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Notes from Limmud 2005

The intermarriage rate revealed: Census Data on Jewish Marriage Patterns

David Graham, Institute for Jewish Policy Research

[There were lots of pie charts in the original presentation; I don't have the patience to reproduce them, so you just get plain tables.]

The BBC's website reported, on 20 March 2005:

Intermarriage 'threatens UK Jewry'

Jewish leaders in the UK are warning that British Jewry may die out if more is not done to try to combat intermarriage.

Studies show between 30% and 50% of young British Jews now marry outside the religion.

Britain's Jewish population is in serious decline. The last census for Britain showed that 266 000 people said they were Jewish—0.5% of the population.

There is lots of unsubstantiated stuff here: Which studies? What is intermarriage? And why does it lead to dying out?

Intermarriage is mixed faith (though if someone converts at the marriage it does not count as intermarriage). But how do you could mixed faith? Something unacceptable to the Orthodox? Or to other denominations?

How do you measure intermarriage?

1995 JPR survey of UK Jews.

Age range% men in
mixed-faith relationships
18-29: 45
30-34: 42
35-??: 44
??-49: 43
50-59: 35
60-69: 20 (34)
70-79: 30 (43)
80-89: 25 (12)

[The gaps and question marks are where I didn't have time to take down all the figures.]

Note: this is not intermarriage, it's partners. And what's the intermarriage rate from this? We see a spread across age groups.

2001 Census (data still coming in).

There are 267 000 Jews in the country, of which:

Jews married to Jew:42 000 couples, 84 000 individuals (self-definition of Jew)
Jews married to non-Jew:18 000 couples, 36 000 individuals

You can only get the intermarriage proportion from this, not the intermarriage rate:

But you also have to add on, before you can calculate this, the number of people who didn't answer the question on religion, which was voluntary, plus the people who answered "none" to religion.

Couple where a Jew
is married to a
Number of couples % of all married couples
with at least one Jew
Jew 42 687 63
Person of a non-Jewish religion 18 063 26
Person of no religion 5 547 8
Person who did not respond 2713 4
Subtotal 26 323 38
Total 69 010 100

US National Jewish Population Survey study, 1990 data

This asks when did you get married, data we do not have in the UK.

For Jews who had married between 1985 and 1990, the survey showed 52% had married "Gentiles". This figure caused an enormous furore, and kneejerk reactions, and has widely been reported as the US "intermarriage rate." This was the direct result of Birthright Israel ($200m budget!) and Lord Jackobovits' book Will We have Jewish Grandchildren, which led to Jewish Continuity.

When this was reported, often the mention of period was missed out.

US National Jewish Population Survey study, 2000-2001 data

Intermarriage rate for Jews who had married between '96 and 2000 was 47% - it apparently had dropped! This was not the gloom and doom scenario that had been expected.

It also reported a different figure for the 1985 to 1990 group; instead of 52% it calculated the 1990 rate to be 43%.

These figures are accurate; it all comes down to definition. The difference between the 2000 and 1990 figures was due to two different definitions of being Jewish.

1990 used a broad definition: anyone born Jewish and "conversionary" Jews. 2000 only counted "currently Jewish" people.

When the broad 1990 definition was applied to the 2000 data gave the intermarriage date for the 1985 to 1990 period was indeed 52%.

And for the 1996-2000 period, it had indeed gone up to 54%.

(But 54% of what? It is actually 54% of currently married people, but really to be defined as a rate, it should be a percentage of such people as could have got married! By this criteria, there is no such thing as a calculable intermarriage rate!)

England and Wales marriage data:

Married Jewish males: 56 647
Married Jewish females: 55 059
Jewish males married to Jewish females: 42 687
Jewish females whose husband did not report as Jewish: 12 363
Jewish males whose wife did not report as Jewish: 13 960

There are more men married to women who did not identify as Jewish than vice versa. This comes out in study after study after study since the War. Why is another question. It's not universal; in other religious groups this is not the case.

