It’s 1990 for Argentina’s Jewish community.
1990 was the year the U.S. Jewish community received a major shock through its National Jewish Population Survey, which found that 52% of Jews who had married in the prior 5 years had intermarried. Now, our friend Ezequiel Erdei, of the Joint Distribution Committee, thru its MEIDA Center For Latin America Jewish Studies, tells us that their most recent study found that 40% of marriages containing Jews in Argentina are intermarriages; nearly the 47% currently in the U.S. Jewish community. The study is online here.
As I told to Ezequiel, I sincerely hope the Argentinian Jewish community can learn from the successes and failures that followed the 1990 study here in the United States. The overwhelming reaction of the U.S. Jewish community was, “We must stop intermarriage.” They tried to close the barn door after much of the livestock had already escaped (to use an expression that might resonate in the Pampas). While many excellent new initiatives were created to strengthen Jewish identity among young Jews, which was a great thing, only a tiny fraction of those resources went into engaging the already-intermarried households.
Fifteen years later, the rate of intermarriage is unchanged. We may have seen some increase in the number of intermarried families raising their children Jewish, however, and it is to this effort that more of our resources must be dedicated. We hope the Jews of Argentina might take more of a two-pronged approach than what happened (and continues to happen) in the U.S.: to both strengthen Jewish identity AND engage the already-intermarried, and to dedicate resources to these two goals evenly.