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Majority of American Jews are Intermarried

Pew survey: U.S. Jewish intermarriage rate rises to 58 percent
Hannover Jewish Cemetery

Photo Credit: Tim Schredder / Wikipedia

NEW YORK (JTA) — First the good news: There are a lot more Jews in America than you may have thought — an estimated 6.8 million, according to a new study.

Now the bad news: A growing proportion of American Jews are unlikely to raise their children Jewish or connect with Jewish institutions. The proportion of Jews who say they have no religion and are Jewish only on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture is growing rapidly, and two-thirds of them are not raising their children Jewish at all.

Overall, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 1970.

The data on Jewish engagement come from the Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, a telephone survey of 3,475 Jews nationwide conducted between February and June and released on Tuesday.

The population estimate, released Monday, comes from a synthesis of existing survey data conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

While the estimate is likely to be a matter of some debate by demographers and social scientists, it is the Pew study that offers an in-depth portrait that may influence Jewish policymaking for years to come.

Among the more notable findings of the Pew survey:

* Thirty-two percent of Jews born after 1980 — the so-called millennial generation — identify as Jews of no religion, compared to 19 percent of baby boomers and just 7 percent of Jews born before 1927. Overall, 22 percent of U.S. Jews describe themselves as having no religion, meaning they are much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.

* The emotional attachment to Israel has held steady over the last decade, with 69 percent of respondents saying they feel attached or very attached to Israel. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had been to Israel.

* Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.

* Approximately one-quarter of Jews said religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56 percent among Americans generally.

Among Jewish denominations, the Reform movement remains the largest with 35 percent of respondents identifying as Reform. The second-largest group is Jews of no denomination (30 percent), followed by Conservative (18 percent) and Orthodox (10 percent).

As with other studies, the Pew study found that the Orthodox share of the American Jewish population is likely to grow because Orthodox Jews tend to be younger and have larger families than Jews generally.

In addition, while past surveys showed about half of respondents raised as Orthodox were no longer Orthodox, the Orthodox retention rate appears to be improving, with just a 17 percent falloff among 18- to 29-year-olds.

Most denominational switching among American Jews, however, remains in the direction of less traditional Judaism.

In the Pew survey, 90 percent of those who identified as Jews by religion and are raising children said they are raising them Jewish. By comparison, less than one-third of those who identified themselves as Jews of no religion are raising their kids as Jewish.

Among inmarried Jews, 96 percent are raising their children as Jews by religion (as opposed to ethnicity), compared to 45 percent among intermarried Jews.

On Jewish observance, some 70 percent of respondents to the Pew survey said they participated in a Passover seder in 2012 and 53 percent said they fasted for all or part of Yom Kippur that year. The numbers represent declines from the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America, which found seder participation rates at 78 percent and Yom Kippur fasting at 60 percent.

While most of those surveyed by Pew said they felt a strong connection to Israel, and 23 percent reported having visited the Jewish state more than once, the respondents expressed significant reservations about the current Israeli government’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Forty-four percent said West Bank settlement construction hurts Israel’s security interests, and only 17 percent said continued settlement construction is helpful to Israeli security. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said the Israeli government is making a sincere peace effort with the Palestinians.

The Pew survey also asked respondents about what it means to be Jewish, offering several options. The most popular element was remembering the Holocaust at 73 percent, followed by leading an ethical life at 69 percent.

Fifty-six percent cited working for justice and equality; 43 percent said caring about Israel; 42 percent said having a good sense of humor; and 19 percent said observing Jewish law.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said being Jewish is primarily a matter of ancestry and culture; 15 percent said it was mainly a matter of religion. Most Jews said it is not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish. In the survey, 60 percent said a person cannot be Jewish and believe that Jesus is the messiah.

About the Author: Uriel Heilman is managing editor of JTA. An award-winning journalist, he has worked in a variety of positions for publications in the United States and in Israel, including as New York bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post.


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53 Responses to “Majority of American Jews are Intermarried”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    Yes, and I'm one of them. Gotta problem with that, Uriel?

  2. Shemayah Shiloh Phillips says:

    Tragedy. A type of voluntary Holocaust.

