Jewish Woman Is New Face of Intermarriage, Pew Study Data Reveals

Age-Old American Stereotype Flips in Recent Decades

Blond on His Arm: Playwright Arthur Miller’s relationship with starlet Marilyn Monroe was long seen as the paradigm for intermarriage. Not any more.
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Blond on His Arm: Playwright Arthur Miller’s relationship with starlet Marilyn Monroe was long seen as the paradigm for intermarriage. Not any more.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 13, 2014, issue of February 21, 2014.
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Intermarriage, for many American Jews, means dark-haired Brooklyn Jewish men wedding corn-fed blond Protestant women.

Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, for instance. Alvy Singer and Annie Hall.

That stereotype may have once reflected a demographic reality, according to a new analysis of data from the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jews. But not anymore. Today, a Natalie Portman is as likely to marry a Benjamin Millepied as a Marc Mezvinsky is to marry a Chelsea Clinton.

Pew Survey! Click Here! Click for more on the survey.

“Before 1970, men were heavily leading women in intermarriage,” said Steven M. Cohen, a leading sociologist of the Jewish community and a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, who analyzed the data for the Forward. “[That] is no longer the case.”

According to Cohen, three times as many Jewish men intermarried before 1970 as women. But between 2000 and 2013, slightly more Jewish women intermarried than men.

What’s more, intermarried Jewish women are now no more likely than intermarried Jewish men to raise their children Jewish, according to Cohen.

Half of the Jewish women who intermarried between 1980 and 1989 say that they had raised their children Jewish, compared with just 19% of Jewish men. Today, only 15% of Jewish women who have intermarried since 2000 say they are raising their children Jewish.

The data are based on the 2013 Pew survey that polled nearly 3,500 Jews, the largest survey of American Jews in more than a decade. The findings reflect only marriages that were ongoing at the time of the survey. And previous studies contradict parts of this latest analysis: The 2000 National Jewish Population Survey found relative levels of intermarriage among men and women to be flat going back decades.

Still, what’s clear from the new analysis is that traditional stereotypes of Jewish men marrying out and Jewish women marrying in are long outdated — as are assumptions about intermarried Jewish women raising their children Jewish.

“The context… has to do with more women obtaining college degrees and graduate degrees and working in the professions, and being in a context where they would meet non-Jewish men,” said Keren McGinity, a research affiliate at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandies University and the author of the forthcoming “Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood.”


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