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When millennial children of mixed-faith marriages are exposed to Jewish influences, they strengthen their Jewish identities to levels comparable to those of millennials with two Jewish parents, a new study concludes.
But the Brandeis University study also affirms past studies that have found that children with two Jewish parents are more likely to identify as Jewish and practice Judaism than are the offspring of intermarried couples. The new study addresses Jewish concerns with “continuity.” With an intermarriage rate hovering at about 60 percent, many in the American Jewish community worry about the next generation’s commitment to Jewish life.
“The bad news is that the children of intermarried parents don’t engage and don’t have the same level of Jewish education that the children of inmarried have,” said Leonard Saxe, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis, which produced the study. But when young adults who have intermarried parents are exposed to Jewish life, “it levels the playing field.”
“Allowing them to live Jewishly, to be part of a Jewish community, part of a Jewish group — that seems to have a transformative effect,” Saxe said.
The Brandeis study validates the work of Jewish communities that have been working harder to reach out to intermarried familes, said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest stream of Judaism in the U.S. “When we do that, the answer is they identify, they participate and they help to shape the Jewish future, plain and simple.”