Lack Of Identity
From the pages of the Jewish News for
this week 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60
Study says most children of intermarriage enter college without a Jewish connection.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
New York City
he majority of Jewish col-
lege freshmen whose parents
are intermarried do not
consider themselves Jews.
This is one of the more dramatic find-
ings of a new study that examines reli-
gious, political and social trends of teens
transitioning from high school to college.
Among the other findings of the
study, "America's Jewish Freshmen,"
believed to be the largest survey ever
undertaken of young Jews in America
• The children of divorced intermar-
ried couples whose mother is Jewish
largely consider themselves to be Jews.
• Jewish college freshmen attend
fewer religious services and feel less
spiritual than their non-Jewish peers.
• Jewish students are more political-
ly liberal and sexually permissive than
their non-Jewish peers.
The study was conducted by
Professor Linda Sax at UCLA's Higher
Education Research Institute for Hillel:
The Foundation for Jewish Campus
Life and funded with a $60,000 grant
from North Carolina philanthropists
Leonard and Tobee Kaplan.
Since 1971, The UCLA-Hillel project
has been tracking trends among
235,000 Jewish freshmen from more
than 5 million of their non-Jewish class-
mates at 1,200 colleges and universities.
In 1999, the study split respondents
into three main groups, including non-
Jews, Jews and those with no religious
preference but at least one Jewish par-
ent. Of that latter group, 79 percent
were the children of intermarriage.
Among the study's most dramatic
findings were those involving religious
identity and activity.
Of students with two Jewish par-
ents, 93 percent identified themselves
as Jews. But 38 percent of the teens
identified as Jews if only their mother
was Jewish and 15 percent if only
their father was Jewish.
Jewish identification strengthened
among young people, however, if their
mother was Jewish but divorced from a
non-Jewish father. Of students from
intermarriages whose mother was
Jewish, 37 percent called themselves
Jews, while 41 percent of those with
Jewish mothers who had divorced from
non Jews considered themselves Jews.
"If you want to know in what inter- •
married families students will identify as
Jewish, it's most likely to be when the
mother is Jewish and the parents are
divorced," said Sax, the study's author.
Rubin, Hillel's executive vice president.
Yet the study's findings showing a dis-
tinct lack of Jewish experience among
young Jews means Hillel may find it
challenging to drag them into the tent.
In addition to religious identity and
involvement, the study queried
incoming freshmen about family back-
ground, high school achievement and
activities, personal values and self-
image, education, career plans and
social and political attitudes.
The Religious Factor
Jews More Liberal
The biggest gap between those labeling
themselves as Jews and those who did
not list any religious preference in the
study's survey centered on the extent
and nature of their religious lives.
Among the key findings:
• Seventy percent of freshmen who
identify as Jewish said they attended
religious services occasionally, 13 per-
cent said they frequently attended reli-
gious services and 17 percent said they
• Of those who claim no religious
preference but have at least one Jewish
parent, 62 percent said they never
attended religious services; 37 percent
said they did occasionally and 1.5 per-
cent said they did so frequently.
• Non-Jews said they were far more
religiously active. In the non-Jewish
group, 47 percent frequently attended
religious services, 37 percent occasion-
ally did and Only 16 percent never did.
• Among students who identified as
Jews, 57.5 percent said they never prayed -
or meditated and 27 percent said they
spent less than one hour per week pray-
ing or meditating. Of those who did not
align themselves with any religion, but
who had at least one Jewish parent, 79
percent said they never prayed or medi-
tated, and 13 percent said they spent less
than one hour per week doing so.
For Hillel, the study reaffirms its stat-
ed goal of "maximizing the number of
Jews doing Jewish with other Jews."
Hillel's 110 campus "foundations" are
designed to be "big tents" offering activ-
ities with many Jewish themes meant to
attract a plurality of Jews, said Jay
On the political and social attitudes,
the study found:
• Jewish students remain more liberal
overall than their non-Jewish counterparts.
Slightly more than half of Jewish students
called themselves "far-left" or "liberal,"
compared with 25 percent of non Jews:
Forty percent of Jews called them-
selves "middle of the road," while 9.5
percent considered themselves "conser-
vative" or "far-right."
• Forty-four percent of Jewish stu-
dents said it was "essential" or "very
important" to keep up with political
affairs, compared with 28 percent of
• Jewish and non-Jewish students
today feel that being wealthy is more
important than "developing a meaning-
ful philosophy of life." Seventy-three
percent of Jewish students said being
financially well-off was their top goal.
• Jewish students were more support-
ive of individual rights than non-Jewish
students. Eighty-nine percent of Jews
felt abortion should be legal, compared
with 52 percent of non-Jews; 82 per-
cent of Jews supported same-sex mar-
-riages, compared with 53 percent of
non-Jews; 49 percent of Jews backed
marijuana legalization, compared with
32 percent of non-Jews.
'Sixty percent of Jews approved of
couples having premarital sex if "they
really like each other" even if they
have dated a short time, compared
with 38 percent of non-Jews who
agreed with that notion. ❑
Related editorial: page 27
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Sharon Alterman will chair the
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— Compiled by Holly Teasdle,
archivist, the Leo M. Franklin
Archives, Temple Beth El