A Case Study in Innovation


We all know the story: A boy with no parents to guide or protect him grows up facing nearly insurmountable challenges and becomes a leader who saves the people he loves. That’s the Moses story, right? And…it’s also the Harry Potter story. What would happen if we paired the broad appeal of J.K. Rowling’s series with the powerful Jewish tradition of text study? This intriguing idea—born of the conviction that relevant, accessible learning opportunities are key to building a connected Jewish community—was explored last fall when we brought the famed podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” to young adults.

The sold-out evening, featuring storytelling, live music, and interactive Jewish text study, offered more than 300 young adults an easy way to engage with the Jewish community. 

Pamela Abrahams (left), Matt Smalbach (center), and Alison Bubly (right)

 “The idea was to show that there can be a Jewish connection in almost everything,” says Pamela Abrahams, who co-chairs CJP’s Young Adult Initiative Outreach & Engagement Committee along with Matt Smalbach and Alison Bubly. “Taking something like Harry Potter, which has such a huge fanbase, and using it to meet people where they are in the Jewish community is a win-win, in my opinion.”

“It brought to life the values of Judaism that can only be found when you analyze our historic texts, debate them, and find your own meaning,” said Alison Bubly.  “It took the interest that Millennials have in Harry Potter and showed the story to them in the light of Judaism. It was that intersection that brought the event together.”

Beyond helping to plan the event and assisting with recruitment, the committee was also charged with welcoming newcomers. “CJP makes it so easy to get involved. I’ve found that they have something for everyone. I’ve made a ton of friends here, and I love introducing others to this community,” said Alison.

This year, thanks to donor support, CJP is making a major new investment in the young adult community – providing even more opportunities for the next generation to participate in Jewish life in ways that are meaningful to them.

We recently introduced three new Community Connectors, dedicated staff who are welcoming young adults into the Greater Boston Jewish community and helping them find opportunities to get involved. We’re also developing innovative new events to bring people together to discuss relevant, topical issues through a uniquely Jewish lens.

Alison predicts this emphasis on engaging the next generation will have impact for years to come. “Whatever we put into our community now is what we’ll get out of it in the future,” she says.

CJP’s efforts to engage young adults have been reinvigorated thanks to support from our generous donors. We continue to be driven by the age-old power of Jewish learning and its ability to connect and inspire us as a community.

Local innovation. National impact.


CJP created the IACT (Inspired, Active, Committed, Transformed) Initiative to harness the power of the Birthright Israel experience, deepening students’ Jewish connections once they have returned to campus. Because of IACT, a Birthright Israel trip is no longer seen as a stand-alone opportunity, but a stepping stone to deeper engagement in Jewish life. Over the last several years, this initiative has expanded to 30 colleges and universities nationwide. Thanks to support from donors, students on IACT campuses have innovative and meaningful opportunities to connect with Israel, Judaism, and their Jewish community.

Here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • Birthright Israel’s impact lasts long after students arrive back in the U.S., and IACT helps them keep that excitement going for the rest of their time on campus and beyond. More than 80% of trip alumni engaged in three or more Jewish life programs in the semester after their trip.
  • For many students, a Birthright Israel trip provides their first taste of Jewish learning. IACT makes it possible to continue their Jewish journey. More than 1,000 Boston-area Birthright Israel alumni participated in IACT learning programs.
  • Through community service and service-learning projects, students develop a deeper sense of their Jewish identity. During two inter-campus days of service at nonprofits in underserved Boston neighborhoods, more than 150 students participated and registered as members of Boston Cares which gives them a pathway to hundreds of volunteer opportunities across the region.
  • Students on IACT campuses can feel comfortable and proud of their Jewish identity and love for Israel. More than 2,500 students served as Israel Action Ambassadors, planning events and mobilizing other students in support of Israel.
  • CJP has made it a priority to support IACT students in their career development to ensure they are successful and connected to the Jewish community. We provided real-world experiences through internships with more than 250 Israeli companies and nonprofits.


Back to the 2018 Donor Impact Report >