Intermarriage and Jewish Journeys in the United States 2008

Sponsor(s): National Center for Jewish Policy Studies at Hebrew College

Principal Investigator(s): Arnold Dashefsky, Zachary I. Heller

Study Dates: Interviews conducted 2001-2005; report issued 2008.

Population Estimates: Report is NOT a population study.

Report examines the first phase of a longitudinal study of 149 married interfaith couples in four communities representing diverse regions of the country: Northeast (Boston), Midwest (St. Louis), West (San Francisco Bay Area), and South (Atlanta).

Key Findings: This study was designed to explore four primary research questions by combining the answers of the respondents from the four regions of the U.S.A.:

1) What are the factors that attract interfaith couples to Judaism and the Jewish community?

2) What are the factors that repel interfaith couples from Judaism and the Jewish community?

3) How do the needs of interfaith families and concerns in regard to the Jewish community change over time?

4) How should the Jewish community most effectively respond to interfaith marriage?

In the sample, 61% of couples were married in a ceremony that included a rabbi, while 34% were married in a ceremony with a non-Jewish clergy member. Couples that were married in a ceremony with sole rabbinic officiation were more likely to raise their children exclusively as Jewish.

Some of the interfaith couples reported experiencing explicit anti-Semitism but experiencing “subtle anti-Semitism” was a much more common experience. In the sample, 45% of Jewish respondents expressed concern regarding non-Jewish in-laws and relatives harboring anti-Semitic sentiments.

Sample: Data were collected and coded from interviews with 149 intermarried couples - both spouses were interviewed for a total of 298 individual interviews.

Sample Size: Number of couples interviewed per city: Boston: 48, St. Louis: 41, Atlanta: 32, Bay Area: 28.

Sample Notes: Project researchers attempted to interview intermarried Jewish couples who were marginal to the Jewish community.

Local organizations assisted in recruitment; couples were contacted, and if they agreed to the study, in-depth interviews were scheduled for a later date.

Despite their efforts, the researchers were concerned that the sample was not as marginal as desired; for example, these interfaith households often reported similar rates of Jewish religious observances and behaviors compared to the normative patterns of behavior of all American Jews according to the NJPS 2000-2001 - except for keeping kosher.

Study Notes: After the interviews, spouses completed separate questionnaires.

For more information on the sample and study methods, please see pages 7-8 and 11-12 of the summary report.

Readers should note the responses of Jewish partners and non-Jewish partners about how their children were being raised often did not coincide.

For a related study which interviewed both spouses in an intermarriage, please see Pearl Beck's Cleveland Intermarriage Survey, 2007, in the Data Bank archives.


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