More Similar Than You Think

One of our central messages has always been that interfaith couples can offer their children just as strong a sense of Jewish identity as their inmarried brethren. But besides our own research, almost no studies have focused on the population of interfaith families raising Jewish children. Until now.

A new report from the Boston Jewish federation analyzing data from its 2005 demographic study shows that interfaith families raising Jewish children are remarkably like typical self-identified Reform Jewish families. They observe Shabbat, light Hanukkah candles and have Bar and Bat Mitzvahs as often as inmarried Reform families. However, they are more likely to have a Christmas tree and less likely to send their children to Israel. They also join synagogues later and leave earlier.

In yesterday’s Boston Globe, Michael Paulson wrote about the new study. Chris Winship, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, told him:

Intermarriage has often been claimed to be a disease that’s slowly going to wipe out the American Jewish community, but now you’ve got to do that math, and see that if all the Jews that intermarried raised committed Jewish children, we could double the size of the Jewish population in one generation.

The data is just from Boston, but it is suggestive that intermarried families who are committed to Jewish choices are just as authentically Jewish as inmarried families.

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One thought on “More Similar Than You Think

  1. 1/ “interfaith families raising Jewish children are remarkably like typical self-identified Reform Jewish families. They observe Shabbat, light Hanukkah candles, and have Bar and Bat Mitzvahs as often as inmarried Reform families”.

    I have no doubt about that. Damning with faint praise?

    Why not Conservative families? Orthodox families?

    BTW ultra-Orthodox families never have bat mitzvahs. Is the the article saying that intermarried families are more observant than ultra-Orthodox families. Doesn’t quite make sense does it?

    2/ Why would Christopher Winship care if the Jewish population doubled (under an impossible scenario)? Does he believe that all inmarried Reform families ‘raise committed Jewish children’-no reason for him to know of course?

    3/ If Professor Christ wanted to see the doubling of a Jewish population why wouldn’t he visit Kiryas Yoel, where exactly that is happening right now-no assumptions or changes needed. Of course the residents there are far less likely to have Christmas trees…

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