Jul 31

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Jewish Question Bank released by BJPA

This week’s release of the Jewish Survey Question Bank by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive is a major step for the promotion of more frequent and standard evaluations of Jewish programs. As Sarah Bunin Benor alluded to in her July 23rd article in eJewish Philanthropy after deciding to conduct a study, one of the first challenges is designing question wording.  Question wording is one of the most important stages in the planning and implementation of an evaluation as poor question wording can lead respondents to certain answers thus biasing your results and making their findings less useful.

Additionally, by writing your own questions, institutions are unable to benchmark their work to others.  By standardizing data collected, organizations can see how they compare to peer organizations.  A great example of these benefits is JData a program run by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and like the question bank supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation.  JData collects data about Jewish educational institutions including day schools, part time Hebrew schools, early childhood centers and summer camps.  By gathering the same data from institutions, administrators can analyze how their institution compares to similar institutions of similar size.  While organizations serve different purposes, such standardized metrics allow us to compare similar organizations.

Topic Areas

The Database is structured with two levels of information.  Questions are categorized into topics to help a user locate questions which might relate to what they are interested in asking.  For someone trying to conduct their own evaluation, this list could be helpful not just in finding questions but also in early planning phases to see what areas others have looked into.  While in some cases the topics get very specific, it is a helpful starting place for those who do not regularly read or conduct studies on the Jewish community.  After finding an area of interest, a user can see all the related questions.


The BJPA in their release reported that they have over 15,000 questions contained in their system.  While in its current structure this is correct, as a user I found the display of the questions repetitive.  Questions are listed once for each instance they appear in a survey.  One topic of great interest to the Jewish community relates to an individual’s attachment to Israel.  When looking at that topic, 19 of the first 20 questions presented are “How emotionally attached are you to Israel?”  While some of these do offer different response options, I think offering those difference in the details page would make the site easier for those less familiar.  Additionally, some questions are listed multiple times from the same survey.  For example the question “did he have a circumcision with a Jewish ceremony?” appears six times all accredited to the Greater Boston 1995 Community Study.  Looking at the questionnaire this is the result of the survey asking about multiple children in a household which could make someone think the question is more common than just one survey.  Beyond the duplication, the questions are nicely integrated with BJPA’s user accounts.  Users can easily add questions to a personal list.  This feature will be helpful for users to track questions that interest them and then export the questions in their option of formats.

Recent studies looking into generational trends in philanthropy show that generation Y is extremely focused on effectiveness.  With the number of programs in existence and the range of budgets, there are not enough professional social scientists and evaluators to look into every Jewish program.  Hopefully by making questions easily acceptable, more institutions will begin evaluating their own work.  I am excited to see how the database gets used as well as future improvements and enhancements added over the years.  May the launch of this system begin the trend of more evaluations and open discussion about trends that are working in Jewish programing.

Permanent link to this article: http://evaluatingeffectiveness.com/jewish-question-bank-released-by-bjpa/