Millennial Children of Intermarriage: Religious Upbringing, Identification, and Behavior Among Children of Jewish and Non-Jewish Parents

Abstract

The study examines changes in religious upbringing, identification, and behavior among children of intermarriage across three generations. Drawing on data from the 2013 Pew Research Center’s survey of Jewish Americans, we show that children of marriages between Jews and non-Jews in the Millennial generation are more likely than older counterparts to have been raised Jewish and to have received a formal Jewish education. Further, as a result of more widespread Jewish upbringing and education, they are more likely to identify as Jewish in adulthood and practice some aspects of Judaism. We attribute these developments primarily to the more welcoming and inclusive attitudes and practices toward intermarried families by Jewish organizations during the 1980s and 1990s. We discuss the study’s implications for Jewish demographic continuity and for the study of the dynamic interplay between intermarriage and religious affiliation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Implementation of this survey was flawed, and its estimates have been challenged (see Kadushin, Phillips, and Saxe, 2005).

  2. 2.

    The smaller Reconstructionist movement has recognized patrilineal descent as a basis for Jewish identity since 1968.

  3. 3.

    In the present study, we adopt the Pew Research Center’s scheme of classification of Jewish identity. Following Saxe, Sasson, and Aronson (2014), we incorporated an analysis of the respondents’ verbatim answers in order to assign ambiguous cases.

  4. 4.

    Two other measures of religious observance, keeping kosher and avoiding handling money on Shabbat, were excluded from the analysis because of the small proportion of Jews who participate in either activity.

  5. 5.

    Because this is a logistic regression, model coefficients are expressed as odds ratios. Odds, in contrast to probability, are the ratio of a positive outcome divided by a negative outcome. When the odds of an outcome are one, it means that the outcome is equally likely to happen as not to happen — it is equivalent to a 50% probability. In a logistic regression, the coefficient of the constant is the odds of an outcome when all other variables in the model are set to zero. Other than the constant, all other coefficients are expressed as odds ratios. Odds ratios compare the odds of an outcome for a given condition compared to the odds for a baseline condition. If the odds ratio is one, it means that the odds of the outcome for both conditions are equal. When the odds ratio is greater than one, it means than the odds of the outcome are higher for the given condition than for the baseline group. When the odds ratio is less than one, it means that the odds of the outcome are lower for the condition of interest than the baseline group.

  6. 6.

    The National Jewish Population Survey 2000–01 provides only limited and potentially misleading data on this question. See Kadushin, Phillips, and Saxe (2005).

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Sasson, T., Aronson, J.K., Chertok, F. et al. Millennial Children of Intermarriage: Religious Upbringing, Identification, and Behavior Among Children of Jewish and Non-Jewish Parents. Cont Jewry 37, 99–123 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12397-017-9202-0

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Keywords

  • Intermarriage
  • Jewish identity
  • Millennials