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Raising Jewish Children: Research and Indications for Intervention

All other things being equal, what background variables are most associated with marriage, inmarriage, and raising Jewish-by-religion children?   Parental inmarriage is associated with the likelihood of marriage (two-thirds compared to just over half at ages 40-54), inmarriage, having children and having Jewish children, as Table 7 below clearly shows.  The likelihood of inmarriage is by extension associated with raising Jewish-by-religion children. Simply put, hardly any children (17 percent) of mixed marriages marry Jews and an almost equally small number (21 percent) raise their children as Jews.

The finding that children of two Jews are more likely to replicate aspects of the home they grew up in comports with the research literature generally showing that more religious Americans and intra-group marriage exhibit more traditional family patterns.19 While the interwoven causal links are impossible to disentangle, intermarriage, divorce, and low religiosity are all linked, both within generations and across generations. Conversely, inmarriage, marital stability, and higher religiosity are empirically and causally linked as well. Although many readers may regard the percentage of non-Haredi households raising Jewish-by-religion households to be surprisingly low, adult children of two Jewish parents are three times as likely to be raising these children as adult children of one Jewish parent (27 compared to 8 percent).

Table 7
Marital status by parents’ in marriage for non-Haredi Jews, 25-54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another factor associated with marriage patterns is Jewish education. Even after controlling for parents’ denomination, their inmarriage state, as well as respondents’ age and sex, Jewish educational experiences in one’s youth are predictive of lower intermarriage. Among them are day school attendance for seven years or more (a decline of 16 percentage points), attending Hebrew school for seven years or more (a seven-point difference), and attending an overnight camp with Jewish content (worth 11 points toward improved chances of marrying a Jew).  That significant impact is not confined to inmarriage alone; it extends to the likelihood of raising Jewish-by-religion children. Having seven or more years of day school raises such probability by seven percentage points, compared with 15 points for seven or more years of Hebrew school, and seven points for Jewish camping. Similarly, the same three factors are highly associated with raising Jewish-by-religion children. These findings20 demonstrate that educational interventions can change adult outcomes.  Jewish education that extends into the teen years not only makes adult Jews more likely to forge Jewish connections, it makes them more likely to marry another Jew, and to raise Jewish-by-religion children.

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