Battle Hymn Of The Gentile Mom

Battle Hymn Of The Gentile Mom

With my vacation fading into memory (sob, sob), I’m finally catching up on intermarriage news from far and wide.

Or at least coming out of my erstwhile employer JTA (the full name, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, gives you a sense of just how long that media outlet has been around).

Sue Fishkoff, who has just been named editor of J, San Francisco’s Jewish weekly, has an interesting article in JTA about non-Jewish women raising Jewish children. If, like me, you’re already familiar with the Jewish Outreach Institute’s Mothers Circle (which, oddly, doesn’t get even a mention in the article) and have been following this trend for awhile (it’s even been covered in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to yours truly), you won’t find anything dramatically new in the article. Nonetheless, Fishkoff, who is herself the child of a non-Jewish mother, did a nice job of respectfully focusing on real people and their stories, rather than getting bogged down by abstract issues.

Before you get all self-righteous (I’m talking to friendly commenters who consider themselves the arbiters of true Judaism, as well as the woman who frequently and somewhat inexplicably claims, in these comments, that I think gentile women are better than Jewish women), Fishkoff underwent an Orthodox conversion, so she is Jewish according to everyone’s definition. Although I don’t think she currently identifies as Orthodox, which, I suppose, means that some in Israel’s Chief Rabbinate would like to see her conversion rescinded.

One aspect of the article I question, however, is the following assertion, which is not backed up by any data: “With most intermarriages involving Jewish men and non-Jewish women …”

I need to research this topic, but I’ve always been under the impression that, while Jewish men intermarried more than Jewish women in the past, those rates have more or less equalized in the past decade or so. What I have heard consistently, however, is that Jewish women who intermarry raise Jewish children at much higher rates than do intermarried Jewish men.

Also of interest in JTA is an article about a recent study of Chicago’s Jewish population, which finds that while intermarriage (and the Jewish population) has increased, the percentage of intermarried families raising Jewish children has also increased:

…the survey found that half of interfaith families are raising their children only Jewish. Previously only a third had been raising children solely in the Jewish faith.

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