Jewish Journal


Posted on Nov. 30, 2000 at 7:00 pm


Rob Eshman's argument that acceptance of intermarriage is good for American Jews ("Monsters," Nov. 24) is reminiscent of Sen. Aiken's strategy to end the Vietnam War: "Let's just declare victory and go home."

Among Jews with modest Jewish education, not only does intermarriage remain unacceptable, it almost never happens.

The 1990 National Jewish Population Study found the intermarriage rate among Orthodox Jews to be 3 percent. A 1994 survey of 8,536 day-school graduates by the Azrieli Institute of Jewish education found that less than 3 percent intermarry. A 1997 study by Friedman and David of 1,100 participants in after-school activities of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth found a 2 percent rate of intermarriage. The intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox participants in Aish HaTorah's one-month Jerusalem Fellowships Program is 14 percent. Among those who subsequently became Orthodox, there was no intermarriage.

Statistics don't support Eshman's rosy anecdotal picture of the long-term impact of intermarriage on Jewish life. The National Population Study found a scant 28 percent of the children of intermarriage are raised as Jews. A later study by the Wilstein Institute indicated the correct figure might be closer to 20 percent. A cautionary note of a different sort before sanguine acceptance of intermarriage was provided by a survey recently published in the Wall Street Journal, which indicated that intermarried Jews have the highest divorce rate in America.

American Jews' acceptance of intermarriage is combined of apathy and despair. But make no mistake. With the will and the means to provide every child an education which highlights the beauty and relevance of our heritage, the battle against intermarriage is one we can win.

Rabbi Nachum Braverman, Executive Director, Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, Western Region

Rabbi Aryeh Markman, Executive Director, Aish HaTorah Los Angeles

Richard Horowitz, President, Aish HaTorah North America

I was struck by the upbeat tone of Rob Eshman's recent editorial on intermarriage. He seems to equate the diminished opposition to intermarriage in a recent survey to an intellectual emancipation and growth in understanding on the part of the Jewish community. The findings of the American Jewish Committee study on intermarriage suggest to me that if you survey a group of assimilated, ignorant and increasingly intermarried Jews (which defines a random sample of "Jewish" households across the country), you are unlikely to find vehement opposition to intermarriage.

There is little reason to take comfort in this result. It should be a rallying cry to address intermarriage not by bemoaning it with focused task forces but by promoting the intense basic Jewish education which intermarried apathetic Jews lack in the first place.

Edith Hershkovich Ellenhorn, Beverly Hills

Reading Julie Wiener's article ("Changing Attitudes," Nov. 24) reminded me of the hours that I have spent sitting through sermon after sermon listening to rabbis complaining about the high rate of intermarriage. What I haven't seen is a large-scale adoption of programs that enable singles to meet each other. If Jewish survival is so important, why aren't Jewish singles programs present in more synagogues and other mainstream Jewish institutions?

It seems that building new multimillion-dollar museums to preserve the past is where many of our community's leader's priorities lie. Let's hope that someday soon, mainstream Jewish institutes will also contribute to starting programs for singles so that we can ensure our people's future.

We will unfortunately continue to read about the soaring rate of intermarriage until a majority of our leaders and institutions feel that they need to make Jewish singles a top priority and help provide age-specific programs that will be successful in bringing many Jewish couples together.

Gerry Corn, Los Angeles

Greater Diversity

For Angelenos who may despair at the prospect of increased intercultural harmony and intergroup relations, I would direct them to Michael Aushenker's article ("Settling In," Nov. 17). I was very impressed that Jewish Family Service (JFS) selected Paul Castro, a Mexican American, to head up its organization. JFS has earned my admiration because the agency selected the person it felt was best for the job, and that person happened to be Latino.

There are additional indicators that ethnic groups other than the Jewish community have also established outreach activities within our city. For the first time in its history, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP decided to honor leaders from a variety of ethnic backgrounds at its annual awards dinner a few weeks ago. Guiding the NAACP's decision was its realization that as our city's demography continues to evolve, the group's attitudes and attempts at outreach must also evolve.

I know there's a big difference between awards of recognition and putting aside ethnic preferences when making appointments in a community agency. But I prefer to think things are looking up for our city.

Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica

Prince Andrew

In his article, Tom Tugend repeatedly refers to Prince Andrew by just his first name ("Prince Andrew Honors Spielberg," Nov. 22). It seems to me that it would have been more appropriate to use his title, which is His Royal Highness.

Hodya Margolis, Israel

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