According to an article in a recent issue of the Jewish Daily Forward, Jews are America’s most intermarrying people and Mormons its least. According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey 27% of Jews were married to someone of a different faith, compared with 12% of Mormons.
It’s probably safe to assume that interfaith marriage starts with interfaith dating. So, one way to discourage interfaith marriage is to prevent interfaith dating. But that is not so easy in Jewish America these days. America, which has always been a melting pot, has morphed into a multi-cultural stew and seems to be growing more so by the day. At schools, at the shopping mall, everywhere Jewish young people congregate they will encounter other young people of other faiths. And then hormones take over.
What can we as Jewish parents concerned with Jewish continuity do? Most Jewish parents today are unlikely to enforce strict rules to prohibit non-Jewish dating. You can try but the young people will find a way around it. In these matters, hormones rule.
As one in the process of raising two daughters, here are a few tips I’ve picked up.
- Limit opportunities to mingle with non-Jewish young people.
- Keep them engaged to the point of over-scheduling them for activities that foster mingling with Jewish young people. (As a parent I am always willing to pay for participation in Jewish activities. Non-Jewish activities they pay for on their own.)
- Most importantly, make Jewish activities in the home attractive and engaging. (Our Shabbat dinners are filled with their favorite foods, favorite desserts, and invited friends.)
- Invest in attending Jewish summer camp, both day camp and overnight camp, where they can develop a set of close Jewish friends. And encourage those friendships even outside of camp.
- Sign them up for Passport to Israel and similar programs where young people will travel to Israel with their Jewish peers.
My parents were convinced that I would marry a non-Jew (I didn’t). With that in mind, I wrote this story, Sleeping with Strangers. Of course, we all want our children to marry good people who are great for them. But it would be nice if they also were Jewish.
Let me know what you think. Also, please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Sleeping with Strangers from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)
You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.