The Jerusalem Post (ineptly) reports:
Rather than bolstering the likelihood of students marrying within their race, attending once-a-week Sunday school programs actually slightly increases the chance of intermarriage, according to a newly published study.
The research, conducted by Steven M. Cohen, research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, finds that the likelihood of intermarriage increases by up to 9 percentage points among students who attend once-a-week programs in comparison to those who don't receive any Jewish schooling. (The pool of students was controlled for factors such as family upbringing and other sources of Jewish education.)
The study also found that attending congregational school two or more times a week hardly decreases students' chances of intermarrying.…
Cohen thinks the outcome is due to the Reform Movement. He argues that most Sunday schools are Reform affiliated and Reform has a high number of intermarried members. He reasons that Sunday school gathers these children, the products of intermarriage, together and reinforces the validity of intermarriage.
Of course, that does not explain why attending regular after school Hebrew school classes does not reduce the intermarriage effect.
I think a far more plausible explanation is that Judaism really has very little to offer normal people in this day and age. Certainly, whatever Judaism brings to the table is not enough to stop a the average Jew from out-marrying.
But why would completely uneducated Jews out-marry less than those who have some Jewish education?
I think because they have only a very vague idea of what Judaism the religion is. If they are happy in their homes and family lives, they associate Judaism with that. Their affiliation is cultural, not religious. As such, they choose to marry people who share their cultural and social outlook.
In other words, an argument can – and should – be made that secularism is a better force for Jewish continuity than religion.
But what about Orthodoxy and those from other denominations who attend Jewish day schools and yeshivot? Don't they out-marry far less frequently than secular Jews?
Yes. But they act that way not because of the ennobling doctrines of Judaism – they act this way because of indoctrination methods that include a large dose of stigmatizing both those who out-marry and non-Jews in general.
In other words, it is Judaism at its worst and most cult-like that decreases out-marriage.
Why is this the case?
I would argue it is the case because much – if not all – of what passes for Judaism is not truly divine, that Judaism is a castle built on sand and cannot withstand the winds that blow on it. This is not much different from any other religion.
An argument could be made that if we focused on being a light onto the nations of the world, that would create a Judaism that would both draw in many new adherents and retain many more born Jews. But this will not happen because the Jews who do the best retention today are the most opposed to reaching out to non-Jews, non-Jews that serve a much more important purpose in their theology – an Other to demonize; an Other to be superior to.
And, perhaps in that vein, what in the world is the Jerusalem Post doing with a lede like this?
Rather than bolstering the likelihood of students marrying within their race, attending once-a-week Sunday school programs actually slightly increases the chance of intermarriage…
The Post's editors must have slept through this one and its reporter, Hillary Leila Kreiger has a lot of explaining to do.