Jewish Continuity and Intermarriage
American Jewry is experiencing two narratives. Jews enjoy greater opportunities than ever before to lead a creative Jewish life, and many are doing so to degrees never imagined by their parents and grandparents. Conversely, a larger number are choosing to withdraw from Jewish communal life.
Human relations efforts to strengthen ties between Jews and others make sense only within the context of a critical mass of Jews interested in leading a creative Jewish life. Combating anti-Semitism presupposes the importance of having Jews in the world. In other words, defense of Jewish rights against external foes should run in tandem with the defense of Jewish teachings and Jewish creative vitality against the internal dangers of indifference to the Jewish enterprise and erosion of Jewish commitment. The Contemporary Jewish Life Department was established by AJC in 1964 specifically as a vehicle to combat assimilation and to underscore the identity of AJC as a Jewish organization.
The goal of continuity efforts should be development of knowledgeable Jews who can make informed choices about the nature of their commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people. Our goal should be to ensure that the choices Jews make are informed choices rather than out of ignorance. More knowledgeable Jews are, in all likelihood, going to choose to be more committed Jews. Studies repeatedly indicate the high correlation between intensive Jewish education and Jewish continuity.
The Jewish community must develop a multi-track approach to strengthen Jewish identity and positive Jewish experience in both in-marriages and mixed-marriages. We must reach-in and reach out. AJC studies as well as other studies show that the rapidly rising number of intermarriages represents a serious risk to the vitality of the Jewish community, Jewish continuity, and identity. The challenge for the Jewish community is to offer positive communal and personal connection to intermarrieds while at the same time to develop and encourage programs that lead to Jews marrying other Jews. Conversion to Judaism remains the single best outcome to a mixed-marriage. However, the community ought to maintain open doors to all Jews, those seeking to be Jews, and those who wish to raise their children as Jews.