New Trends in Intermarriage

I see family members—generally couples themselves but including parents, siblings, and friends—on a regular basis to discuss issues surrounding intermarriage. Although New York is an amalgam of cultures, my calendar does not reflect the national trends: those of other religious backgrounds who marry Jews in the Northeast are often Roman Catholic. Perhaps this is another example in which it is always important to filter the work of researchers through the work of those on the front line, those who are working with interfaith couples and their families on a daily basis.

It is in this context that I am intrigued about one of the latest Hollywood releases—27 Dresses—a film that I would normally pay no attention to since it is clearly a “chick flick.” What piqued my interest is the film includes a Jewish-Hindu wedding. As a matter of fact, this wedding opens the film (as the main character shuttles back and forth with another wedding), and thereby helps to establish the foundation for the film’s storyline. This serves as yet another example of the fact that megatrends are out as a way of informing our work, and microtrends are in. Jews aren’t just marrying Catholics anymore. There are a growing number of weddings between Jews and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and Jews marrying those from a variety of other religious and ethnic backgrounds. It may not be the focal point of the film, it’s probably just included for so-called comedic purposes, but it is present nonetheless and must be reckoned with.

The Jewish wedding in the film reflects a circumstance that I encounter with increasing frequency in our work at the Jewish Outreach Institute. If we are to become a truly open community that welcomes a variety of diverse backgrounds, then we have to understand the latest trends and be responsive to them.


  1. It is interesting that while I use statistics (eg the birthrate at Kiryas Yoel) to make my point, this website is full of references to fiction (eg tv shows, movies, artistic photography, etc) to make its point.

    Comment by Dave — January 27, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  2. Your “statistics” are anecdotal and are limited to a very small community. I am reflecting on issues that face the majority of the North American Jewish community.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — January 27, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  3. Could be Rabbi Olitzky is right, or it could be that this movie (and the Jewish-Hindu wedding depicted) is more a reflection of Hollywood trying to socially engineer America to accept its unique brand of values. Indeed, well before intermarriage rates were as high as they are in the U.S. today, Hollywood was coming out with films depicting them in high numbers. Today, it is rare to see two Jews marry onscreen, though the intermarriage rate is 50%, not close to 90%, as the films depict.

    There are some Jewish-Hindu marriages, but not many, at least not yet, and not in the U.S. (I imagine there are mroe in India).

    So is this an example of Hollywood portraying reality, or trying to create it? Probably the latter.

    Comment by marc — January 28, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  4. Again your information is incorrect. there are plenty of films in which jews marry jews. but there is also an interest in reflecting the emerging diversity in the jewish community. We believe that diversity is actually the key to Jewish continuity and will continue to work in that regard.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — February 6, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

  5. I disagree. (Notice I did not write “you are incorrect” which is not so nice to say unless you have some solid evidence to rely upon.) I think the vast majority of mainstream theater-screened films and prime time tv shows in which a Jew is portrayed as dating or intermarried, shows that Jew’s partner to be a non-Jew.

    Woody Allen, Ben Stiller, Paul Reiser, at least 2 out of 3 Jews on the cast of Friends (true Ross dated Rachel on an off, but ultimately he intermarried), Adam Sandler, to name but a few as examples whose movies and shows illustrate the point. In fact, it is difficult to come up with examples of Jews marrying one another in the entertainment mediums going all the way back to the 70s. There are a few to be sure, but they are the exception to the rule. This does not reflect reality, though it may influence it.

    If you have some evidence to the contrary, I would be interested to read it.

    Comment by marc — February 8, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  6. The factors that cause intermarriage to be portrayed on TV have little to do with reality, just like any other theme on TV has little to do with reality.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — February 8, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  7. I agree, but that does not mean that TV and movies do not, in turn, influence reality. For example, there’s a theory (I don’t know if it’s true) that letting young boys watch violent movies leads to more violence in teen boys and later on in husbands.

    If it’s true, then it would be an example of entertainment influencing outcomes rather than reflecting them. I posit that the same might be true of intermarriage trends in America, that’s all.

    Comment by marc — February 8, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

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