Denominational Variations & Intermarriage
According to the authoritative 1990 National Jewish Population
Survey (NJPS), there are important differences in the
rate of intermarriage between those who are Orthodox,
Conservative or Reform. However, these differences themselves
vary greatly depending on whether one is considering how
many people were "raised" (as Orthodox, Conservative,
or Reform), or whether they are "currently" Orthodox,
Conservative, or Reform.
It is important to keep in mind that historically,
the great majority of those raised Orthodox have ended
up identifying as Conservative and Reform Jews in adulthood.
Whether claims might be made for the strengths of Orthodoxy,
this movement has been the highest exporter of Jews to
other movements. When the paired answers of each individual
respondent in the 1990 NJPS were examined, comparing their
answers to the question of how they were raised with the
question of what they considered themselves currently,
it was found that only approximately 22% of married adults
raised as Orthodox, currently identified as Orthodox.
Percent Remaining in Denomination in Which Raised
The percentage of those intermarrying by
their denomination of upbringing and current identification
is shown to the right. Generally speaking, those Jews
who currently identify with any denominational movement
have a lower rate of intermarriage than those who have
no such identification. Of course, it remains an open
question as to which comes first: identification or intermarriage.
It may well be that those who intermarry are more likely
to relinquish movement identification, rather than the
absence of movement identification somehow increases the
probability of an intermarriage.
The percentage of households that are exclusively
Jewish (as opposed to those consisting of both Jews
and non-Jews) varies greatly by the year of marriage
in addition to the denominational background of the
respondent as shown in the graph below.
The statistical association between higher rates of
intermarriage and absence of Jewish movement identification
suggests that all branches of Judaism have a stake in
reaching out to those who are most marginal to organized
Jewish communal life.
At present, about 40 percent of the children of the
intermarried are being brought up with no clear religious
identity and 28% are being brought up with a defined
Jewish identity. Only about a third of the children
are being give a distinct religious identity hat is
At JOI we believe that we have an obligation as well
as an opportunity to the largely undefined 40 percent
-- all the more so when they are "halachically" Jewish--to
try to bring them into the Jewish fold.