- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A long-delayed survey on the demographics of Jewish Americans shows a 5 percent population decline over 10 years because of low fertility and high intermarriage rates.

Though the intermarriage rate has “stabilized” at 47 percent, the National Jewish Population Survey, released yesterday, said two-thirds of children of mixed couples are not raised in the faith.

The number of Jewish Americans has declined by about 300,000 — from 5.5 million to 5.2 million — since 1990, while the number of Mormons, Catholics and Muslims has increased. Jewish women younger than 35 have a fertility rate of 1.04 children, compared with the rate of 1.56 children for non-Jewish women in the same age group, the survey said. Both rates are below the 2.1 percent needed to keep a stable population.

Only in the 40-44 age group do Jewish women begin to catch up, with an average 1.86 children compared with 1.93 children for non-Jewish women. The report attributes the later childbearing to education, as proportionally more Jewish than non-Jewish women attain advanced degrees.

Compared with 10 percent of the adultpopulation that have never married, 25 percent of all Jewish adults have never married and thus are less apt to bear children.

Gail Hyman, spokeswoman for United Jewish Communities, which commissioned the report, noted “a lot of speculation” about the population decline.

“But we believe this is an accurate estimate,” she said. The report’s release was delayed for nine months to remove data from respondents who said they were no longer Jewish. The full report is posted at www.ujc.org/njps.

Children who received some form of Jewish schooling were less apt to intermarry than those who did not, the survey said. Unlike Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Seventh-day Adventists, Jewish Americans do not have a system of denominational colleges and universities.

Even young Orthodox Jews — traditionally the Jewish group most closed to modernity — seek out secular universities, said Mark Rubin, director of communications for Hillel, anoutreach program for 400,000 college-age Jews worldwide.

Still, “we are seeing an increase in students coming through our doors,” he said. “Students are always in a search for meaning, and that is where Hillel can play an important role.”

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