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August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 5775
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Study: Adult Children of Intermarriage Less Engaged

By: JTA

The Jewish-identified adult children of intermarried parents are less likely to participate in organized Jewish activities than their peers with two Jewish parents, according to a new study obtained by JTA.

The Jewish Outreach Institute, a nonprofit that promotes more inclusion of intermarried and unaffiliated Jews into Jewish life, conducted a survey of 204 self-identified Jews raised in intermarried homes and compared the results to a separate poll of 507 Jews with two Jewish parents. All the respondents were in their 20s and 30s.

The institute found that with the exception of those who work in Jewish organizations, even adult children of intermarriage who express strong interest in Judaism are less likely to participate in organized Jewish activities and institutions. Instead, they opt for self-directed Jewish activities like reading Jewish books or visiting Jewish websites.

Adult children of intermarriage make up 25 percent of the 5.3 million American adults who identify as Jews, according to the recent Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews.

Seventy-two percent of the respondents with one Jewish parent reported that they are interested in participating in religious activities, similar to 79 percent of Jews surveyed who had two Jewish parents. However, only a third of the respondents with one Jewish parent participate monthly in such activities compared to 52 percent of those with two Jewish parents.

“Even though our sample was made up of people with closer-than-average ties to the Jewish community, they still engaged with the organized Jewish community at a much lower rate” than their peers with two Jewish parents, Paul Golin, JOI’s associate executive director, told JTA in an interview.

Golin noted that because participants were recruited through social networks, they were more connected to Judaism than the general population of Jews with one Jewish parent. “These are folks who feel a connection and are still not walking through our doors,” he said.

The study reports that Jews with one Jewish parent “often feel excluded by the Jewish community,” particularly if their mother is not Jewish; there is a “general lack of programming” for this population, which is ambivalent about being singled out; and that Jews with one Jewish parent who “have been able to penetrate the core of the institutional Jewish community,” particularly those who work in Jewish organizations, participate in Jewish institutions at the same rate as Jews with two Jewish parents.

“This suggests there are potential interventions that might yield greater institutional participation for adult children of intermarriage,” the report said. It does not offer specific intervention suggestions, however, other than noting that what such Jews want is to be accepted as “fully Jewish.”

“The future of the Jewish community may well depend on the way in which the organized Jewish community treats, relates to and serves these individuals,” the report concludes.

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2 Responses to “Study: Adult Children of Intermarriage Less Engaged”

  1. What? You're surprised? When a Jew marries out his/her faith, they're "less engaged" in that faith? No kiddin! Whut a surprise: A hristian marries a Jew and sunnenly, the marriage is, shall we say, "Judenrein"/ Their mother probably never told them what my Mother usta tell me: MARRY A JEWISH GIRL!!"

    SHE WUZ RIGHT!!! All three of my marriages have been to Jewish women: One died; the second divorced me, and I'm still happily with my third wife!!!

  2. Zohar Rotem says:

    Unfortunately, the title of this article seriously misrepresents the study it refers to. As the primary author of this study I would like to put the record straight.

    Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute is a New York based nonprofit working to promote a more inclusive Jewish community and advocating for greater inclusion of intermarried couples, including their adult children.

    In our study we compared two groups of people who are very similar in many respects: they describe themselves as “engaged” in Jewish life, say that being Jewish is important to them, and plan to raise children who are Jewish by religion. The only difference was that one group had two Jewish parents whereas the other group had one parent who is Jewish and another who is from a different background. We found that while, on the one hand, both groups express similar levels of interest in Jewish activities for different sorts, the degree to which they act on this interest within Jewish institutions (synagogues, JCCs, etc.) is considerably lower. We also found that while for those with two Jewish parents the transition to parenthood is associated with greater denominational affiliation (what we call “the kid bump”), Jews with one Jewish parent (once they themselves become parents) experience a “kid bump” in their level of engagement, but this does not translate into greater identification with a denomination.

    While the interpretation of these findings is (and should be) open to discussion, our respondents suggest that greater openness and sensitivity on the part of Jewish institutions is sorely needed.

    We hope this note can put the record straight and move the discussion in the right direction – what are the best ways to better welcome and include adult children of intermarriage, who are likely to rapidly become the majority of North American Jewish community? To view the full report please click here: http://bit.ly/HsUr8z

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Zohar Rotem
    Program Officer for Evaluation
    Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute

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