You Don't Owe Your Happiness to the Jewish People

For a better friendship and for a more meaningfully Jewish personal life, it’s probably worthwhile for you to speak with your friends about your concerns — one-on-one.

Your friends may well be reacting out of commitment to Jewish survival. They’re vaguely aware — or even well aware — that intermarried Jews are far less active in Jewish life than in-married Jews, and they may well know that about 7-9% of the grandchildren of the intermarried are being raised in the Jewish religion.

You, for your part, may not share their concerns. Or, you may well say, despite these collective issues, you are most concerned about your daughter’s happiness. As I’ve said myself to many 30-somethings struggling with in- and out-dating, “You don’t owe your happiness to the Jewish people.” Although the Jewish People need higher rates of in-marriage, every individual needs to pursue her or his own choice in partners. This doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t be trying to help increase the chances that Jews will meet and marry Jews … even if the reality is that it doesn’t always happen.

In an age when 40% of Conservative-raised youngsters are marrying non-Jews and 80% of Reform and non-denominational raised people do so, these issues are of high concern both to the Jewish People and to Jewish people. I wish you are your family and friends all the best as you contend with these and related issues.

Steven M. Cohen is Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at HUC-JIR, and Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at Stanford University.

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You Don't Owe Your Happiness to the Jewish People

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