A MASORTI wedding 311.
(photo credit: Illustrative photo: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – A recent study highlighting high levels of intermarriage among
American Jews provides proof for arguments of both advocates and opponents of
exogamy, two of its authors argued last week.
While intermarriage may be
seen as “weakening the religious identity of Jews in America,” Greg Smith and
Alan Cooperman of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project
wrote in an analysis of their study “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” published
last Tuesday, increasing numbers of offspring of mixed marriages are identifying
Acknowledging that the children of marriages in which only one
partner is Jewish are “much more likely” to describe themselves as atheist,
agnostic or nothing in particular, Smith and Cooperman noted that their survey
suggested that “a rising percentage of the children of intermarriages are
[identifying as] Jewish in adulthood.
“Among Americans age 65 and older
who say they had one Jewish parent, 25% are Jewish today,” the researchers
wrote, contrasting this figure to 59% for single-Jewish parent children under
“In this sense, intermarriage may be transmitting Jewish identity to
a growing number of Americans,” they asserted.
Despite the rise in
self-identification, however, US Orthodox Jews, who maintain the lowest
intermarriage rate at around 2%, may not consider many of the progeny of
exogamous marriages Jewish, as traditional Jewish law determines religious
status through matrilineal descent.
The Pew Report’s news that
“intermarriage rates seem to have risen substantially over the last five
decades” has lead to introspection among much of the North American Jewish
establishment and was a central topic at last week’s Jewish Federations of North
America General Assembly in Jerusalem.
“We’ve been studying the report in
depth,” JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman told The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago. While
nothing in the report was truly shocking, he added, it had “shaken up the
Speaking during a panel on the Pew report last week, Barry Shrage,
president of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, said “the Pew study says
that we are doing very badly on many things.”
However, Smith and
Cooperman wrote, the trend toward intermarriage seems to have leveled off and
have been “relatively stable since the mid-1990s.”
Overturning one widely
held belief about intermarriage, the pair said that women are more likely to
marry outside the tribe than their male counterparts.
“Among the married
Jewish women surveyed, 47% say they have a non-Jewish spouse. Among the married
Jewish men, 41% say they have a non-Jewish spouse,” they wrote.