70% of secular Jews in the US, 50% in Europe married to non-Jews

The issue of intermarriage, viewed as a complex reality of Jewish life, prompts questions about how communities should treat the resulting children.

A dramatic new report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) has delved into the world of Jewish intermarriage rates, shedding light on a key concern among Jewish leaders and policymakers worldwide. The report, titled “Intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews: the global situation and its meaning,” examines intermarriage prevalence across countries covering over 95% of the global Jewish population. Moreover, it contextualizes the data with Jewish fertility rates to gauge the threat of intermarriage to Jewish community sustainability around the globe.

Dr. Daniel Staetsky, Senior Research Fellow and Director of JPR’s European Demography Unit, authored the comprehensive report, bringing to the forefront some compelling insights about intermarriage in Jewish communities. Among the key findings are:

1. Global intermarriage prevalence: The report reveals that the overall prevalence of intermarriage stands at 26% worldwide. However, a stark distinction emerges between Israel, where intermarriage is relatively low at 5%, and the Jewish Diaspora, where it reaches 42%.

2. Impact of traditionalism: The report establishes that Jewish populations with the lowest intermarriage levels exhibit the highest levels of traditionalism. Religiosity and strong connections to Jewish heritage seem to serve as powerful deterrents to intermarriage.

3. Intermarriage in Europe and the US: Secular or ‘Just Jewish’ Jews in Europe and the US show the highest prevalence of intermarriage. Nearly 70% of secular Jews in the US and almost 50% in Europe are married to non-Jews.

4. Factors influencing intermarriage: The report suggests that factors like the availability of suitable Jewish partners play a relatively smaller role compared to traditionalism when comparing intermarriage rates across different countries.

5. Diverse patterns in Europe: Contrary to a single European pattern, the report reveals that the highest (Poland) and lowest (Belgium) intermarriage rates among Diaspora communities are found in Europe.

6. American Jews and intermarriage: Although often associated with high intermarriage rates, American Jews actually occupy a middle position in the global spectrum of intermarriage prevalence.

7. Interplay of intermarriage and fertility: While intermarriage rates have increased over time in the US, the report observes that this trend is somewhat offset by the growing Haredi and Orthodox populations. In Europe, the situation appears more stable over time.

8. Fertility: The report highlights that the impact of intermarriage on Jewish population trends today is overshadowed by the significance of fertility rates. Low fertility is a major concern for Jewish communities in the Diaspora, while Israel remains an exception with relatively high fertility rates.

Understanding demographic processes and trends in community development 

Dr. Jonathan Boyd, JPR’s Executive Director, emphasized the importance of this report’s findings: “Understanding demographic processes and trends is an essential component of community development work, and is all-too-often overlooked when planning for our shared future.”

The report paints a nuanced picture of intermarriage, indicating that it is not a monolithic phenomenon. Instead, it varies significantly across regions and is strongly influenced by traditionalism and religiosity within Jewish communities. While intermarriage is often perceived as a potential threat to the sustainability of Jewish communities, the report highlights that low fertility rates represent a more pressing challenge.

By placing intermarriage in the context of fertility, the report calls for a more comprehensive approach to address demographic concerns. Policymakers and community leaders are urged to consider the impact of both intermarriage and fertility rates when devising strategies for community development and engagement.

For Jewish communities, the report’s findings serve as reference material for critical policy discussions. The issue of intermarriage, viewed as a complex reality of Jewish life, prompts questions about how communities should treat the consequences of intermarriage, including incorporating the offspring and spouses of intermarried Jews into communal activities.

Moreover, a policy scenario emphasizing the revival of traditionalism and increasing the volume of traditional practices warrants exploration. Jewish communities can look to the example of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities, which foster in-marriage through international matchmaking and migration, and consider how such methods can be adapted to enhance the availability of Jewish partners.

Additionally, fostering inclusivity and exploring the role of Jewish institutions in supporting and encouraging fertility in the Diaspora are essential components of community development. Acknowledging demographic realities and trends is crucial for ensuring a vibrant and sustainable Jewish future.

August 1, 2023 | 6 Comments »

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  1. Putin had no rational grounds for thinking that Ukraine would soon join NATO, or that NATO troops were preparing to occcupy Ukraine. The United States had rejected Ukraine’s application for membership, and announced its rejection publicly. The U.S said that it would be at least 10 to 20 years before Ukraine would even be considered for membership. First of all, Ukraine would have to eliminate all government corruption, and create a stable democracy with no more :”revolutions,”coups or rigged elections. No one in Ukraine, Russia or anywhere else believed that Ukraine could accomplish this anytime soon.
    In February 2022, just days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine got under way, the prime minister of Germany (is his name Schultz? Somthing like that) arranged for a head to head summit meeting in which he assured Putin that NATO did not intend to send any soldiersa to Ukraine. Tresident Trump, who was still in office in 2022, gave Putin similar assurances in several of his head-head meetings with Putin.

    Perhaps more important than these verbal assurances, certain “facts on the ground” confirmed that NATO did not have sufficient forces to occupy Ukraine. More on this in my next comment.

  2. “Nearly 70% of secular Jews in the US and almost 50% in Europe are married to non-Jews.”

    Makes perfect sense. 70% of Jews voted for Biden.

  3. Artrhur’s comment about inbreeding is certainly worth investigating further. Yes, intermarriage between close relatives can lead to inherited illnesses. However, many geneticist have written that consnguinity of second or third cousins or or further revoded counsinhood doesn;t create much of a danger. Also, if the non-Jewish partner converts to Judaism, which Orthodox Jews require for intermarriage, that eliminates most of the genetic risk.

  4. For all the criticisms of them, Haredi and Hasidic Jews seem likely to be the only Jews who preserve their Jewish identity and reproduce in coming decades. I wonder if this survey counted Reform and Conservative Jews as “secular.” A few years ago, while negotiating with the Israeli government to h have their movements recognized by the Israeli government and entitled to government funding, representatives of the two movements said that “95%” of of their members marry “out.” I don’t know if this is true or just an off-the-cuff remark by the two representatives. But it is worth looking into.

  5. And inbreeding? Half of my family has been affected by sets of first cousins marrying two generations ago and the mental problems in their descendants are obvious. Considering this in addition to the more general preponderance of Tay-Sachs disease and other genetic syndromes seems a pretty good argument for a certain degree of intermarriage.