Intermarriage in America: The Jewish Experience in Historical Context

By Jonathan D. Sarna

Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) Press, 2007

This tension between "modern" American values in marriage and "traditional" Jewish ones is a theme that runs all the way through the American Jewish experience from the very beginning. Indeed, far from being a new community challenge, as so many believe, intermarriage is actually one of American Jewry's oldest concerns, dating all the way back to 1656 when one of America's first known Jews, Solomon Pietersen, married a local Protestant and raised his daughter in her mother's faith. From then onward, intermarriage has served as something of a barometer of intergroup relations in America; the two rise and fall in tandem. Periods marked by growing interreligious harmony witness growing amounts of intermarriage; periods marked by burgeoning interreligous hatred see intermarriage rates fall. The entire subject of intermarriage raised thorny questions that American Jews continue to confront to this day. How to respond to intermarriages? How to respond to intermarrieds who sought to maintain their Jewish ties? How to promote in-group marriage without damaging social ties to non-Jews? How to survive in an American religious environment that was becoming increasingly open and competitive?

Topic: History, Continuity, Intermarriage, Community Relations, Jewish Continuity, Assimilation

Name of Publication: Ambivalent Jew: Charles Liebman in Memoriam

Editor: Cohen, Stuart , Susser, Bernard

Page Number(s): 125-133

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Genre: Book Chapter

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Sarna, Jonathan D. Intermarriage in America: The Jewish Experience in Historical Context. Ambivalent Jew: Charles Liebman in Memoriam. Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) Press. 2007: 125-133.


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