Overwhelming Support for Outreach to Intermarrieds
NEW SURVEY FINDS
Often thought to be a deeply divisive issue in the American
Jewish community, outreach to intermarried families has
found overwhelming support in a just-completed survey
by the Jewish Outreach Institute conducted among Jewish
community professionals who represent the backbone of
educational, cultural, recreational and social services
in the organized Jewish community.
Carried out by a mail questionnaire, the survey was
sent to the membership of the National Association of
Jewish Communal Professionals, consisting primarily
of Jewish social workers who staff Jewish community
centers, day camps, family service agencies, senior
residences, and child care programs. The sample included
Jewish outreach professionals on the JOI mailing list.
A total of 377 responded.
More than 93 percent felt that it was "somewhat" or
"very" important that the Jewish community provide outreach
programs to interfaith couples and their children. Approximately
80 percent indicated the belief that the amount of money
allocated by national and local Jewish agencies to such
outreach endeavors ought to be increased. When asked
to estimate what proportion of their agencies current
budget was spend on outreach to the intermarried, the
average estimate was five percent.
Question: "How receptive had your community been
to outreach programs?"
||J O I
|Jewish Communal Professionals
|Not At All Receptive
|Not Very Receptive
||100% * [N=325]
| * Totals
in table may not add to 100% due to rounding
That estimate is in sharp contrast with
respondents' reports of the proportion of their clients
and other personal associates who are intermarried.
On the average, survey respondents reported that: (1)about
half of their clients are either intermarried themselves
or have close family (i.e. children, grandchildren,
siblings, or parents) who are intermarried; (2)about
one third of their family and friends were intermarried;
(3) about 40 percent of their agencies' board members
had close family experiences with intermarriage. When
asked to estimate what proportion of their job responsibilities
was devoted to outreach to the intermarried, the average
estimate was less than ten percent.
In short, the study reveals a widely shared perception
among Jewish communal professionals that the need
for outreach to the intermarried is far greater than
is the amount of financial resources or effort devoted
serving that population.
The survey also found that the great majority of
Jewish communal professionals have had little or no
training for working with the intermarried population
and would welcome continuing education programs and
materials that would help them do so. Those sampled
from the JOI list tended to have considerably more
professional training in this area of service.
In releasing the findings of this latest survey,
Mr David W. Belin, Chairman of the Jewish Outreach
Institute, observed, "This study constitutes our sixth
intiative since 1991 to take the collective pulse
of diverse segments of the Jewish community on this
important issue. What is so remarkable is the consistency
of opinion from survey to survey about the overwhelming
support for reaching out to interfaith families. Taken
all together, the findings of these surveys are truly
a portrait of consensus on what needs to be done to
meet one of the greatest challenges facing modern
Absence of Resistance to Development or Expansion
of Outreach Programs Among:
In 1995 and 1996 the Institute also
conducted a nationwide survey of interfaith families
to find out what receptivity there was among them to
Jewish community programs and services designed for
them. Those studies, conducted on behalf of JOI by the
prestigious National Family Opinion Corp., found that
the majority of young interfaith families-with small
children-were interested in programs to help them become
better intergrated into Jewish life.
David G. Sacks, president of the Jewish Outreach
Institute and past president of the UJA/Federation
of New York, remarked, "The findings of our latest
survey are nothing short of a mandate to finally move
the issue of outreach from much heated talk to englightened
action. If the example of the New York Federation
is any guide, the message is beginning to be heard.
We hope that the findings of this latest survey will
encourage creative new outreach initiatives throughout
the entire organized Jewish community.
"This survey of Jewish outreach professionals mirrors
results from JOI's 1991 and 1992 surveys of lay and
professional leadership of synagogues and Jewish community
agencies as well as among the readership of major
Jewish community newspapers. All three previous surveys
found overwhelming support for efforts by the Jewish
community to reach out to interfaith families," said
Dr. Egon Mayer, a sociologist who serves as the Director
of Research for the Jewish Outreach Institute.