Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Friday, December 29, 2006

The in-married Jewish people, the intermarried Jewish people * Are intermarried couples hopeless?

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2006/12/in-married-jewish-people-intermarried.html

(Both articles in the series are included)
 
The in-married Jewish people, the intermarried Jewish people
 
 
The catchiest paragraph in the new study by Prof. Steven M. Cohen - Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, New York - is quite frightening: we are developing into two distinct populations: the in-married and the intermarried... The identity chasm between in-married and intermarried is wide, which suggests the imagery of "Two Jewries."
 
Cohen adds this observation to the mix of numbers, facts and analysis: Intermarriage does indeed constitute the greatest single threat to Jewish continuity today, both on an individual level (for specific Jewish families and their descendants) and on a group level (for the size and distinctiveness of the American Jewish population).
 
No wonder that the study is headlined "The inconvenient truth for American Jews." No wonder that the cover letter accompanying this study - and written by Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation (the sponsor of this new study) - contains this warning: "We do not offer this analysis to drive us to despair but to stimulate new focus, creativity and investment..."
 
Inmarried
 
Now, to the findings: There is an important segment of American Jewry, one about evenly divided among Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and non-denominational Jews. It is a population segment where the observance of Passover and Chanukah is almost universal and where the vast majorities (80% or more) belong to synagogues, attend services on the High Holidays, and fast on Yom Kippur. Majorities light Sabbath candles, report that most of their friends are Jewish, feel that being Jewish is very important to them, have been to Israel, and contribute to Jewish charities. Most also send their young children to Jewish pre-schools and their older children to Jewish youth groups. Almost half of this segment did some volunteer work for a Jewish organization in the past year, attended an adult Jewish education program, and feel very attached to Israel. People who belong to this group have had a reasonably strong Jewish upbringing. Hardly any report having been raised by intermarried parents or having had a Christmas tree in their home growing up.
 
Who are these people? They are in-married Jewish couples with school-age children.
 
Even more encouraging: the in-married have spurred a major expansion in Jewish educational utilization. The in-married had a stronger Jewish education than their counterparts 30 years ago. Signs point to an even further increase in the levels of their own children's Jewish education. They suggest that the in-married are riding an inter-generational "up escalator" in Jewish education.
 
Intermarried
 
The intermarried homes with school-age children stand in sharp contrast. As compared with the in-married, only half as many of the intermarried observe Passover, Chanukah or Yom Kippur, or belong to a synagogue. Just 7% have mostly Jewish close friends (as compared with 53% of the in-married). Only handfuls (from 9-14%) attend services at least monthly, have been to Israel, light Sabbath candles, keep kosher at home, or volunteer in Jewish contexts as compared with about four times as many among their in-married counterparts.
 
These lower rates of engagement are partially due to the far lower rates of Jewish education that intermarried Jews experienced in their youth. Twice as many of the intermarried than the in-married grew up with Christmas trees in their homes, and far fewer observed their parents lighting Shabbat candles. Among the intermarried, in fact, the rates for those who had Christmas trees and Shabbat candles are about equal; among the in-married, three times as many saw Shabbat candles lit in their homes on Friday nights as those whose families erected Christmas trees in December.
 
But this is not the only factor driving intermarried away from Jewish life. Cohen writes: Suppose two siblings with equally low levels of parental observance and Jewish education make different marital choices. One marries a Jew and the other marries a non-Jew. Empirically, the intermarried sibling will be far less likely than his or her in-married brother or sister to raise children as Jews, let alone affiliate with Jewish institutions or practice many Jewish ritual observances.
 
Even Jewish day school alumni will be heavily (more Jewish) influenced by the marital decision. Of those who marry a non-Jew who does not convert, just 61 percent raise their children exclusively in Judaism, as compared with 99 percent of those who marry Jews. Intermarriage independently depresses Jewish involvement. It both reflects weaker Jewish socialization in the past and promotes lower levels of Jewish engagement today.
 
Education
 
The group of the in-married is raising about three quarters of the next generation of American Jews. The intermarried are responsible for only a quarter of today's Jewish children under the age of 18. Parents exert significant influence on the chances that their children will marry Jews. Those with more Jewish capital tend to marry Jews; while those with less Jewish capital tend to marry non-Jews. The aim, then, is to increase the cultural, spiritual and social capital of today's Jewish children, so that they will marry Jews.
 
Coming tomorrow: What can Jewish institutions do with this study and what are the implications? 
 
Are intermarried couples hopeless?
By Shmuel Rosner
 
It is the difference between the optimist and the fatalist - or between the delusional and the realist. Should one invest more in the intermarried as to strengthen their Jewish identity?
 

Yesterday, I wrote about the new study by Prof. Steven Cohen. Bottom line: We are developing into two distinct populations - the in-married and the intermarried. The identity chasm between in-married and intermarried is wide, which suggests the imagery of "two Jewries." Intermarriage constitutes the greatest single threat to Jewish continuity today.
 
