Children of Intermarriage Less Involved in Organized Jewish Activities, Study Says

Outreach Institute Survey Finds Lower Engagement

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By JTA

Published October 30, 2013.
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The Jewishly identified adult children of intermarried parents are less likely to participate in organized Jewish activities than their peers with two Jewish parents, according to a new study obtained by JTA.

The Jewish Outreach Institute, a nonprofit that promotes more inclusion of intermarried and unaffiliated Jews into Jewish life, conducted a survey of 204 self-identified Jews raised in intermarried homes and compared the results to a separate poll of 507 Jews with two Jewish parents. All the respondents were in their 20s and 30s.

The institute found that with the exception of those who work in Jewish organizations, even adult children of intermarriage who express strong interest in Judaism are less likely to participate in organized Jewish activities and institutions. Instead, they opt for self-directed Jewish activities like reading Jewish books or visiting Jewish websites.

Adult children of intermarriage make up 25 percent of the 5.3 million American adults who identify as Jews, according to the recent Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews.

Seventy-two percent of the respondents with one Jewish parent reported that they are interested in participating in religious activities, similar to 79 percent of Jews surveyed who had two Jewish parents. However, only a third of the respondents with one Jewish parent participate monthly in such activities compared to 52 percent of those with two Jewish parents.

“Even though our sample was made up of people with closer-than-average ties to the Jewish community, they still engaged with the organized Jewish community at a much lower rate” than their peers with two Jewish parents, Paul Golin, JOI’s associate executive director, told JTA in an interview.

Golin noted that because participants were recruited through social networks, they were more connected to Judaism than the general population of Jews with one Jewish parent. “These are folks who feel a connection and are still not walking through our doors,” he said.

The study reports that Jews with one Jewish parent “often feel excluded by the Jewish community,” particularly if their mother is not Jewish; there is a “general lack of programming” for this population, which is ambivalent about being singled out; and that Jews with one Jewish parent who “have been able to penetrate the core of the institutional Jewish community,” particularly those who work in Jewish organizations, participate in Jewish institutions at the same rate as Jews with two Jewish parents.

“This suggests there are potential interventions that might yield greater institutional participation for adult children of intermarriage,” the report said. It does not offer specific intervention suggestions, however, other than noting that what such Jews want is to be accepted as “fully Jewish.”

“The future of the Jewish community may well depend on the way in which the organized Jewish community treats, relates to and serves these individuals,” the report concludes.


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