(December 5, 2021 / JNS) Jews have always been at the forefront of progressive ideas. This has made for a creative and dynamic people. Unfortunately, it has also led to increasing rates of assimilation and intermarriage.
According to the Pew Research Study of 2020, only 34 percent of U.S. Jews said that it was very important to them that their grandchildren be Jewish. With “cancel culture” leading the way and “wokism” as the new religion, the rate of assimilation and intermarriage in the United States is on its way up.
According to the Pew study, among American Jews who wed between 2010 and 2020, 61 percent intermarried. Among the non-Orthodox and non-affiliated, it was 72 percent. 98 percent of Orthodox Jews said that they were married to Jews.
Sixty percent of European Jewry has been lost to assimilation since WW II. In Poland, the figure stands at 70 percent. In the former Soviet Union, it reaches 90 percent. These are shocking statistics.
Israel is also far from immune, with a 38 percent jump in intermarriage from 2011 to 2018. Recent work by Dr. Netanel Fisher showed that there are 85,000 intermarried couples in Israel. The majority are Jewish men married to non-Jewish women from the former Soviet Union. A total of 7 percent of marriages in Israel are mixed.
The story becomes even more disturbing when analyzing the number of Israelis who emigrated to America and subsequently intermarried. There are one million Israelis living in the Diaspora. There are high assimilation rates among the second generation.
It is estimated that the rate of intermarriage among second-generation Israelis living in the United States is close to 75 percent. Professor Lilach Lev Ari, an expert on immigration and ethnic identity, explains: “Israeli immigrants find themselves in a pluralistic society, in which they must redefine their Jewish and Israeli identity. When these people lived in Israel, they resided in an area with permanent Jewish characteristics in their day-to-day life: the community, the Hebrew Language, the educational system, national holidays. That’s not the case abroad. In the United States, you have to work hard to preserve your Jewishness. If you don’t put an effort into it on a daily basis, including financial and mental resources, it will disappear.”
This, of course, does not only apply to Israelis, but to the entire American-Jewish community.
This is where the Jewish Reform movement has failed miserably. It is up to the Orthodox to do a much better job of bringing back our own.
When the Israeli actress, Gal Gadot, goes out of her way to encourage intermarriage by co-producing a film on an Israeli-Palestinian love story, there must be a tremendous outcry. The movie was based on a book that was excluded from the Israeli high school curriculum in 2015 for threatening “Jewish identity.”
Assimilation and intermarriage is killing the Jewish people. Jewish Leaders must unite to prevent the scourge from overtaking us.
Education, kiruv activities and outreach on all levels—much more of a united and concerted effort to fight the epidemic—is needed now.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.
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