Orthodox Union Announces the Creation of Major Jewish Research Initiative

15 Oct 2018

Matt Williams to Head Up New OU Center for Communal Research

New York, NY – The Orthodox Union announces the launch of its new OU Center for Communal Research. The Center will focus its research on how Jews learn to live Jewish lives, the diverse journeys they take in that process and the ways in which Jewish communal institutions influence behavior and sentiment. Established to collect and analyze data from the Jewish community, the Center will implement sophisticated research and evaluation methods that meet the highest scientific and ethical standards.

“The opportunity to step back and rigorously reflect on what we assume and assert about the Jewish populations we aspire to serve is a profound gift and one I’m honored to steward,” said Matt Williams. founding director of the OU Center for Communal Research.

The Center plans to produce a number of large studies per year. The first will be an examination of the economics of Jewish life with a focus on the ways in which market forces impact individual and communal behavior. The second will involve a closer look at a growing subset of the Orthodox community: single women over the age of 30. In addition to these large, mixed-method studies, the Center will conduct ongoing internal evaluation of OU programs; collect and make available existing research from external sources; produce publications; and convene symposia and other events on pressing communal issues.

“We are thrilled to welcome Matt Williams as the director of our new research center,” said Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, who conceived of the Center as filling a significant communal void – the incorporation of data gathering and analysis more deeply into organizational strategy and programming decisions. “Matt is a respected researcher with extensive experience in the Jewish communal and education fields. We are confident his leadership and vision will ensure the success of this critical endeavor.”

“In a constantly evolving world, it is imperative that we consistently reevaluate the realities and challenges of the community so that our programs and efforts will be most relevant and effective,” said OU President Moishe Bane. “The OU Center for Communal Research will G-d willing not only provide the OU with the data necessary to effectively carry out its mission but will be an important resource to others, ensuring that the needs of the Jewish community are identified and addressed appropriately.”

Matt Williams, founding Director of the OU Center for Communal Research, joins the OU after serving as the Managing Director at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, during which time he also conducted an array of research projects, developed strategic plans, and guided the design, execution, and evaluation of programs for a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish institutions. Matt holds degrees in Art History, English, and Jewish Studies from Yeshiva University, a master’s degree in History and Public Policy, and is currently completing a doctorate in Education and History at Stanford University. He is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and a former Jim Joseph Fellow in Jewish Education. He was a summer fellow at the Katz Institute for Advanced Judaic Study, a Mellon Initiative Scholar of Art History at Yale University, and a visiting researcher at New York University where he taught in the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Birthright Israel/Israel Free Spirit, Yachad and the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.