More than one in four UK Jews now intermarried

New report offers good and bad effects, but notes strong drop in Jewish ties accompanies non-Jewish partners.

Matt Wanderman ,

Wedding rings
Wedding rings
Office XP

The rate of intermarriage in the UK has reached more than one in four, according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

The report, titled "Jews in Couples: Marriage, Intermarriage, Cohabitation and Divorce in Britain," offers both positive and negative approaches towards the issue. On one hand, it shows that Jews are accepted in the wider society to a degree that "for much of Jewish history... could only be dreamt of."

At the same time, though, "Another word for social integration is assimilation … Equating intermarriage with disappearance, or at least ethnic erosion, is why so many Jewish leaders, and parents, argue that it is a highly troubling phenomenon."

Interfaith relationships are primarily growing amongst non-religious Jews, as evidenced by the fact that 68 percent of Jews in domestic partnerships have non-Jewish partners, but they are counterbalanced by increasing the haredi population. Overall, 28 percent of British Jews in long-term relationships are paired with non-Jews.

In practice, the presence of a non-Jewish partner has a clear effect on Judaism's role in people's lives. "Attitudinally, but especially behaviourally, exogamous (intermarried) Jews exhibit far weaker levels of Jewish attachment and engagement than endogamous Jews (those married to other Jews)," the report states.

Interfaith couples are far less likely to keep a Jewish home or raise their children as Jewish. Ninety-six percent of Jewish couples say that their children are Jewish, whereas only 31 percent of mixed couples agree. "In other words, intermarried Jews are three times less likely to raise Jewish children than in-married Jews."

The limited connection to Judaism is not limited to children. Only 11 percent of Jews with non-Jewish partners keep kosher, 31 percent light Shabbat candles and 44 percent support Israel. These figures are 69 percent, 91 percent and 85 percent, respectively, for Jewish couples.

David Graham, the report's author, says that the ultimate deciding factor in the community's future has little to do with outreach programs or Jewish schools. "What’s going on demographically will probably in the long run override any attempts to intervene," he wrote. "The growth of haredi Jewry will mean the Jewish future is assured – although many mainstream Jews wouldn't feel that’s their Jewish future."

The Guardian notes that a study last year predicted that haredim would become the majority in the UK by the end of the century due to their high birth rate.

Despite some concerns, the rate of intermarriage in the UK is still far below that of the United States, which a 2013 poll put at 58 percent. Even in nearby France, an estimated 40 percent of Jews marry outside of their religion.