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Half of Intermarried Couples Wed by Non-Religious Officiants

NEW YORK — Nearly one quarter of intermarried couples were wed exclusively by a Jewish clergy member, a new study has found.

The study on rabbinic officiation in intermarriages published this week by Brandeis University found that a majority of intermarriages including a Jewish spouse were conducted by a nonreligious officiant. Twenty-four percent were conducted by a Jewish officiant only, while 11 percent were conducted exclusively by non-Jewish clergy. Five percent included both Jewish and non-Jewish clergy.

Among marriages where both spouses were Jewish, the study found that 91 percent were conducted by Jewish clergy only.

The study found that among intermarried couples wed solely by Jewish clergy, 85 percent raised their oldest child Jewish. Among intermarried couples wed by other clergy, the figure dropped to 23 percent. According to the study, “On multiple measures of Jewish engagement, including synagogue involvement, intermarried couples whose weddings were presided over by a sole Jewish clergy officiant look very similar” to couples where both spouses are Jewish.

The lead author of the study was Leonard Saxe, who heads the university’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.

A separate study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that 21 percent of U.S. adults were raised by parents of two different religions. Most of those couples included one parent affiliated with a religion and one unaffiliated parent. The Pew survey did not separate data on Jewish Americans.

According to the 2013 Pew study of American Jews, the intermarriage rate among Jews married after 2000 was 58 percent, and jumped to 71 percent among non-Orthodox Jews.

The Pew study was discussed Wednesday in Philadelphia at the Interfaith Opportunity Summit, organized by InterfaithFamily in partnership with the Jewish Funders Network and the Jewish Federations of North America. The summit is focused on engaging interfaith families in the Jewish community.

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