  3. yzshap says:

    Mama light those candles Friday night. Papa take the family to schule on Shabbat. Jewish parents set no example for their children. So the children see how unimportant  it is to remain a Jew.

  4. SusanLois says:

    This is what my rabbi taught me (when my children intermarried): If it’s good enough for Moses (who married outside the tribe), it’s good enough for your children! And he’s right, for numerous reasons including expansion of the gene pool that is giving the offspring, especially of European Jews, too many genes for serious diseases.

  5. This is a good thing. People should marry for love and love only . Not because some lunatic orthodox rabbi says you must marry someone like him. If you marry some based solely upon there personal choice of religion you nothing more more than a "breeder" – not a thinking and enlightened human being .

  6. BernhardRosenberg says:

    No real answer to intermarriage RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERGI would like to add my thoughts to the debate Jack Wertheimer, professor of American-Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has sparked regarding intermarriage and inmarriage and his assertion that welcoming intermarried families into the Jewish community has been a failure (Editor’s note: Gary Rosenblatt guest column Sept. 19, full article Mosaic online magazine — ). In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, that the reality is that even the children with positive experiences who excelled in Hebrew school, intermarry. Some come from traditional homes. Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren. The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. I have heard it suggested that Conservative Judaism accept patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education. I believe this will happen in the future, but I have problems accepting this solution.I do not have the answer, and I believe no one does, but I do know that if one does not believe they are halachicly Jewish, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  7. No real answer to intermarriage RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    I would like to add my thoughts to the debate Jack Wertheimer, professor of American-Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has sparked regarding intermarriage and inmarriage and his assertion that welcoming intermarried families into the Jewish community has been a failure (Editor’s note: Gary Rosenblatt guest column Sept. 19, full article Mosaic online magazine — http://www.mosaicmagazine.com). In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, that the reality is that even the children with positive experiences who excelled in Hebrew school, intermarry. Some come from traditional homes. Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.

    The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. I have heard it suggested that Conservative Judaism accept patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education. I believe this will happen in the future, but I have problems accepting this solution.

    I do not have the answer, and I believe no one does, but I do know that if one does not believe they are halachicly Jewish, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  8. Exile is ending and these "chards" are a good sign. Israel is the future of Jewish nation and broken chards of the majority will stay in "Egypt" once again.

  9. many will not register as Jews in a cenus because of a musim in the white house

  10. Eva Feld says:

    This article is quite true and worse than that…. many Jews will not even teach their children the very foundation of Judaism or even practice the slightest traditions.

  11. yzshap says:

    SusanLois Your “Rabbi” is obviously of the non observant reform. When the laws of Judaism were promulgated, on Mt.Sinai, there was no such division as Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. Your grandchildren from your son are NOT Jewish. 
    When your Rabbi talks of genetic disorder and it is good to have “goyim” in the family, he is a disgrace to Judaism. Jewish women who marry Jewish men are less susceptible to cervical cancer. During the Black Plague, less Jew’s died from disease as a percentage, than gentiles. Brilliant Jew’s come from Jew’s, who have two Jewish parents. Diluting the gene pool, dilutes your grandchildren’s excellence.

  12. Thats because it is so expensive to belong to a temple & also to give your children a Jewish education.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is not a need to believe or not in god or religion, important is the human behavior with a ancestry, tradition and cultur, it is not to need a marriage, so the children when get to adults, they should decide what their want to have a happy and balanced live, the other problem is not the intermarriage, I now many christians that they want to be jewish, but they cannot be juwish becouse we are like the monsoons or a club, becouse they have not a jewish ancestry, it is time to open the mind to bring more people to get jewish like the mormons, evangelists, bahai are doing, then we will have more jews, this people that want to change religions they mantain better the religion's tradition or believe.

