A Tale that Wags Are Talking About

A study that says the Jewish community is divided between the inmarried and the intermarried, authored by sociologist Steven Cohen, is finally getting some significant press–more than a month after it was first available.

We blogged about the study in early January. Titled A Tale of Two Jewries: The “Inconvenient Truth” for American Jews, the study argues that the Jewish behaviors of the inmarried are much higher than the Jewish behaviors of the intermarried, and the gap is growing. It says that the Jewish community should partially judge the success of Jewish youth activities by how much they lower the participants’ potential for intermarriage. Our criticisms, which are many, with his approach and message, are catalogues in the previous blog post and may also be in a forthcoming JTA op-ed.

In the meantime, Cohen himself has written an op-ed defending and explaining his study in the Jerusalem Post as a response to Jewish Outreach Institute Assistant Director Paul Golin’s op-ed criticizing the study. One interesting critique Golin brings up that we didn’t mention is Cohen’s own admission that zip code may be a more powerful factor in determining Jewish behavior than intermarriage; that is, living near other Jews may be a greater determinant of Jewish behavior than whether you’re married to a non-Jew. If that’s the case, Cohen’s entire argument is baseless. Rather than separating the Jewish population between the intermarried and the inmarried, it should be separated between those who live in Newton, Mass., Brooklyn and Cherry Hill, N.J., and those who don’t.

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One thought on “A Tale that Wags Are Talking About

  1. From Steven M. Cohen:

    Among the several points where I may not have been clear (or have been mis-read by my readers) is the point related to zip code. Zip code — that is living near other Jews — has a powerful effect upon the likelihood of marrying a Jew and also making friends with other Jews. It does not have much effect on other Jewish behaviors, once you take into account its impact on spouse and friendship. Hence, to promote in-marriage, a vital goal for Jewish continuity and not the only one, we ought to promote the growth of Jewish neighborhoods (federations have done this) and the concentration of Jews in the universities with larger Jewish populations … Brandeis, Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, and dozens of others come readily to mind. That’s what I meant about the power of zip codes, which rivals that of Jewish education as a predictor of intermarriage. It also explains why I heartily support any activity that brings together young adult Jews, married and non-married. Their social networks will on their own foster referrals for dating and marriage. There are many good, idealistic reasons for the Jewish community to invest in Jewish culture, social justice activities, and spiritual communities run by and for Jews under 35. Here’s one more. Thank you.

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