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    Is intermarriage the death knell? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. In many countries Jewish intermarriage is rising. Is this the death knell of Judaism?

    A. It is not our only problem, but it is a serious indicator that without Jewish marriages and families it will be hard to keep Judaism alive. In the United States the outmarriage figures quadrupled between the early 1960s when surveys quoted statistics of 13% or so, and now, when estimates vary between 50 and 60%. Some other countries such as Australia and South Africa have less alarming figures, but some observers think it is only a matter of time.

    Is the answer to build a metaphorical wall and reduce Jewish engagement in the broader world? Some voices strongly advocate that as the solution, but will it work in an open society? Some advocate Aliyah as the panacea, and whilst that is good for the Jewish people for very many reasons and would limit most marital choices to Jews, it might not erase the intermarriage problem. (Note that even in Israel there are Jews who marry out; and there is never any guarantee that a Jew will do what is best for Judaism – witness the statistics that Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie quoted just after the Second World War to the effect that he and his fellow British chaplains knew of 20 cases of Jewish servicemen who married Nazi girls.)

    The answers may need to be different in different countries, but the deeper, more universal issue is whether Jews feel that Judaism is worth preserving. The more that Jews determine that Judaism is good for them and the world, and must survive, the more they will commit themselves to the necessary steps to Jewish commitment.

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