Three levels of converted Jews
Photo: Dan Balilti
Jewish youth participating in Jewish Agency project
Photo: Dan Balilti

Meet the convert

Some 1.5 million people in U.S. have one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent, new study reveals

More than one third of the Jews in the United States are not married to Jewish spouses, according to a new study commissioned by the Jewish American Committee, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.


Furthermore, 1.5 million people in the U.S. today have one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, the study shows.


The survey was conducted by Professor Sylvia Barack Fishman of Brandeis University, who carried out dozens of interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish subjects in Atlanta and Boston.


Prof. Fishman prepared an inclusive report entitled “Choosing Jewish: Conversations about conversion.” The report examined the modern Jewish family in the U.S. and the conversions of non-Jewish spouses.


The report found three levels of converted Jews:


Active Jews: 30 percent of converts do so out of choice and are more devoted to Judaism than most Jews by birth are.


Assimilated Jews: 40 percent of converts did so because their spouses asked them to and they are not involved in setting the religious standards in the home.


Ambivalent Jews: 30 percent of converts have doubts about their conversion and feel guilty about the beliefs and practices left behind; their children exhibit ambivalence and view themselves as “half-Jewish.”


The challenge: Unequivocal Jewish identity


Other points that were raised in the study: Most homes in which one of the parents converted keep Jewish customs, such as the Sabbath, holidays, Jewish education and lifestyle, less religiously than their counterparts with two originally Jewish parents.


The study discovered that one of the main reasons motivating conversion is pressure from the spouse, communicated through dialogue with the spouse, family and religious figures.


Steve Baim, head of the Jewish American Committees' Department of Jewish Life in our Time, said that the challenge was to create Jewish homes in which children will grow up with an unequivocal Jewish identity.


The only way to ensure this is through the conversion of the non-Jewish partners. If rabbis and families put the conversion matter as chief priority, the percentage of converts will grow, and their Jewish identity will get stronger.


פרסום ראשון: 04.10.06, 19:16
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