Study: Birthright Participants More Likely to Marry Other Jews

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Birthright participants at the starting line of a bicycle ride through Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod

Children of intermarried couples who participate in Taglit-Birthright, the program that brings young adults to Israel on free 10-trips, are less likely to marry non-Jews themselves, a report published on Friday has found.

According to the Jewish Futures Project report, published by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, the probability of marrying another Jew among children of mixed couples who had participated in Birthright was 55 percent. That compares with just 22 percent among children of mixed couples who had not participated.

The findings are consistent with previous Jewish Futures Project reports, which have shown that participants in Birthright, widely considered the most successful of all Israel-experience programs, are less likely to intermarry, more likely to raise their children Jewish and more likely to live an active Jewish life.

According to the latest report, the probability of marrying another Jew among Birthright participants (both children of Jewish and mixed couples) is 72 percent, compared with 51 percent among non-participants.

The Jewish Futures Project report – published for the fourth time since Birthright was launched nearly 15 years ago – aims to assess the impact of the program on the Jewish identity of participants once they return home. The research team is headed by Leonard Saxe, director of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis. The study is funded, among others, by Taglit-Birthright Israel and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. The Bronfman family was among the original benefactors of Birthright.

Last October, a comprehensive study published by the Pew Research Institute set off alarm bells in the Jewish world, when it found that American Jews were increasingly intermarrying and not raising their children Jewish.

The discussion of the Pew study has, however, largely ignored the contribution of improved and expanded Jewish education programs, in particular, Israel educational experiences such as Taglit-Birthright Israel, the authors of the Jewish Futures Project report write in their executive summary. As we show, such changes in Jewish education may be altering the contours of American Jewry and its future trajectory.

Since Birthright was launched, it has brought more than 350,000 young adults to Israel, the overwhelming majority of them from the United States. The findings of the latest Jewish Futures Project report are based on interviews with eligible applicants for Birthright between 2001 and 2006, with the sample including both individuals who did and did not take the free trip to Israel. They range in age from 25 to 40, and 45 percent of them are married today. Close to 30 percent have at least one child.

Attention Jewish mothers: The report also found that Birthright participants were less likely to be married by age 30 than were non-participants. At that age, Taglit participants have a 40 percent probability of being married, compared with 48 percent among non-participants.

According to the report, more than 25 percent of married Birthright participants are married to other alumni of the program.

Roughly 5 percent of the participants, according to the report, identify themselves as gay. 

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