The Intermarriage Debate
National Jewish Population Study revives concerns over best
approach to mixed marriages.
Most headlines about the NJPS last
week focused on findings that the
Jewish population fell 5 percent from
1990, that Jews are aging and that
Jewish women are waiting longer to
have fewer children.
Yet the mix of Jews and non-Jews in
many Jewish households went largely
The focus shifted in part because
officials .of the NJPS team, with the
United Jewish Communities, the fed-
ty-building programs worth tens of
millions of dollars have made a differ-
ence — and whether they should con-
New York City
Bayme, for one, remains concerned
he fiery intermarriage
about the offspring of those intermar-
debate that roiled
riages, pointing to a study released last
American Jewry over the
summer of 235,000 Jewish college
past decade is resurfacing.
freshmen by UCLA Professor Linda
The battle that erupted in the wake
of the 1990 National Jewish
Among college freshmen with
Population Survey, which showed 52
Jewish mothers and non-Jewish
percent of Jews married non-Jews in
fathers, 38 percent identified as
the five previous years, is reviv-
while 15 percent of those
ing over the 2000-2001 NJPS.
o with Jewish fathers aznd gentile
The latest demographic study,
mothers identified as Jews. In
the most ambitious portrait of
contrast, Bayme pointed out, 93
American Jewry ever undertaken,
of freshmen with two
revealed last week that 5.2 mil-.
Jewish parents identified as Jews.
lion American Jews live in 2.9
That Jewish identification gap
million households — along
after a decade "where
with 1.5 million non-Jews.
people are being raised partially
On one side of the divide are
as Jewish, partially
those like Kerry Olitzky, execu-
tive director of the Jewish
those 1.5 million" non-Jews liv-
Outreach Institute, which pro-
ing with 5.2 million Jews "fall
motes efforts to bring unaffiliat-
Two recent studies give di erent views of the Jewish
into that category, I'm very pes-
ed and intermarried Jews into
population in the United States.
eration umbrella group that funded
The only real prospects for Jewish
"These are potential partners in the
the $6 million study, released little
survival, Bayme said, lie not in
Jewish community," Olitzky says of
information beyond the initial demo-
encouraging some new strain of
the 1.5 million. "We have the power
graphic numbers. NJPS officials said
Judaism, but in strengthening Jewish
to either embrace or exclude them."
they are still analyzing the survey and
identity among Jews and in encourag-
On the other side are those like
will issue a fuller, 15-page report on
ing conversion among non-Jews close
Steven Bayme, national director of
Jewish identity and Jewish life at the
contemporary Jewish life for the •
UJC's annual General Assembly in
"All of our experience up to now is,
American Jewish Committee. While
the only hopes for Jewish continuity
Bayme believes the latest demographic
At the same time, NJPS officials
lie in an unambiguous Jewish identifi-
shows American Jews have attained an
cation," he said.
unprecedented level of acceptance, he's admitted they wanted to avoid allow-
ing the intermarriage results to over-
Drawing an equally bleak assess-
also convinced that intermarriage is
shadow other important findings,
ment when it comes to dual-faith
producing a generation that doesn't
which is what happened in 1990.
marriages is Sylvia Barack Fishman, an
identify primarily as Jews.
A decade ago, the NJPS intermar-
associate professor of contemporary
"If Jews are doing well by American
riage data sparked two main reactions
Jewish life at Brandeis University
standards, the second narrative is that
— those who called for "inreach," or
Fishman said this large group of
Jews as Jews are not doing nearly as
reinvigorating Jewish life as well as
intermarried couples the new NJPS
well," Bayme said.
staving off intermarriage, and those
identifies is largely raising its children
These arguments echo the longtime
who advocated "outreach," efforts to
in two religions. •
split in the Jewish community about
welcome marginal Jews and interfaith
"What you need to understand is
how to deal with intermarriage and
families into the fold.
the religious synchronism these num-
signal how both sides are likely to
A decade later, both sides are still
bers represent," she said.
grapple with the issue in the coming
debating, though now, in the wake of
In May 2001, the American Jewish
the latest NJPS, the conflict is shaping
Related editorial: page 41
up about whether outreach and identi- INTERMARRIAGE on page 40
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
From the pages of the Jewish News for
this week 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60
A group of Jewish women have set
up a "peace tent" on the Golan
Heights hills as a way to demon-
strate their desire for peaceful rela-
tions with their Arab neighbors.
Adat Shalom Synagogue in
Farmington Hills celebrates its
newly completed Sefer Torah dur-
ing a day of festivities.
Catholic Bishop Valerian Trifa is
deported to Communist Romania
for being a Nazi collaborator, who
participated in the mass murder of
Jews and non-Jews during World
An agreement is signed calling for
the U.S. to buy a record $62.5 mil-
lion in agricultural commodities
from Israel during the current fiscal
Business and communal leader
Louis Berry is general chairman of
the National B'nai B'rith
Humanitarian Award Dinner hon-
oring Irwin I. Cohn of Detroit.
League of Jewish Women plans to
hold its eighth Leadership Training
Institute at Beth Abraham
Synagogue in Detroit.
The Jewish Restitution Successor
Organization meets at
Berchtesgaden — site of Hitler's
home — and reimburses Jews, who
missed the original U.S. filing date,
for property claims amounting to
some $5 million.
Under the chairmanship of Irving
W. Blumberg, members of
Knollwood Country Club bought
or sold $1.5 million worth of War
Bonds, breaking all U.S. records.
The announcement came at a
bonds victory banquet in Detroit.
— Compiled by Holly Teasdle,
archivist, the Leo M. Franklin
Archives, Temple Beth El