Coverage of the Coming Majority: JTA on the Children of Intermarriage

On March 8th, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published a series of articles as a special report by Sue Fishkoff that examine the many challenges faced by the adult children of intermarriage.

Fishkoff’s main article, “Children of intermarried find they’re off community’s radar,” discusses the sizable but often unrecognized group of people ages 18 and older who have intermarried parents. They are, as we at JOI have called them, “the coming majority” of the Jewish community. What prompted the population spike in this demographic? “This is the first wave of adult children from that huge rise in intermarriage that began in the 1980s,” says JOI’s Paul Golin in the article.

While this portion of the population is clearly significant, it is, in the words of JOI’s executive director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, “a population that is not on the Jewish communal radar.” In fact, little research has even been done on this demographic, though the article does cite JOI’s 2005 study “A Flame Still Burns” and includes a graph comparing the results of that quantitative study with the large-scale National Jewish Population Survey to show that the 90 young adults from intermarried households we interviewed shared many attributes with the hundreds surveyed by the NJPS.

The second article, “For children of intermarriage, decisive influences can vary,” explores the belief choices of these young adults and, in an interesting twist, discusses families where children chose differently – in one instance, a boy opted to follow his father’s example and become Catholic while his sister aligned herself with Judaism, the religion of her mother. If educational decisions made by parents for their children is the most important factor in Jewish identity - as some critics have recently claimed - how do they explain children from the same parents making vastly different spiritual decisions? It happens all the time, including in families with two Jewish parents where one of their children intermarries and the other in-marries even though they shared the same Jewish education.

Additionally the article covers topics such as the issues brought on when a couple divorces and the “third option” some intermarried couples choose by educating their children Quaker or Unitarian. It is encouraging to see this population receive the media coverage it deserves, and these article do more than simply cover the basics.

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