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Raising Jewish Children: Research and Indications for Intervention

The data for our analysis derive from the survey of American Jews conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 (see Portrait of Jewish Americans).16 To address the most policy-relevant population given our concerns, we focus upon current Jews (as opposed to former Jews, non-Jewish adult-offspring of Jews, or those with some alleged Jewish affinity). That is, we put aside those Pew’s researchers called, “Jews by background” and “Jews by affinity,” the non-Jewish respondents caught by the Pew survey’s wide net, which went beyond those who now identify as Jews. And, for the purposes of this analysis, we also set aside the Haredi population who, by all accounts, are demographically quite healthy – with their exceptionally low intermarriage rates, early marriage, high birthrates, and increasing inter-generational retention.17

Among those who are currently Jewish but not Haredi, we limit our analysis to the 25-54 age cohort, leaving us with respondents representing 2.1 million Jewish adults out of the nearly 5.3 million total estimated by the Pew researchers. We exclude those under 25 years of age because very few non-Haredi Jews age 18-24 are married, let alone have children – two of the central foci of this paper. Equally significant, since this paper aims in part to contribute to understanding and policy-making connected with younger Jews, limiting the analysis to those 54 and younger seems warranted.

Our study analyzes the broad spectrum of American Jews ages 25-54, from Modern Orthodox Jews at one end of the continuum to non-denominational Jews, who score lowest on measures of Jewish engagement. Many of the latter call themselves “partially Jewish,” often because they are children of one Jewish parent. One third of our respondents (33 percent) had one Jewish parent; 62 percent had two Jewish parents; and 5 percent reported that neither parent was Jewish. Their self-defined Jewish denominations include 41 percent who have no denomination; 36 percent Reform; 19 percent Conservative; and 5 percent Modern Orthodox.

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