… the undeniable impact of intermarriage and other features of Jewish social networks, or the lack thereof. More Jews in the West than elsewhere were raised by intermarried parents. Correlatively, more married non-Jews, and more have established mostly non-Jewish friendship networks. Surely, the decline of Jewish social networks on the most intimate level both reflects and advances distancing from all forms of Jewish life.
Previous research has focused on the impact of intermarriage on the individual level, showing the emergence of two Jewries: one in-married and in-marrying, the other intermarried and continuing to heavily intermarry. Here, with the Pew data collected on a national scale, we have a chance to examine the impact of intermarriage on an entire segment of the Jewish population. The West versus the rest offers an experiment in real time. The comparison enables us to see the results of sustained high rates of intermarriage in the West versus the result of what may be called only moderate rates of intermarriage (in the East, South and Midwest). Predictably, high rates of intermarriage are generally associated with lower rates of Jewish involvement — however measured.
Jews in the West have long prided themselves on sitting on the forefront of change, anticipating and experiencing the developments that will soon characterize the rest of American Jewry. In the aging of the baby-boom generation, in the dispersal of the Jewish population in residential and social terms, in the mounting levels of intermarriage, and declining levels of Jewish engagement among the non-Orthodox, Western Jewry may well continue to lead the way. And, if so, that would be unfortunate for Jewish continuity, not only in the West but throughout the United States.
Steven M. Cohen and Samuel Abrams, “The West vs. The Rest: How Mountain and Pacific States Jews Differ”, Jewish Journal (29 January – 4 February 2016), 15.