AJC urges 'soft sell' on intermarriage

Report: Programs aimed at intermarried Jews shouldn't be marketed as such.

intermarriage 88 (photo credit: )
intermarriage 88
(photo credit: )
Programs aimed at intermarried Jews shouldn't be marketed as such, according to a report by the American Jewish Committee released on Thursday. "The outreach programs which focus on unaffiliated young Jews are much less politically 'charged' than are programs which focus on the intermarried and in many ways show a greater willingness to welcome the intermarried, without stigmatizing them," the study finds. "These programs need to be continued, and if current demographic trends continue, need to be expanded." The conclusion was one of many on a report of characteristics of the 1.5 million American Jews aged 18 to 39 compiled by the American Jewish Committee in honor of the organization's 100th anniversary. The survey relied primarily on previous demographic studies and opinion polls in compiling its data. The report also found that, while the Holocaust continues to have a deep impact on younger generations of Jews, Israel seems to be much less significant to them. "The Holocaust continues to be profoundly important to a broad spectrum of young Jews, yet Israel appears to be much less important in positively affecting Jewish identity," the report reads. An exception to that finding, however, was made for Jews who have traveled to Israel or Orthodox young adults, "for whom Israel has powerful positive resonance." The report cites findings that Orthodox Jews, at 11 percent of the young Jewish population, have the strongest degree of Jewish connection, while intermarried couples, at 20%, have the weakest. The study also notes that Orthodoxy is considerably more common among Jews age 18 to 29 (16%) than those age 30 to 39 (9%), indicating a growing trend which is only expected to intensify as Orthodox Jews marry earlier and have more children. Despite this phenomenon, overall "young Jewish adults are clearly marrying later than their parents, and they are having children later." Men in their 20s are "highly likely to be unmarried," while more than half of all Jewish adults under 40 haven't married. The report said that while "young Jewish adults in the United States are somewhat less likely to be strongly Jewishly identified than older American Jews," this trend has been exaggerated. Many young Jews simply experience their Judaism in ways that are different from those of their parents, particularly by making more personal and informal connections. At the same time, one survey cited found that 44% of Jews under 40 view being Jewish as "very important" in contrast to 55% of those over 40. The report concludes that Jews who don't intermarry and have children are more likely to become involved in being Jewish and suggests ways to increase Jewish commitment and community among both in married and intermarried couples, such as increasing Jewish pre-school availability and combatting isolationism in the Orthodox stream.