The most recognized Jewish statistic in America, 52 percent intermarriage, has naturally turned into a reality with its own life and now, as Steve Cohen documented, has entered the canon of accepted Jewish attitudes ("Changing Attitudes," Nov. 24).
Unfortunately, the source of this Jewish folk belief is a survey sample which could fit into a modest wedding hall, approximately 160 households who themselves were married between 1985 and 1990. If one would follow these happy couples, of the intermarried ones, at least half are likely divorced within 2 years. So, conservatively, the effective intermarriage rate is closer to 26 percent, if not less. That is why the 1990 National Jewish Population survey found that only 28 percent of born Jews are married to non-Jews (this includes born Jews who converted out of Judaism and were married to non-Jews).
In Los Angeles in 1979, the proportion of intermarried couples among all married couples with a Jewish partner was 20 percent, and 18 years later in 1997 it increased to only 23 percent. A 3 percent increase in intermarriage over 18 years means that, at least in Los Angeles, it may take us another 174 years to get to the magic 52 percent intermarried. As The Jewish Journal's cover has pointed out, at least we're mentally prepared for it.
Pini Herman, Ph.D., Phillips and Herman Demographic Research
Intermarriage may very well be "no big deal," but to those of us for whom Judaism is a vital, vibrant, integral part of our lives, intermarriage is still a very big deal.
A generation of Jews shipped their kids off to Hebrew school, dragged them to synagogue twice a year, lit a menorah and called that Judaism. Now, when faced with the fact that Judaism means nothing to their children except a bagel and lox on Sundays, they have no choice but to accept intermarriage. They created the climate for it.
Being a Jew in the 21st century is not easy. It requires commitment, vigilance, discipline and a strong belief that thousands of years of history, ethics, culture, religion and a covenant with G-d are important.
I believe unwaveringly that Jews should marry Jews. Not because there is anything wrong with non-Jews, or that we are better, but because Judaism will not survive otherwise. And that is a "big deal" to me.
Name withheld by request
We cannot hypocritically tell our children that all people are the children of God, but that we must interact only with "our own kind." This is what the Reform idea of outreach is all about. Unless we wish to initiate an American version of the European shtetl, we must come to grips with this reality. If we cannot prevent our children from dating or marrying outside of Judaism, at least we can try to bring others into the fold. Barring this, we should at least be able to keep contact with our children so that we can enlighten our grandchildren as to our culture. The alternative is to alienate our children and future grandchildren. If this should occur, we would be bringing about our own destruction, perhaps in a more definite manner than any degree of intermarriage could accomplish.
Elliott M. Brumer , via e-mail
The Jewish Journal seems to think that intermarriage is not that big of a deal. To me, it is the greatest sin a Jew can do. When a man marries a non-Jewish woman, he stops the lineage of the Jewish nation right then and there. But the fault lies not with The Jewish Journal, media, synagogues, etc. It is the fault of the Jewish day schools for not accepting every Jewish child that comes to them for a Jewish education. Schools deny a child the right to have a strong Jewish identity when they deny that child a Jewish education. Wake up, Jewish day schools. Stop expecting children to be perfect and demanding that parents pay more money than they can afford.
Judy Blum Moadeb , via e-mail
James D. Besser, citing "some top Jewish thinkers," arrives at the most illogical conclusion ("Is the Electoral College Good for Jews?" Nov. 24). He correctly points out that the Electoral College gives disproportionately strong power to the least populated states and that the Jews are still concentrated in the largest population centers. That means that the Electoral College guarantees that the balance of power is unfairly skewed in favor of the white Christian majority that dominates the least populated states.
Therefore, the most populated states and their largest population centers (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami) would gain much more clout if the Electoral College were abolished completely, not the other way around as Besser, employing the most twisted logic imaginable, is trying to suggest. Eliminating the Electoral College would clearly be highly beneficial for the Jews and many other minorities because it would finally give equal weight to every vote regardless of a voter's place of residence.
Mark Kashper, Sherman Oaks
I've lived in Israel for over 35 years, and have seen and been part of every conceivable crisis this country has had to offer.
We are fighting the world media and a downside economy, and losing. We are struggling to make peace with our neighbors and we are losing. While our citizens and leaders are divided on how to live with our neighbors, we all agree that we need to see some friendly faces visiting this country. Tourism has dropped to nothing. Hotels are closing up and businesses are going bankrupt. It's for these reasons that you must encourage your community to support Israel with a visit.
Jerome Stevenson, Israel
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