Symptom
 
I also mentioned the cover letter, written by rabbi by Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, the sponsor of this new study. But now its time to quote some more from this letter: "Let it be clear. We do not believe that the act of intermarriage has an inexorable, determined assimilationist outcome. We (at JLN) believe that intermarriage is a symptom more than a cause. In an open society, it cannot be directly fought ? although the value of in-marriage can be upheld. Primarily, Jewish life must be so enriched and Jews offered so much participation in vital education and living experiences that they will prefer in-marriage and if they fall in love with a non-Jew they will encourage conversion or, at least, will choose to raise their children Jewishly ... education, broadly defined and mediated through family and community, has become the only way to motivate people to choose Jewish identity..."
 
Rabbi Greenberg, with whom I also spoke a couple of days ago, would like people to understand Cohen?s study in a very specific way. He doesn?t "give up" on the intermarried (Cohen previously expressed some doubts about the feasibility of investment in this sector) but rather believe that Jewish institutions need to try and renew their Jewish identity. Thus, he is not focusing his attention on the more "juicy" part of the study ? the one dealing with the "growing gap" ? but rather on the part dealing with the transformational power of Jewish education.
 
Education
 
"The results are in: Jewish education works" - writes Cohen. Almost all forms of Jewish education diminish the frequency of intermarriage and elevate adult Jewish engagement. And the more Jewish experiences one has, the better the chances he will remain within the tent. Cohen explains: Someone who went to a supplementary school that met twice a week into adolescence, went to Israel, and attended a Jewish camp can be compared with someone with the same background with no such experiences. The chances that the former would marry a Jewish spouse would increase by 14 percentage points (comparable to reducing the intermarriage rate from 47 percent to 33 percent).
 
How does he calculate this? In the study he estimates that day school attendance reduces intermarriage by 14 percentage points. The impact of attendance at supplementary school more than once a week is 2 points if continued for more than 6 years; each informal education experience (camping, youth groups, or Israel travel in one's youth) reduces intermarriage by 4 percentage points.
 
The shortcomings of Jewish education, Cohen writes, rest not so much with an inability to influence participants as with an inability to attract participants. This is where Greenberg sees hope: These results suggest that if we persist and expand the availability of great Jewish experiences we can reverse the demographic/cultural decline of Jewry.
 
Disagreement
 
Cohen's tone is sobering and pessimistic. Convincing young Jews to marry within the tribe is crucial. "Only conversion substantially improves the chances that today's intermarried couples will have Jewish grandchildren in two generations," writes Cohen. But there's a "long-term decline in conversion rates, lasting over half a century" that "is smooth and steady."
 
Greenberg chooses to see the full half of the glass. He just doesn't believe that asking people not to marry 98 percent of the population can provide for better results. Jews will keep finding non-Jewish spouses and Jewish organizations better find ways to incorporate these couples into the tribe. "We need urgent attention to try to find programs that work in this sub-community," he writes.
 
It is more than just minor disagreement. It is the difference between the optimist and the fatalist - or between the delusional and the realist. The next study that JLN will publish is one that supports the more optimistic view: Intermarried couples in the Boston area show a surprisingly high percentage of Jewish identity. Whether this one study can prove Greenberg's point will be a subject for further debate.
 
Cohen's tone is sobering and pessimistic. Convincing young Jews to marry within the tribe is crucial. "Only conversion substantially improves the chances that today's intermarried couples will have Jewish grandchildren in two generations," writes Cohen. But there's a "long-term decline in conversion rates, lasting over half a century" that "is smooth and steady."
 
Greenberg chooses to see the full half of the glass. He just doesn't believe that asking people not to marry 98 percent of the population can provide for better results. Jews will keep finding non-Jewish spouses and Jewish organizations better find ways to incorporate these couples into the tribe. "We need urgent attention to try to find programs that work in this sub-community," he writes.
 
It is more than just minor disagreement. It is the difference between the optimist and the fatalist - or between the delusional and the realist. The next study that JLN will publish is one that supports the more optimistic view: Intermarried couples in the Boston area show a surprisingly high percentage of Jewish identity. Whether this one study can prove Greenberg's point will be a subject for further debate.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2006/12/in-married-jewish-people-intermarried.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment



<< Home


FREE EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION
Subscribe to
ZNN
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by groups.yahoo.com


Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israƫl in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israpundit
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Z-Word
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
UN-Biased
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Zionism
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog
Liberticracia
CNPublications
SEO

Reference
Zionism
Anti-Semitism
Anti-Zionism
Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Bible
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Islamism
Jihad
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Israel
Jew
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism
Russian

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Experimental
Isfake lobby
Mysterology

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products
Mezuzah

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory