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The current intermarriage rate in the Jewish community is 47%. This figure is 10 years old (see below), but it is the most up-to-date figure available. The rest of this document summarizes key statistics related to Jewish intermarriage, with references and links to their sources.
For much of American Jewish history, intermarriage was relatively rare. The incidence of intermarriage started to increase in the 1970s (from 13% to 28%). Many Jews know the story of a relative who was disowned (in some cases, mourned as if he or she had died) when he or she married a non-Jew.
In response to the increase in intermarriage, the Reform movement took two controversial steps: it created an outreach department to reach out to and welcome intermarried couples, and decided to recognize the children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers as Jews (under traditional Jewish law, only children of Jewish mothers are considered Jews).
But when the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey revealed that close to half of all new marriages involving Jews in the previous five years were to non-Jews, intermarriage shot to the top of the Jewish community's agenda.
Because Judaism doesn't encourage proselytizing and Jews are such a small minority (somewhere between 5.2 million and 6.5 million), some Jews consider the ongoing high rate of intermarriage a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish people. Major Jewish figures have been harshly critical of intermarriage and view outreach to the intermarried as a waste of limited communal resources. Major Jewish organizations see promoting Jewish in-marriage as one of their explicit or implicit fundamental goals.
In the last two decades, there has been a growing awareness that writing off intermarried families may mean writing off a Jewish future. Intermarriage can be an opportunity to sustain and even grow the Jewish population both quantitatively and qualitatively. If more than 50% of interfaith families raise their children as Jews, interfaith families will actually increase the size of the Jewish population. But intermarried couples will only make Jewish choices if the Jewish community genuinely welcomes them. InterfaithFamily is a leading advocate for building such an inclusive Jewish community.
The following table is from the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001.
|Table 14. Intermarriage by year marriage began|
|Year marriage began||% Intermarried|
1 The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001: Strength, Challenge and Diversity in the American Jewish Population (New York: United Jewish Communities, 2004): 16. This 10-year-old data point is the most up-to-date figure on the national Jewish population. The UJC did not conduct another National Jewish Population Survey in 2010, and has no plans to conduct another nationwide survey.
8 All community figures are from Arnold Dashefsky, Ira M. Sheskin, and Ron Miller, FAQs on American Jews — Number 2, Intermarriage Data (Storrs, Conn.: Mandell L. Berman Institute North American Jewish Data Bank, Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, 2010): 3-8. The tables include data for many other cities as well.
10This number is derived by taking 27% of 130.3 million, the latest U.S. Census number for the population of married people in the U.S. See Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2011 (Washington: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011): 52.
12 Leonard Saxe, U.S. Jewry 2010: Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the U.S. Jewish Population (Waltham, Mass.: Steinhardt Social Research Institute, 2010). Also see Sheskin and Dashefsky, Jewish Population in the United States, 2010 (Storrs, Conn.: Mandell L. Berman Institute North American Jewish Data Bank, 2010), 37.
15 The percentage figure in the table represents the percentage of the marriages that took place, during the years indicated, that were intermarriages. In other words, for all marriages involving a Jew between 1980 and 1984, 38% were intermarriages.