  14. Ray Watson says:

    It would be best if the kids got a BIBLE education rather than "religious" training

  15. Benjamin Fox says:

    This Jew married a Gentile, and the "Seed" of the man not the women who decides who is a Jew. Abrahams son Isaac was the "Seed", Jacob was the "Seed" Joseph married a Gentile yet his children are two of the tribes of Israel, Moses married a Gentile yet one of the greatest prophets. Through the "Seed" of the man comes sin and the reason Messiah was born of the Holy Spirit and not mere man or he would have been a sinner in need of salvation. The "Seed" of the man declares who is a Jew, who ever said the women, is just wrong and blind to the scriptures.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The US is killing Jews with kindness. Remember what happened to the Northern 10 tribes? They carted off into Assyria and never seen again because they integrated and absorbed fully. (Btw, there are no "Lost Tribes." The Bnei Menashe are not a lost tribe; they are converts). What happened to the Kingdom of Judah? It was carted off into persecution and slavery in Babylon but maintained a culturally distinct unit. Eventually they returned after 70 years of exile and rebuilt the temple. The US is a modern day Assyria. The USSR was the modern day Babylon from which 1 million Jews have returned from exile. Nazi Germany was something else entirely of course.

    This might sound bad but I'll say it: maybe a little bit of segregation is a good thing if you are concerned about maintaining a unique cultural identity. Look at the Haredi or even the Christian Amish. They make their lifestyle so rigid and unattractive to outsiders that the chance of intermarriage is zero. They effectively have segregated themselves. Yet they are growing at an astronomical rate while more "tolerant" groups are declining. Why? They want nothing to do with outsiders and outsiders want nothing to do with them (other than economic transactions). The secular/reform will disappear. This only surprise in this article is how fast it is occurring. Most of the Jews making aliya from North America (no more than 2000 per year) are religious Zionist. Unfortunately most of the Haredi in the US are Satmar and generally anti-Zionist.

  17. Anthony Kent says:

    Well said. I don't wish anti-antisemitism on anyone, but the greater sense of community it engenders in Europe keeps more Jews marrying in. By definition, reform Judaism is demographically doomed due to their ethos.

  18. Summer Hesed says:

    I believe the reason that Jewish heritage is determined through the female line comes from the book of Numbers. 14 21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22"Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.…

  19. Summer Hesed says:

    Oral tradition has it that "men" was gender specific and the women survived to carry on the words and traditions of God to the children. That seems to be where this comes from.

  20. Benjamin Fox says:

    Has nothing to do with the "Seed" of the women? Your so far out of context I can't believe you couldn't do better then that? All the women this Jews married were gentile women? So how to they declare the "Seed" They aren't a "Seed" number one and if the "Seed" is of the women, then Mary was not only a sinner but, said Jesus is my Savior and needed not be the mother of the Messiah. Context, Context or Nonsense.

  21. Summer Hesed says:

    ….and I say to the Jewish community… if you have issues, teach what is of such great value. I am Jewish. My children were raised with Pesach. We are Messianic, and yes… we ARE Jewish.

  22. Benjamin Fox says:

    Summer Hesed ; as I said earlier, Abraham was a gentile as was Sarah, His "Seed" was chosen while the gentile women wasn't, all the son's of Abraham married gentile women, so then there are no Jews, just Gentiles according to your verses and belief's. The Jews Moses, Joseph, Jacob and Isaac all married gentile women so is the Torah saying there are no Jews, just gentiles? That is a terrible distortion of the Torah and the entire Word of God.

  23. Summer Hesed says:

    The oral teachings are something I can shed no more light on, sorry, I wasn't there….I'm old, but not that old…

  24. Miriam Mena says:

    Anyone that wants to be Jewish is welcome to undergo Orthodox conversion. The problem with most evangelical X-tians is, they don't actually hold Jewish beliefs, but, they want to be seen as Jews in order to legitimize their missionary work, designed specifically to make Jews non-Jewish. So all that hogwash about us being some sort of club is exactly that, hogwash. As far as a parent deciding a child's value system for them, that is a major part of the job description of being a parent. It's up to the adults to teach kids who they are, and, where they came from, along with what's expected of them. Children who are allowed to decide for themselves very often feel lost, and, rootless, and, this feeling of not belonging to anything can have terrible lifelong consequences. This article is proof of that.

