Why Do Jews Intermarry at a Much Higher Rate Than Others?

One Overlooked Reason: Americans May Like To Marry Jews

Why Us? Jews tend to get married later, which is a factor in the high numbers of intermarriages. But why do non-Jews marry Jews.
jta
Why Us? Jews tend to get married later, which is a factor in the high numbers of intermarriages. But why do non-Jews marry Jews.

By JTA

Published May 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Over the past half century, intermarriage has become increasingly common in the United States among all religions – but among Jews at a higher rate than any other.

Why that is the case is one of the questions Naomi Schaefer Riley probes in her new book, “‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America,” which was published last month by Oxford University Press.

One of the main reasons, Riley finds, is that the older people get, the more likely they are to intermarry — and Jews tend to get married older than Americans generally, according to the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey. By the same token, Mormons, who encourage early nuptials, are the least likely faith to out-marry.

Naomi Schaefer Riley
jta
Naomi Schaefer Riley

The findings in Riley’s book, for which she commissioned a national study, raise the question of whether Jewish institutions interested in reducing interfaith marriages should be encouraging Jews to marry early. Currently they don’t, according to Riley, and the American Jewish intermarriage rate is about 50 percent.

Another factor behind the comparatively high Jewish intermarriage rate is, simply, that Americans like Jews. Riley cites the work of sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, who measured the popularity of various religious groups with extensive surveys for their 2010 book, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”

“America, for the most part, loves its Jews,” agreed Paul Golin, the associate executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute. “It doesn’t mean that anti-Semitism is over, but there’s much more philo-Semitism than anti-Semitism in America.”

Riley says intermarriage is both a cause and effect of this phenomenon. “The more you have exposure to people of other faiths, the more likely you are to like them and then marry them yourself,” she said.

Riley, who identifies as a Conservative Jew, is herself intermarried.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.