American Jews have been debating the impact of intermarriage for decades.Does intermarriage lead to assimilation and weaken the Jewish community? Jews did not start this debate and certainly will not end it.
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In that sense, intermarriage may be seen as weakening the religious identity of Jews in America.
Yet the survey also suggests that a rising percentage of the children of intermarriages are Jewish in adulthood.
Among Americans age 65 and older who say they had one Jewish parent, 25% are Jewish today.
By contrast, among adults under 30 with one Jewish parent, 59% are Jewish today.
Also, intermarriage is more common among Jewish respondents who are themselves the children of intermarriage.
Among married Jews who report that only one of their parents was Jewish, just 17% are married to a Jewish spouse.
By contrast, among married Jews who say both of their parents were Jewish, 63% have a Jewish spouse. For example, among Jewish Baby Boomers who had two Jewish parents, 88% say their religion is Jewish; hence, we categorize them as “Jews by religion.” But among Baby Boomers who had one Jewish parent, 53% describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no particular religion, even though they also say they consider themselves Jewish or partially Jewish aside from religion; they are categorized as “Jews of no religion” in the table.
Among Jews, the adult offspring of intermarriages are also much more likely than people with two Jewish parents to describe themselves religiously as atheist, agnostic or just “nothing in particular.” This is the case among all recent generations of U. Far fewer Jewish Baby Boomers who had two Jewish parents (12%) are Jews of no religion today.
In this sense, intermarriage may be transmitting Jewish identity to a growing number of Americans. They typically show associations, or linkages, rather than clear causal connections, and they don’t predict the future.