  25. Benjamin Fox says:

    Summer, you make no sense, might as well be a Roman Catholic? The "seed" through out all the Torah is of the male, are you a hard core femanazi? Your interpretation of scripture's leave a lot to discern? You couldn't teach a believing child anything? Sorry, I will dispute with anyone who doesn't use the scriptures according to the context and the context says your wrong. Please don't be a stumbling block to believers or you will pay that price. Shalom but not a teacher or preacher as the Bible says.

  26. Benjamin Fox says:

    Summer, you make no sense, might as well be a Roman Catholic? The "seed" through out all the Torah is of the male, are you a hard core femanazi? Your interpretation of scripture's leave a lot to discern? You couldn't teach a believing child anything? Sorry, I will dispute with anyone who doesn't use the scriptures according to the context and the context says your wrong. Please don't be a stumbling block to believers or you will pay that price. Shalom but not a teacher or preacher as the Bible says.

  27. Summer Hesed says:

    Are you JOKING???!!!! ME? a feminazi??? No! just trying to explain the "why" of the lineage thing.

  28. Summer Hesed says:

    I agree that it is likely erroneous in it's estimation.

  29. Benjamin Fox says:

    Sorry Summer from a view that isn't in the Torah or the Bible, something in your mind, went to your site and seems to be one sided for your personal beliefs but, not of God and what He says, in the scriptures He proves the "Seed" is through the male and not the female or everyone is a gentile and no Jews, that is what you are saying, if you know it or not. Any time you put your spin on scriptures you have to be wrong and God is always right, read and learn or don't lead many astray. Maru Shalom

  30. Summer Hesed says:

    Gen. 3: 15And I will put enmity
    Between you and the woman,
    And between your seed and her seed;
    He shall bruise you on the head,
    And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

  31. I’ve been on the ground in a half dozen Jewish communities in the US over the past 2 and half decades leading local Jewish historical and sociological tours. From my perspective, Jews and Judaism are alive and well albeit somewhat differently in the communities in which I lead tours. For example, here in Phoenix and Scottsdale, the orthodox, conservatives, reform, and non-denominational not only fill their synagogues on the high holidays but also run competitive and intense programming year-round, with many sold-out Jewish celebratory and study programs. Often, when intermarriage occurs, the non-Jewish spouse converts to Judaism. We have examples of this phenomenon in my non-denominational synagogue, The New Shul (basically a conservative-orthodox synagogue). Yes, the reform movement here is very vibrant e.gs. Beth Israel Congregation, Temple Chai, and Temple Solel. But so are the orthodox (e.gs. Beth Jacob, Young Israel, Beth Tefillah, and the many Chabads), the conservatives (e.gs. Or Hadash, Beth El, and Beth Shalom), and the non-denominational, particularly my The New Shul. For recreation, our Valley of Sun JCC has a large membership. For eating, we not only have a half dozen kosher restaurants but also many markets selling kosher foods. Perhaps, you should hire me to lead you and a group on a Jewish tour of Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ?!
    With a smile,
    Michael
    Michael Alan Ross
    The Jewish Friendship Trail in Phoenix and Scottsdale
    http://bostonwalks.tripod.com/PhoenixScottsdale.html
    JewishFriendshipTrail@yahoo.com
    #602-785-0093

  32. John Newman says:

    Upsetting particularly as I have not been able to marry. Maybe the Diaspora is bad for Jews.

  33. Josh Ram says:

    I know they are doing hitlers work

  34. Josh Ram says:

    sadly this is not something new

  35. Yechiel Baum says:

    Apparently the non-Jews realized that having a Jewish spouse offers the best sex and morality marriage than their own. However, for the Jews, it seems to be a step down.

  36. Shemayah Shiloh Phillips says:

    Josh, whether they mean to do that I would not say or lightly lay that trip on them. But it will end up being the same result—disappearing Jews. And worse than that no camps, no guns, nothing.

  37. Shemayah Shiloh Phillips says:

    All my kids married goyim. I’m a scholar and not a shul guy. I blame myself since maybe they needed that. Two have become Christian, and I reject them. My son said ‘they act like goyim (Jewish girls) so what does it matter?’ Don’t give up, khaver.

