Will My Grandchildren Be Jewish?

Jewish GrandchildrenYou could call this “extra” meditation a “Part 2” of my earlier blog post What God Has Joined Together. Part of the “mission” of my blog is to document the life of an intermarried couple and what that means. Here we go.

Based on current intermarriage rates and the average number of children per family, the chances of young, contemporary Jews having Jewish grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with the exception of the Orthodox, are increasingly remote.

From “Will Your Grandchildren be Jewish”
Aish.com (PDF/graphic)

Based upon the data and the various population studies that are now available, it appears that an extraordinary disintegration of the American Jewish community is in process. There was a time when every Jew could take it for granted that he or she would have Jewish grandchildren with whom to share Seders, Sabbath and other Jewish moments. However, the clear data indicates that this expectation is no longer well founded. Indeed, our studies show that within a short period of time the entire complexion of the American Jewish community will be altered inexorably.

From “Will Your Grandchildren be Jewish?”

Will my grandchildren be Jewish? Probably not. Let me explain, but I have to go back a little bit.

My wife is Jewish and I’m not. She’s Jewish because her mother was Jewish (both of my wife’s parents passed away many years ago). My wife’s father wasn’t Jewish and my wife wasn’t raised in a religiously or culturally Jewish home. She only realized that she was Jewish by halachah (because her Mom is Jewish) when she was a young adult. Even then, she waited decades until she fought to enter into a culturally and religiously Jewish world, and that’s where she is today.

My wife has two brothers and two sisters. None of them acknowledge being Jewish. One brother and one sister are actively Christian and her Christian brother even denies the possibility that his mother was Jewish, saying there’s no proof (we have tons of proof, including the documentation of many maternal relatives buried in Jewish cemeteries). Out of five children of a Jewish woman, my wife is the only one living a Jewish life today. Sad but typical. My wife beat the odds but she had to work really hard to do it.

We have three children. All self-identify as Jews, at least marginally. I say “marginally” because they don’t really involve themselves in Judaism on a cultural or religious level. My daughter is the one who has come closest to embracing her Judaism. She sometimes goes to Chabad functions with my wife. When she was an exchange student in Japan for a year during high school, my daughter made the effort (and it was significant) to attend the synagogue in Tokyo on a few occasions (my daughter lived about 50 miles away). My daughter has tutored Hebrew to some of the kids at our local Reform shul.

My sons acknowledge that they’re Jewish but that’s about it. I think David has a basic faith in Jesus but he doesn’t lead any sort of religious lifestyle. Michael doesn’t have a Jewish lifestyle as far as I can tell.

Only David is married and he’s married to a (wonderful) non-Jewish girl. They have one son, my grandson, the apple of my eye. And my grandson is not Jewish.

Michael will probably marry someday, but he’s not currently dating and the chances of him marrying a Jewish woman isn’t very good. My daughter Jamie says she wants to marry someday, but doesn’t want to have any children (even through adoption).

No, my grandchildren will not be Jewish.

Things seem grim for the Jews in America but I’m going to try to inject something upbeat.

Julie Wiener writes a series of articles for The Jewish Week magazine called In the Mix. Julie is intermarried to a “Righteous Gentile husband” and they have two daughters (and because Julie is Jewish, so are her kids…I don’t know if Julie’s parents are intermarried). According to an article she wrote last June, intermarried Jews are breeding like crazy.

Depending on your point of view, that’s either good or bad. Depending on who you are, intermarried couples (like Natalie Portman and her partner Benjamin Millepied) can raise their children Jewish or (like Anthony Weiner and his Muslim wife, Huma Abedin) not. Not that it’s up to the Mom exclusively what cultural and religious identity the children will have. Julie published a more recent article called Battle Hymn of the Gentile Mom describing how the non-Jewish wives of Jewish husbands commit to raising their children Jewish. There’s even this quote:

Also of interest in JTA is an article about a recent study of Chicago’s Jewish population, which finds that while intermarriage (and the Jewish population) has increased, the percentage of intermarried families raising Jewish children has also increased…

I can read all the articles and research studies I want, but all I really have to do to see where the children and grandchildren of intermarried couples end up is to look at my own family. We never chose to embrace Judaism in the home until fairly late in life when the kids were almost grown. I often wonder what would have happened if we could have made the decision earlier. A futile waste of time, I know.

God has never permitted the Jewish people to vanish from the face of the Earth and I don’t believe He ever will. When the Messiah comes, there will be Jews here. But it will be a miracle from God. It seems like people aren’t helping with the process all that much.

4 thoughts on “Will My Grandchildren Be Jewish?”

  1. Good article but. . .When you said “When the Messiah comes,” you did mean second coming since Jesus lived on earth 30 years then died so we might be saved? I realize as a Chriistian that you know that, it just didn’t seem clear to me.

  2. Yes, Mom. That’s what I meant. For Christians, I take it for granted that we all know Jesus was here before as the “suffering servant”. I’m speaking of when he comes as reigning King.

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