Majority of Seculars: Intermarriage Okay as Long as Child is Happy


engagement-ringThe reality of assimilation among Diaspora Jews does not particularly worry most Israelis. A joint Ynet-Gesher survey conducted following the Jewish Agency’s controversial ad campaign against the phenomenon, found that most secular Israelis would not be averse to their children marrying non-Jews. On the other side of the spectrum, 41% of the Jewish public believes that assimilation, which is mainly a problem abroad, is an existential threat to the State of Israel. The Ynet and Gesher organization survey was conducted by Panels and surveyed 502 respondents representative of the adult Jewish population in Israel. The sampling error is 4.4%±.

The first section of the survey asked respondents how they would likely respond if one of their children chose to intermarry. Some 51% said they would be saddened by the event, but would stay in contact with the couple in hopes that the non-Jewish partner would convert. Another 37% responded, “In this day and age, it is less important to me. It is most important that they are happy.” Some 12% responded that they would sit shiva on the child and would cut off all contact with them, as prescribed by halacha.

The survey results according to religious affiliation show that 53% of the secular population is especially apathetic to the issue, and prefers that their children be happy than be married to a Jewish partner. Traditional and religious people (72% and 68% respectively) chose the middle path saying they would stay in touch with their intermarried child, though admitting that their choice would cause them great sadness. On the other hand, 88% of charedim said they would sit shiva and mourn over a child who intermarried.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants living in Israel have been labeled on more than one occasion as a kind of ticking assimilation time bomb.

What is the solution according to the survey respondents?

Thirty-eight percent of the respondents said the Chief Rabbinate should simplify the conversion process as much as possible in order to bring these people into the fold of the Jewish people.

Some 30% responded that the process of conversion is too important and serious an issue to make it easier, responding that “those for whom it is important will make the effort to convert.” Some 20% said they don’t see a problem with the fact that the immigrants are not Jewish according to halacha as long as they are loyal to the State and abide by the law. Another 12% said they would be prepared to recognize the said immigrants as Jews as long as they made a declaration of their Jewishness and tied their fate to that of the Jewish people.

An analysis of the results by religious affiliation shows that charedim and religious people (92% and 76% respectively) are opposed to simplifying the conversion process. Secular and traditional people (41% and 46% respectively) believe that the Chief Rabbinate should simplify the process as much as possible.

Is assimilation an existential threat?

The second part of the survey focused on the phenomenon of assimilation abroad, asking the respondents how they see the high rates of assimilation among Diaspora Jews affecting the State of Israel, if at all.

Some 41% responded that the phenomenon is a real existential threat, while 33% claimed that there is no connection between the situation of Jews abroad and the security of the State of Israel. Another 26% responded that, in their opinion, Israel is a strong country and has little need for the support of the entire Jewish people.

According to religious affiliation, charedim, religious, and traditional Israelis view assimilation as an existential threat to Israel (67%, 56% and 49% respectively). At the same time, 34% of secular Israelis see assimilation as an existential threat, while 39% do not.

To what extent is fear of intermarriage a factor in people’s decision to live in Israel? Some 52% of respondents said it has no effect whatsoever, while 38% responded that it is one of many factors, such as a sense of security and a historic connection to the country, that influence their choice to live in Israel. Another 10% responded that they live in Israel mainly to avoid intermarriage.

Gesher Founder and President Rabbi Dr. Daniel Tropper said in response to the survey that the findings indicate that Israeli identity is stronger than Jewish identity within the secular Israeli public. However, he noted that the results also show that young people view assimilation in a more serious light than older people, perhaps indicating that recent efforts to strengthen ties to Jewish identity are bearing fruit.

{Ynet/Yair Israel}


  1. I am currently reading “Reb Simcha Speaks,” (Artscroll, 1994) published two years after the petira of HaRav HaGaon Simcha Wasserman, zt”l.

    Under the section “Prophecies for Our Time” Reb Simcha asserts, regarding ba’alei teshuva, that “those who have returned are those whom Eliyahu [HaNavi] has selected to lead the Jewish people to the redemption of Mashiach.” [p. 33].

    But tellingly, on the next page (p. 34), Reb Simcha recognized the following tragic reality: “… there is a selection going on now. Some people are being brought back, and some people, due to the high intermarriage and assimilation rate, are being thrown out. There are prophecies concerning this unfortunate fact. Those prophecies state that there will be members of the Jewish body who will be removed from it.”

    How can one ignore this tzadik’s words? A valiant kiruv effort has been undertaken over the past few decades. But time is running out and we must face the reality, as Reb Simcha did. The vast majority of Diaspora Jews are beyond saving…and are not, in fact, prophetically destined to be saved. They are being “thrown out” by the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself. Incredible words, these…but they come from a gadol b’Yisrael.

    Are there any practical policy issues which need to be re-evaluated because of this. I don’t know. But I can venture the following possibility for debate: the majority of funds raised for kiruv purposes should now be redirected towards promoting and financing aliyah instead. Food for thought, yes?