Today, Jewish intermarriage is common. According to the National Jewish Population Study of 2000-01, the intermarriage rate for Jews who marriedInteresting and sad: when I grew up in the 1960s, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews was around 10%. Today, it is about 50%!
The reasons for intermarriage today differ from those in the past. Intermarriage today is primarily the result of 1) American Jews living in an open society in which they are more likely to meet non-Jews, 2) American Jews being less educated about and thus attached to Judaism and their Jewish heritage.
- before 1970 was 13%
- between 1970-1979 was 28%
- between 1980-1984 was 38%
- between 1985-90 was 43%
- between 1991-95 was 43%
- between 1996-2001 was 47%
The vast majority of American Jews receive no Jewish education after age 13. Thus, their knowledge of Judaism is elementary, and they are not exposed to the more advanced theological, philosophical, and ethical teachings of Judaism. Since they are not knowledgeable about their heritage in the first place, intermarriage today, in contrast to intermarriage in the past, is not a deliberate rejection of Judaism.
Further on this note, it has been found that the more intensive the Jewish schooling, the lower the rate of intermarriage. The intermarriage rate among Jews who did not receive Jewish education is 43 percent and among those who received some kind of Jewish schooling is 25 percent. Intermarriage is rare among those who attended a Jewish day school or yeshiva. It follows that intermarriage is far lower among orthodox Jews, who are much more likely to give their children intensive Jewish schooling, than among Jews of other denominations.
The Jews that came to America at the beginning of the previous century were not always careful in mitzvah observance, but they were culturally Jewish. Their mother tongue was Yiddish and they would not even imagine marrying out. The next generation was also culturally Jewish, but Yiddish was a second language for them to be used when speaking to Bubbie and Zaide.
The third generation, that is to say mine, did not speak Yiddish. We were American through and through! Why shouldn't I marry a gentile? She eats bacon and we eat bacon. What's the big deal?
I have on many occasions hosted kids from "Birthright" at my Shabbat table. Many of these kids are the products of my peers that intermarried. The mother is Jewish and the father is not, or the other way around. They are very confused about their identity. How many of them will return, and how many will leave the Jewish nation forever?
The point of the story is that we really are a nation only through our Torah.
Update: I just saw this:
The Knesset's Information and Research Center has revealed that intermarriage has skyrocketed 200% in the past 50 years in Diaspora Jewish communities
In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union 65% of Jews marry non-Jews. This is followed by the United States where 55% of all Jews intermarry. Rates of 35%-45% were recorded in France, Britain and most of Latin America. Meanwhile in Australia, Canada and Turkey the rate is “only” 25%-30%.