Assimilation Nation: Intermarriage in the USA destroying Judaism

I know, there are intermarried couples who speak of wonderful family life & shared values across faiths growing & enriching their children, who speak of devoted children enthralled with Judaism and preserving the Jewish people and you know what? That’s beautiful.

I’m happy for those people, unfortunately I’m not so happy for the JEWISH PEOPLE. Because the truth of the matter is that in the vast majority of intermarried households the children will not marry Jewish themselves, nor practice the religion, nor will their children be Jewish and intermarriage essentially means the end of the line for Judaism in that tree less than one or two generations out. The exception is unfortunately not the rule, and the intermarriage rates are off the charts pushing the actual two partner Jewish marriage rates into the minority stateside in many communities.

It’s a shocking testament to the failure of Diaspora Judaism in the modern world. I would never have imagined that around my own lifetime I would see the resurgence of a strong, free independent Jewish homeland, or the steady march to the destruction of North American Diaspora Judaism. But I guess this is the natural order of things..

I look to the Jews that stayed behind in Babylon for guidance, a thriving diaspora community when the move to return to Israel & rebuild the 2nd Temple was underway – Many stayed behind comfortable in their Jewish centered lives in Babylon itself. I look to them for some historical perspective, wisdom or guidance on how we might benefit from their experience in preserving Judaism… Unfortunately I can’t find any of the Jews that stayed back in babylon, they vanished from the sands of time and were totally assimilated.

Haaretz: Study finds Maine has highest intermarriage rate in U.S.
By Anthony Weiss, The Forward

In Portland, Maine, even the editor of the local Jewish newspaper was born to intermarried parents, and when she got around to marrying, it was not to a Jew. Given her own experience, Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo, editor of The Voice, was not surprised by a new demographic study that found Portland and its environs to have the highest intermarriage rate in the country.

According to the study, which was funded in part by an intermarried couple, 61% of couples in married Jewish households are interfaith. This is the highest rate of any North American Jewish community measured in the past 15 years. “There are kids in the [Jewish] preschool named ‘Piscapo’ and ‘Isajar,’” Margolis-Pineo said. “Unless you’re an idiot, you realize that there’s a lot of intermarriage.”

The study was conducted by Ira Sheskin, the director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami. The new figures place Portland ahead of both Seattle and San Francisco, which previously had shared the highest measured intermarriage rate, at 55%, according to information from the North American Jewish Data Bank.

The national intermarriage rate was 48% in the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. By comparison, Boston – the closest major Jewish population center to Portland – has an intermarriage rate of 46%. New York and Los Angeles have rates of 22% and 23%, respectively. [...]

How wonderfully pigheaded of us Jews to think this time it will be any different.

UPDATE: Author of the study comments on the dangers..

Dr. Ira Sheskin – I am the author of the study. First, please so not assume that the only purpose of the study was to measure intermarriage. In fact, the report is 742 pages.

Second, the data themselves show the problem with a high intermarriage rate in a small community. Less than half of the children in intermarriages are being raised as Jews and even many whose parents say they are raising as Jews are being raised with Christmas trees and little Jewish connection. Just as one example, in in-married households, 58% are synagogue members, versus 20% in intermarried households. Very few Jews (less than 100 households per year) are moving into Southern Maine and an equal number move out each year.

Thus, if this Jewish community is to sustain itself and keep its institutions going, they need to concentrate on connecting people to their heritage so that that heritage is important enough to them that when they select a spouse, they will select someone with whom they can share a common heritage.

This in response to the typical comments at Haaretz, which has become grand central station for hatred of Judaism, Israel etc for commenters wordlwide.

  • churchillovitz

    How appalling. Can I just add that in Holland the assimilation rate is apparently 70 percent. One of the great benefits of the State of Israel is exactly this: the assimilation rate, due mainly to the majority of jewish people, in Israel, is far, far lower than anywhere else in the world.

  • I think that both sides of the issue need to be discussed equally. I feel that oftentimes when the decision is made with an understanding of expectations it can work out for both partners. But it is just that, an individual and personal decision that is of the utmost importance.