Children of Intermarriage are Reshaping the Contours of American Jewish Life
Yesterday in New York City, the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies released their latest study “Millennial Children of Intermarriage: Touchpoints and Trajectories of Jewish Engagement.”
The study’s “bottom line” is that Jewish experiences in college years, including participation in Birthright Israel and campus-based programs such as Hillel and Chabad, are extremely powerful in engaging children of intermarriage in Jewish life. The study suggests that if we could expand access to Birthright Israel and other high-quality Jewish educational and social experiences during college, we can eliminate the differences that currently exist between children of inter- and in-marriage.
As we learned from the Pew study, children of intermarriage in the millennial generation are far more likely to identify as Jewish compared to the children of intermarriages in previous generations. Today the proportion of American Jews [who are the children of intermarriage in the millennial generation] stands at roughly half, and it is likely to increase further in the generation that follows. The result is intermarriage and the tendency of the children of intermarriage to identify as Jewish in such large numbers are reshaping the contours of American Jewish life.
The study is the first comprehensive assessment to examine the religious upbringing, college experiences, and current attitudes and practices of millennial children of intermarriage. This is the first cohort born after the intermarriage rate in America crossed the 50 percent threshold and currently comprises half of the young adult Jewish population. Based on a survey with nearly 2,700 respondents (ages 19-32) and interviews in four cities, the study finds that college Jewish experiences can have a profound impact, with the potential of closing the gap between children of intermarriage and children of inmarriage on many measures of Jewish engagement.
- Children of intermarriage were less likely than children of inmarriage to have attended a Jewish day school or supplementary school, observed Jewish holidays, and participated in informal Jewish social and educational activities during their childhood or teen years.
- As a result, children of intermarriage were less likely during their college years to participate in a Jewish group (e.g., Hillel or Chabad) or take a Jewish or Israel-related course. Among applicants to Birthright Israel, they were less likely to go on a trip, and less likely to do so during their college years.
- Among the substantial number of children of intermarriage that did participate in Jewish activities during college – in particular Birthright Israel and campus-based Jewish groups – the impact was profound. At the time they completed the survey, they were much more likely to observe Jewish holidays and practices, feel connected to Israel and the Jewish people, have Jewish friends and partners, and believe that it is important to raise children Jewish.
- College Jewish experiences were, for most outcomes, more influential for children of intermarriage than children of inmarriage, nearly closing the gap on many measures of Jewish engagement.
The complete study is available for download here.
(Updated to reflect the importance of paragraph 2)