Where do I belong?

A Study On Wellbeing and Belonging Amongst OneTable's Constituents

At OneTable, we take research seriously. In order to understand our impact on OneTable participants, we engage in ongoing rigorous internal monitoring and evaluation, led by our in-house Associate Director of Research and Evaluation Ariel Siegel, in addition to contracting external evaluation services and market research consultant Jamie Betesh.

Currently, we are conducting extensive research, generously funded by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation. The goals of this research are:

  • To better understand the issues of wellness, belonging, and loneliness on a deeper level;
  • To understand the impact of Shabbat dinner on connection, community, and sense of belonging among young adults;
  • Develop and disseminate Jewish resources specifically designed to address loneliness and combat isolation; and
  • Enrich and enhance peer-led Shabbat dinners, ultimately resulting in participants feeling part of a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community.

We are entering Phase 2 of this process, which includes an in-person design process.


Here are some of the findings from the first phase of research:


How do our users feel? What worries them? What gets them excited?

Proud of their accomplishments, including their education, career, and relationships. They also feel excited for the future, but afraid of failing or missing out on major milestones.

We learned that loneliness and disconnection manifest as many different emotions and sensations: 

  • Sadness, isolation (without necessarily seeing an end point), self-doubt, self-blame, unworthiness, emptiness, hopelessness, awkwardness, pain, low energy, exclusion, anxiety, darkness, discomfort, disconnection, fear, boredom


In their own words: what are they saying?

On their goals and accomplishments:

  • “I am most excited about my friendships. …  And also keeping close ties to the ones who don’t live near me. I feel satisfied with how I’ve kept in touch with some and let go [of] others without diminishing what those friendships have meant at the time. The people I am connected to have so much compassion and are brilliant and inspiring. It excites me to see where they are going as well.”
  • “I’m still on a journey of figuring out who I am and who I want to be — my guess is that will never completely end.”

On their fears:

  • “My deepest fear is the physical safety of my loved ones. We live in a scary world these days. It is dangerous to be a member of any minority/marginalized community, given hate crimes against various groups. Folks are targeted based on religion, race, documentation status, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. — the list feels endless. Moreover, given the prevalence of school shootings and seemingly random acts of violence directed at strangers, it doesn’t seem safe to be a person anywhere. My relationships are the most important thing in my life, and I am deeply terrified to lose someone to violence or illness.”
  • “A large part of me worries that I’ll never have the time and/or energy to contribute back to the world in the way that I want to because so much of my time (by necessity) goes into the things that I know will make me the money I need to survive rather than what I think will give the most good back to my community/the world/etc.”

On loneliness and disconnection:

  • “[I feel disconnected] when, independent of where, I’m with people who seem like they aren’t really listening, are uninterested in or judgemental of the people they’re with beyond what is reasonable … There are other times, though, when nobody is doing anything wrong, but I just don’t “click” with the other people in the room, or there are so many other people who I either don’t know or am not close with that I have a tendency to shrink into a corner of the room unless somebody specifically notices me and puts an effort into talking with me.”

On community and belonging:

  • “I volunteer weekly, and seeing other volunteers, clients, and clinic leaders makes me feel as though I’m part of my community fabric.”
  • “Being part of a community transcends self-need vs. others’ needs to ‘us’ thinking and realizing that helping others can also mean helping yourself.  This broad concept can be found in so many corners of my life: my home, my volunteering group, my workplace, my family, my friends, my religious group.” 


What actions do they take?

Seek to belong to bigger groups and communities through fitness communities, volunteering, online groups, Jewish community events, and spiritual activities.

  • 47% of participants belong to a fitness studio, 25%to a meditation or yoga studio/group


What the user is thinking about when interacting with OneTable’s program and resources.

  • “OneTable connects me with friends and family within my area and Jewish network. It has allowed me to expand my friend group and create relationships in a safe and comfortable way.”
  • “I loved the concept of you don’t have to know somebody. You can just search for a Shabbat dinner on a Friday night in your neighborhood and meet somebody that could become a lifelong friend of yours.”

For questions or to learn more, please email research@onetable.org.

Table talk: