Jewish Journal

Jewish Intermarriage was down in 2000, Who’s going to claim credit?

by Pini Herman

November 21, 2011 | 2:31 pm

My colleague, Bruce Phillips, published a blog demonstrating that proportion Jews first marrying a non-Jew at the time of the last National Jewish Population Survey in 2000-1 declined.

Lots of finger-pointing when Intermarriage was found to be up in the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey.  It spawned lots of ink and talking heads about the disappearance of the non-Orthodox US Jewish community.

Jewish intermarriage going down? If that’s actually the case then there should be no lack of Jewish organizations clamoring for credit for the decline of the Jewish intermarriage rate.

Did Birthright’s 200,000 young North Americans who received the gift of a free trip to Israel marry other Jews?  Since Birthright trips only began in 2000 and Jews marrying out was declining before that, the intermarriage decline seems to have happened before the Israel trips.

Perhaps an especially large Orthodox cohort of the marriage-aged children of Orthodox baby boomer married for the first time prior to the 2000-1 NJPS.

Perhaps the robust array of pre-2000 Jewish communal services, such as synagogues, JCCs, Jewish camps, Jewish educational organizations, etc. has had an effect in reducing the tendency for intermarriage for the newest of first time marriages.

Perhaps the increasing academic and professional attainment of Jewish women that began before the Millennium had them going to higher education in a manner more similar to the historical pattern of Jewish men and that may put them into close enough physical proximity to each other to increase the Jewish in-marriage rate.

Perhaps younger Jews have stronger Jewish educational opportunities than earlier cohorts did and its bearing fruit.

We may never know why Jewish intermarriage declined or whether it continues to decline because the future of the National Jewish Population Survey is in question.  It is already a year overdue and no plans to undertake one in the near future have been publicized.

Pini Herman is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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