level to which they perceive that volunteering at the synagogue is an expression of that identity. Once the context, problem of practice, literature review, and framework were established, two guiding research questions emerged: 1. To what extent do congregants identify with their faith? 2. To what extent are current volunteer opportunities seen as potential expressions of their faith? To explore these questions, a mixed-methods design was crafted with the initial data collection obtained through a quantitative survey: the American Jewish Identity Scales (AJIS). Qualitative data were then collected through a focus group, which was conducted via Zoom. While the quantitative results revealed that identity did not appear to be the driving factor for volunteering, the qualitative summary uncovered other identity-based motivations to volunteer. These motivations stemmed from one’s own family as well as the perception of the Temple as an extension of family. Thus, while the literature suggests that religious identity is associated with volunteerism, and the survey results reveal that participants possess a level of Jewish identity, it did not appear to be a direct driving factor in their decision to volunteer. The relationship proved to be more nuanced based on the results of the focus group. There, participants disclosed that their interest in volunteering was an expression of their family identities, which were then linked to the Temple. The Temple, in other words, proved to be an extension of the family identity. The explanation for this complex result can be found in the Identity-Based Motivation (IBM) theory. This theory of motivation suggests that behaviors, such as volunteering, can be the result of cues in a given situation that “call up” aspects of identity.