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Raising Jewish Children: Research and Indications for Intervention

Among all non-Haredi American Jews 25-54 (not only those who are married), only 39 percent report children in their homes. Just one in five report raising “Jewish-by-religion” children, and another 12 percent are raising “Jewish but not by religion” children; thus just under one-third – 31 percent – of non-Haredi American Jews 25-54 are raising children as Jews in some way. The clear majority (61 percent) have no children at home whatsoever.

Of course, the rates at which people find themselves with children and with Jewish children at home vary over the years, typically rising modestly with age. Table 5 shows that among those aged 25-39, 32 percent have children home, with 13 percent raising children who are Jewish-by-religion, 12 percent raising children who are Jewish but not by religion, and 9 percent raising non-Jewish children. Among those aged 40 to 54, 52 percent have children home, with 28 percent raising Jewish-by-religion children, 13 percent raising Jewish but not by religion children, and 8 percent raising non-Jewish children.
Now, some of the people who reported no children may well go on to have children, and some who are raising children one way may decide to raise them differently. But, assuming only minimal changes such as these it does seem reasonable to estimate that about a quarter of non-Haredi adult Jews now in their 30s may never have children (a number not all that different from the one in five of those in their 40s who have never married).

Table 5
Status of children at home for non-Haredi Jews 25-39 and 40-54

By similar logic, it stands to reason that, based on the small number of 30-somethings who are raising children in the Jewish religion, it may well be the case that a solid majority (perhaps 60 percent) of American non-Haredi Jewish adults will never have the experience of raising children in Judaism. Our data show that not raising a Jewish child has a profound effect not only on the affected children who are or are not raised in unambiguously Jewish homes, but also on the adult Jewish lives of the parents.

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