Is Canada Really Different—and is Vancouver Really Canadian?

Another demographic article from Israel’s Jerusalem Post reflects the latest doom and gloom picture about North American Jewry by lamenting the rising intermarriage rate in Vancouver, among its various other challenges. Here is what the author says:

The figures and trends generated by a 2001 census were startling, indicating that 41% of Jews are intermarried, and that the majority of new intermarriages are occurring among Jews aged 30 and younger. That intermarriage rate represents the highest of any major Jewish community in Canada.

While it isn’t really true when considering the rate for under 30, the author’s implicit question seems to be: isn’t Canada supposed to be behind the United States in its rising intermarriage rate? Perhaps it is true if you look at Montreal and Toronto. But what about Ottawa where JOI has been working the past year? The rates seem fairly consistent with what Vancouver is experiencing—even somewhat lower for the under 30 population segment. But what troubles me is the repetitive focus on the intermarriage rate as the discriminating variable (to borrow a technical term from research).

Instead, why don’t the planners in Vancouver begin to look at whether these families are raising Jewish children? Moreover, as they begin to recognize that the future of Vancouver’s Jewish community does not look like its past, why not make sure that the institutions in Vancouver have opened themselves up to interfaith families and their children, as well as others on the periphery of the community? That’s what JOI is helping Ottawa to do, as the first Canadian community to lead the way.

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