This has serious demographic implications: The pool of eligible men for women to marry is shrinking.

What is happening to women who are left over in this respect? Are they staying single, or are they being forced, as it were, to marry out? We don't know.

Married Jewish women
response of husband
Married Jewish men
response of wife
Jewish 78% 75%
Other 22% 25%
  No response 2% 3%
  No religion 6% 4%
  Other religion 14% 18%
Total 100% (55 050) 100% (56 647)

If you didn't respond, or you said no religion, are these people Jewish or not? There is a likelihood that they are, as shown in a poll:

How did you answer the
2001 Census question on religion?
% of married JPR respondents
Jewish 85.4
Did not answer 4.9
Did not fill in a census form 2.1
Gave a different answer 0.8
Can't remember 0.8
Total 100

This turns out to be several hundred people who are Jewish but did not answer as such.

Scottish census results

Instead of asking what is your religion, they asked what is your religious upbringing, and what it is now, and they asked it in an identity manner. This gives figures which are not comparable.

Upbringing and current religion Jewish: 5661 / 88%
Total accessions: 787 / 12%
Total secessions: 1785 / 28%

Note also the intermarriage data leaves out the significant proportion of non-married cohabiting-couple households.

CohabitationAll households Jewish (head of household)
All households 21 600 475 116 330
Married couple households 37% 35% (40 879)
Cohabiting couple households 8% 5% (5 403)

Other important factors which were not taken into consideration:

  • Educational background (homogamy)
  • Social class
  • Marital status: some studies show second marriages are less endogamous (more mixed faith)

Summary

The 2001 Census for England and Wales showed that:

For every 10 married Jewish individuals:

  • 8 are Jews married to other Jews (4 endogamous couples)
  • 1 is a Jew married to a non-Jew
  • 1 is a Jew whose spouse's religious identity is unknown

Possibly a larger demographic problem than the intermarriage rate, however, is whether Jews marrying Jews are having on average as many as two children full stop! If not, the whole intermarriage problem is missing the point!

The Muslims and the Sikhs show much higher proportions of endogamy. You can argue as to why this is so. More recent arrivals in this country? Skin colour? Food for thought.

non-religious Jews

Date: 2006-03-19 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
You also need to take in consideration that many of those Jews who intermarry are not religious, have no Jewish education or just do not like Orthodoxy and did not know enough about other alternatives (also a lack of knowledge). You did not know about Masorti before either and I had to persuade you. You did not want to believe that this is not like Reform. I won't believe that you are marrying someone who does not care about Judaism or someone really non-Jewish (who is not going to convert for herself).

Re: non-religious Jews

Date: 2006-03-19 07:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
You also need to take in consideration that many of those Jews who intermarry are not religious, have no Jewish education or just do not like Orthodoxy and did not know enough about other alternatives (also a lack of knowledge).

Yes to the start of that, though intermarriage is not an Orthodox problem; it's one affecting all denominations. The Masorti people you see in shul and at Marom events are the most committed; there's plenty of people less committed, who are just as much at risk of intermarriage as Orthodox people. Indeed, I heard one of the Masorti rabbis, I forget which, say the Masorti movement has a higher drop-out rate than Orthodoxy, because when you don't believe something (necessarily) came from G-d it's harder to keep committed to doing it.

You did not know about Masorti before either and I had to persuade you. You did not want to believe that this is not like Reform.

That's not true. I had considered Masorti before I came to London; the reason I did not investigate it was because by the time I came to London I had moved theologically past Masorti, and thought if I was going to be theologically unhappy, I might as well be so within Orthodoxy. (What I had to discover is that in a movement where I fit in better, such theological differences as remained were no longer as important for me.) My initial reservations about going to Assif were probably based on its egalitarianism.

I won't believe that you are marrying someone who does not care about Judaism or someone really non-Jewish (who is not going to convert for herself).

Well yes, obviously (assuming you mean "will marry" for "are marrying"); this article is not talking about myself, but trends amongst the populace as a whole.

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