  38. No real answer to intermarriage RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    I would like to add my thoughts to the debate Jack Wertheimer, professor of American-Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has sparked regarding intermarriage and inmarriage and his assertion that welcoming intermarried families into the Jewish community has been a failure (Editor’s note: Gary Rosenblatt guest column Sept. 19, full article Mosaic online magazine — http://www.mosaicmagazine.com). In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, that the reality is that even the children with positive experiences who excelled in Hebrew school, intermarry. Some come from traditional homes. Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.

    The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. I have heard it suggested that Conservative Judaism accept patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education. I believe this will happen in the future, but I have problems accepting this solution.

    I do not have the answer, and I believe no one does, but I do know that if one does not believe they are halachicly Jewish, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  39. Shirley Gruenhut says:

    It is frightening, and a sad testament to this “diversity” propaganda that is continually being shoved down the population’s throats. This diversity program’s aim is to totally destroy all vestiges of racial identity – i.e., Ashkenazi Jews, Anglo-Saxon attributes, genetic components, and the encroaching tsunami of all sorts of “flotsam and jetsum” is panned to create a uni-race, a meld of black, hispanic biological and genetic markers. It is planned to make a unirace – erasing all vestiges of religion, eventually, particularly Judaism, which has always been the scapegoat for all. I am not religious, but the cessation of practicing our traditions, the teaching of our heritage, history, and basic tenets of Judaism must be continued – 10 million Jews did not die in vain so that their descendants, survivors disappear and become part and parcel of the “new global racial makeover”.

  40. Arlene Ross says:

    Tragic!

  41. Shirley Gruenhut says:

    It is also partially attributable to this cancerous creeping Sharia – this “new” diversity mentality that embraces all the protozoic mutants that promulgate bending over backwards and ingesting, digesting and ergo becoming one of the new “pod people” – androids, if you ask me. Even amongst the younger Jewish generation, their proclivities are beyond the scope of my reality – embracing hip hop slop, rap crap, melding into the classless subculture that has gotten a vise hold on the media. Only the Orthodox Jews still cling to their separate and fragile world – by being insular they have continued in their holding what they deem to be sacramental – in today’s world, unfortunately, nothing is holy – nothing is sacred, and there is no regard for the value of human life and mores. Lastly, but not leastly, we Jews do not prosylitize – we do not search out converts, unlike other religions, (Christians), varying sects – you will notice that I am NOT including Islam, as Islam is NOT a religion, it is a dangerous cult). At any rate, the only Jews who perhaps appear to want to prozylitize are the Lubavitch – they will approach you on the street and ask “are you Jewish” – and try to bring you “back” into the fold. Hey, no harm in that, folks.

  42. It is important for synagogues and other Jewish institutions to make the non-Jewish spouse feel part of the community. I am a member of the Reconstructionist movement and we have a number of mixed couples in our congregation whom we regard as full-fledged members of our community.

  43. Leah Gilbert says:

    Thanks, Nancy. As you know, my husband is Catholic and that's one of the reasons we joined Kol HaLev.

  44. Surak says:

    BernhardRosenberg No, again, you have posted the same comment on several websites – the answer is in the Pew report. Intermarriage rates among Reform: 50%; Conservative: 27%; Orthodox: 2%. Teach your kids that the Torah comes from God and we must follow His laws, and live as if you mean it, and that will virtually end intermarriage.

  45. Jacob Benzaquen says:

    No, you don't understand or see the value

  46. Stewart Schwartz says:

    wrong again, Dan. An example of interdenominational would be a catholic marrying a presbyterian.

  47. Stewart Schwartz says:

    wrong again, Dan. An example of interdenominational would be a catholic marrying a presbyterian.

  48. Dan Silagi says:

    Steverino, kussen Sie mich in Tochas.

  49. Dan Silagi says:

    Steverino, kussen Sie mich in Tochas.

  50. Dan Silagi says:

    Stewart Schwartz Once again, Stewart Kleinschwantz, you're the one who's wrong. Catholics and Protestants are of two different religions, just as Catholics and Jews are. Maybe you meant to say an Episcopalian marrying a Presbyterian.

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