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Jewish Community Urged to Reach out to Intermarried Couples

January 24, 1979
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An American Jewish Committee report on intermarriage released today urged the American Jewish community and institutions to reach out to intermarried couples in an effort to have them become more involved in the community.

Yehuda Rosenman, director of the A J Committee’s Department of Jewish Communal Affairs, told a press conference, that with intermarriage increasing the Jewish community needs to change its attitude not by accepting intermarriage as a norm but accepting in the community the intermarried couples.”

Rosenman and Dr. Egon Mayer, an associate professors of sociology at Brooklyn College, who was research director for the study, also called for a more positive attitude toward converting the non Jewish partner to Judaism. Mayer said that among the younger couples there was more of a tendency to convert to Judaism.

The report, called “Intermarriage and the Jewish Future, is based on responses to questions from 446 intermarried couples, ranging in age from 20-70, in Cleveland, Dallas, Long Island, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Westchester County. About 21 percent, of the non-Jewish spouses had converted to Judaism and 3.3 percent of the Jews had converted to their spouse’s religion. The majority of the couples were in what the report termed “mixed marriages” where both partners maintained their religion.

Two-thirds of the couples were made up of Jewish men married to non-Jewish women. But Rosenman pointed out that among the younger couples the cases of Jewish women marrying non-Jews was increasing. He said this could be attributed to greater education for women, the women’s liberation movement, among other things.

Mayer pointed out that the report found that among the couples where a spouse had converted to Judaism the percentage of those who were involved in the Jewish community or observed various religious practices was as high or higher than among the general Jewish population as a whole. He said the report also showed that the more Jewish knowledge and identification someone had when marrying a non-Jew the more likely was he or she to remain identified with the Jewish community after the marriage.


Rosenman said the A JCommittee would in the future be contributing more toward Jewish education. The report stresses that the most “important focus” in the Jewish community’s outreach to the intermarried “must be education, directed not solely to the Jewish spouse, but to the couple and to their children”

The report also urged that adult Jewish education not be limited to the intermarried. “If it is important to encourage more conversions to Judaism among the intermarried, it is even more important for many who were born Jewish to experience a learning similar to conversion.

The A JCommittee decided to make the study after a 1971 report of the National Jewish Population Study conducted by the Council of Jewish Federations; Rosenman explained. He said this study found that where intermarriage rose to 17.4 percent between 1961-65, it climbed to 31.7 percent from 1966-72. Mayer said one-third of all Jews getting married now married a non-Jew. He said there were about 300,000 Jews in the United States married to non-Jews with an estimated total of 500,000 children. He said most children of intermarried couples do not receive any Jewish education at all.

Rosenman noted that intermarriage and the declining Jewish birthrate were the major domestic concerns of American Jews in the 1970s. He said the AJCommittee report tried to bring into perspective an issue that has become emotional among many Jews.

Rosenman stressed that a major challenge for American Jews shown by the report was how Jews should be to tatty integrated info American life while maintaining their religious, cultural and communal distinctions. He said the Jewish opposition to intermarriage was “not a question of intolerance of others” or “clannishness,” but a “desire on the part of Jews to remain as a people or a religious community and not to be assimilated or swallowed up by the larger non-Jewish groups among whom Jews lived for the last 2000 years.”

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