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She says assimilation has been both a good thing and a bad thing for American Jews. On the downside of interfaith marriage, Riley’s research showed that intermarried couples reported lower rates of marital satisfaction than in-married couples. The children of interfaith couples also tend to grow up to be less religious than in-married couples.
Riley predicts what some might consider an ominous future for American Jewry, but one that comports to some degree with what several other scholars have hypothesized about American Jewry’s future: A small core of religious Jews will run Jewish communal institutions, and a large contingent of assimilated Jews on the periphery will have little enthusiasm for or connection to their faith.
What Riley doesn’t devote too much attention to is who are the gentiles marrying America’s Jews. In most cases, interfaith marriages may be the result of happenstance: non-Jewish Americans happen to meet and fall in love with a Jew.
But some Americans are specifically looking for Jewish mates. About 5 percent of the 750,000 members of JDate, the popular Jewish dating website, are non-Jewish, according to JDate spokeswoman Arielle Schechtman.
In more than a dozen interviews with JTA, non-Jewish JDaters talked about the reasons they’re seeking out Jews (on the condition that their last names not be used), though practically all said they were not exclusively seeking Jews.
“I have a positive bias toward Jewish men,” said Elizabeth, 37, a teacher in New York who was raised Christian. “They tend to be very smart, successful, gentlemanly and less sexist,” she said. “They are a safer choice.”
Neil, a doctoral candidate in physics in Texas who was brought up Muslim in Iran, said he believes American Persians and Jews gravitate toward each other because their “common roots” enable them to communicate well and get along. He also noted that many stories in the Koran come from the Bible.