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Intermarriage has long been a concern for Jewish community leaders and members. Many have commonly interpreted it as deeply corrosive to Judaism, arguing that it erodes Jewish identity and causes the contraction of the Jewish population. Yet, remarkably, much of the debate about intermarriage in the UK has been based on American Jewish statistics, and an assumption that the situation there either mirrors reality in Britain, or foretells the probable and almost inevitable future of the UK Jewish community.
This report, Jews in couples: Marriage, intermarriage, cohabitation and divorce in Britain, written by JPR Senior Research Fellow, Dr David Graham, is the first dedicated study of the topic that has ever been published about Jews in Britain. By assessing intermarriage in the wider context of partnerships more generally, and by drawing on high quality data from JPR’s own survey and from national census data, it is arguably one of the most robust studies of these topics produced anywhere.
Importantly, it estimates that the intermarriage rate in Britain currently stands at 26%, which is dramatically lower than the equivalent figure of 58% for the United States. Moreover, it shows that the rate has only climbed very slowly in Britain since the early 1980s, when it stood at 23%.
Nevertheless, it is unforgiving in its assessment of the effects of intermarriage on Jewish life. It finds that, whereas more or less all children of in-married Jewish couples are raised as Jews, this is the case for only a third of the children of intermarried couples. It also demonstrates that intermarried Jews exhibit far weaker levels of Jewish practice than in-married Jews on all measures investigated.
Beyond intermarriage, the report also explores the topics of divorce, cohabitation and same-sex couples. It finds that Jews are less likely to be divorced than the British population in general, but that the toll that divorce takes on women is notably greater than on men; that there has been a 17% rise over the course of the past decade in the number of Jews cohabiting, and that one in three Jews in their late 20s currently cohabits with their partner; and that just over 2,200 Jews live in same-sex couples, or 1.8% of all Jews in partnerships.intermarriage britishjews