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New Survey Data Sparks New Debate over Intermarriage Picture

It is too early in the morning to analyze the significance of these new studies on intermarriage, but they are sure to cause a stir… and give our Jewish community plenty to consider.

JTA (12/28/07) offers this article: Survey data spark debate over intermarriage picture.

Now a new round of studies is prompting more questions: Does intermarriage necessarily mean the end of that family’s connection to Judaism? Or is the Jewish community focusing on intermarriage to the exclusion of other, perhaps more telling, factors?

Most studies report the data in simple comparative fashion, which shows that intermarried families are much less Jewishly involved than inmarried families, from their beliefs to their practices.

But a provocative new study out of Brandeis University questions that research method and its conclusions.

The study — “It’s Not Just Who Stands Under the Chuppah: Jewish Identity and Intermarriage,” by Leonard Saxe, Fern Chertok and Benjamin Phillips of the Cohen Center for Jewish Studies and Steinhardt Social Research Institute — found that when one considers the Jewish background of the Jewish partner in an intermarriage, the difference in the Jewish beliefs and practices of inmarried and intermarried families becomes much less glaring.

Equally compelling is the “second generation” statistic:,

Among those who is not convinced by the Saxe-Chertok line of argument is Steven Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Cohen has conducted several studies that all show the determinative effect of intermarriage.

Cohen’s first question is how the researchers defined “being raised Jewish.” But he also says they need to look at the second generation: According to the 2000-2001 NJPS study, just 13 percent of the grandchildren of an intermarriage — that is, people whose grandparents were intermarried — now identify as Jews.

On those grounds alone, Cohen declared, the Jewish community should “not grow complacent” about intermarriage but should continue to combat it as a real threat to Jewish continuity.

Look for some sharp arguments about all this data, its meaning, and how to respond…

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