Jews Respond to Interfaith Marriage Question

October 31, 2000

Source: The New York Times

On October 31, 2000, The New York Times reported that "most American Jews accept marriages between Jews and non-Jews, a national survey by a major Jewish organization has found. The results of the survey by the American Jewish Committee contrast with the positions held by most rabbis, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, who oppose interfaith marriage as being against Jewish tradition and a threat to the future of a distinct Jewish community. The issue has become increasingly important and controversial within many Jewish organizations as the number of such marriages has risen sharply in the last three decades. Some estimates suggest that as many as half of the marriages by Jews in recent years have been to non-Jews.

"In the survey, a majority of respondents said they did not oppose interfaith marriage. Forty percent said they were neutral about such unions, and 16 percent said they regarded interfaith marriages as 'a positive good.' Twelve percent said they strongly disapproved of interfaith marriages, while 30 percent said they would be disappointed by such marriages if the non-Jewish partner did not convert to Judaism. In a further measure of opinions on the issue, 56 percent said they disagreed with the statement, 'It would pain me if my child married a gentile,' and 80 percent said they agreed that 'intermarriage is inevitable in an open society.' Fifty percent said it was racist to oppose marriages between Jews and non-Jews, while 47 percent disagreed. Sixty-nine percent said Jews had 'an obligation to urge Jews to marry Jews.' And in a separate question, asked to choose which posed 'a greater threat to Jewish life,' 50 percent said anti-Semitism, 41 percent said interfaith marriage. The questions were posed in the 2000 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, in which 1,010 Jews were interviewed by telephone in September by Market Facts Inc., a research company in Chicago. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points."