Sociological Studies on Conversion and Intermarriage

Since the 1990 Jewish population survey, intermarriage and outreach have been two of the most studied and debated issues in the Jewish community. The following section contains links to many of the most important studies of the past decade dealing with rates of intermarriage, conversion, and Jewish connection throughout the Jewish community.

List of Studies

Cohen, Steven M. A Tale of Two Jewries: An "Inconvenient Truth" For American Jews. Jewish Life Network / Steinhart Foundation, Nov. 2006.

Abstract: Whatever the current course of trends and developments in American Jewry, how should policy-makers respond to the current and likely future tendencies? Which policies can support, sustain, and expand the areas of Jewish cultural and religious vitality and renewal? What exactly are the real dangers and the real opportunities for American Jewry - and how can they be respectively avoided and exploited? To examine these and related questions, this paper relies heavily upon the 2000-01 NJPS, utilizing analyses run specifically for this paper as well as previously published studies by the author and others.

Fern Chertok, Benjamin Phillips, &.Leonard Saxe, It's Not Just Who Stands Under The Chuppah. Intermarriage and Engagement. Steinhart Social Research Institute. May, 2008.

Abstract: Contemporary debates concerning assimilation and continuity in the Jewish community tend to focus on the religious identity of the couple that "stands under the chuppah" to the exclusion of all other factors. Our analysis of multiple sources of data suggest, however, that Jewish socialization in the form of Jewish education, experience of home ritual, and social networks plays a far more important role than having intermarried parents, in determining Jewish identity, behavior, and connections.

Saxe, Leonard; Tighe, Elizabeth; Phillips, Benjamin; Kadushin, Charles. Reconsidering the Size and Characteristics of the American Jewish Population. Steinhart Social Research Institute. Jan, 2007.

Abstract: SSRI's newly released study "Reconsidering the Size and Characteristics of the American Jewish Population" finds the Jewish community in the United States is not only larger than previously believed, but more diverse as well. Over six million Americans currently identify as Jewish or are children of Jewish parents, almost 20% larger than earlier assessments. Researchers also discovered that the U.S. Jewish population includes a higher number of non-Orthodox individuals than indicated by past demographic studies. The study points to the need to reconsider our views of American Jewry and the need for greater investment in the community.

Beck, Pearl. A Flame Still Burns: The Dimensions and Determinants of Jewish Identity Among Young Adult Children of the Intermarried - Findings and Policy Implications. Jewish Outreach Institute. June, 2005.

Abstract: Based on 90 face-to-face interviews with people age 22-30 who grew up with one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent the study presents a textured portrait that reveals the complex and multi-faceted attitudes and behaviors of the respondents. The study develops policy initiatives and strategies for engaging this population.

Fern Chertok, Benjamin Phillips, &.Leonard Saxe, Intermarriage: Reframing Discourse and Action. Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. March 2008.

Abstract: This Powerpoint presentation addresses: current discourse about intermarriage, including the move from a disease model focused on prevention andtreatment to a focus on how to engage families in meaningful Jewish life; the misinterpretation of data on Jewish engagement relating to intermarriage, especially how the differences between intermarried/inmarried households mask the critical role of meaningful Jewish education and experiences; Possibilities and policy recommendations to change patterns of engagement with Jewish life and opportunities to alter trajectories of the next generation.

Chertok, Fern; Rosen, Mark I.; Sales, Amy L.; Saxe, Leonard. Outreach Families in the Sacred Common: Congregational Responses to Interfaith Issues. Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Nov. 2001.

Abstract: A qualitative study conducted to understand the engagement of interfaith and conversionary families in synagogue life within the Reform Movement. Site visits and comprehensive informant interviews were conducted at six different North American congregations. Themes emerged regarding the impact of congregational outreach efforts, Jewish education, and the multiple roles of Rabbis in the integration and involvement of interfaith and conversionary synagogue families. Data also revealed patterns specific to small congregations.

Cohen, Steven M. Members and Motives: Who Joins American Jewish Congregations and Why. September 2, 2006

Abstract: This brief paper examines patterns of congregational belonging among Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, with attention, where feasible to Reconstructionist Jews as well. The analysis draws upon the National Jewish Population Study of 2000-01 (sponsored by United Jewish Communities), with its 4,523 Jewish respondents. By exploring who joins congregations affiliated with each denomination, we can indirectly infer their motives for joining, setting the stage for thinking of better ways to recruit and retain congregational members.