Intermarriage in the Deaf Community

Intermarriage is a demographic issue, more than an ideological one. That is why it is not surprising to learn that the Jewish deaf community is one of the overrepresented subgroups among the intermarried in the American Jewish community. Take my cousin, for example. He met his non-Jewish wife at a deaf theater group. Neither could hear, yet their mutual affection for the stage and love for each other led to marriage and a child. Like many deaf Jews, my cousin’s priority was marrying someone he could communicate with rather than someone he shared a religious and ethnic background with.

Our Way, a subset of the Orthodox Union and established in 1969, sponsors the Jewish Deaf Singles Registry, which accounts for the fact that deaf Jews are a very small slice of the already small Jewish singles demographic. This summer, the Registry organized a trip to Israel for sixteen deaf American Jews between the ages of 25 and 67, as reported in the Jewish Week. The tour’s organizer Batya Jacob explained, “The primary goal was to offer an interpreted trip, so that they could explore Israel like anyone else.”

As with many trips to Israel for single Jews (like Birthright Israel), the not-so-covert goal of the organizers is to encourage in-marriage. “It’s a small deaf Jewish world, so it’s not easy to find the right person,” Jacob said. While that is fine for this particular group, it doesn’t help the already-intermarried among the deaf Jewish community. We should also be asking ourselves as a community: how can we serve the deaf intermarried population? How can we encourage them to raise Jewish children?

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