Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The Jewish community has increasingly relied upon Experiential Education as a pedagogical approach to instilling Jewish identity and communal affiliation over the past twenty years. The Experiential Education format of travel programs has specifically been emphasized and promoted for Jewish Emerging Adults for this purpose, and outcome studies of these trip programs have demonstrated success in instilling identification and affiliation with both the Jewish community and the state of Israel among their participants. However, little is actually empirically known about the processes that impact the participant during the trip experience - the so-called "black box" - or how significant a participant's predisposition towards Israel and Judaism are in how they process their trip experiences. Even less is empirically known about the identity development of Jewish Emerging Adults in large part due to a pre-disposition to study Jews developmentally only as affiliates of a religion rather than members of a distinctly multi-layered group.

This grounded theory study examines participants in two different trip experiences, Taglit Birthright Israel and an Alternative Spring Break, through post-trip interviews. The emergent theory suggests three conclusions: The predisposition of a participant towards their own Jewish identity can influence how they process their experiences on the trip; the actual trip experience can be best understood as repeatedly processing multiple and ongoing experiences within the trip itself; the processing of those experiences can be descriptively modeled as a theory that allows an glimpse in to the "black box." Such a theoretical model can be used to better train trip staff on how the trip experience impacts the Jewish identity of those participants and also to plan trip itineraries to optimize the trip's experiential impact on participant Jewish and Zionist identity and communal affiliation.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.