Jewish mothers, consider yourselves warned: New research shows that participants in Taglit-Birthright are inclined to marry later than their peers – on average, a year and a half later.
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Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University, who presented the finding Wednesday at a conference in Jerusalem, said that this tendency to delay marriage was apparently linked to a desire to find a Jewish partner for life, which, in many cases, could involve a longer search.
“We had seen evidence of this before, but now we are pretty confident that it is a trend,” Saxe, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, told Haaretz. “The most obvious explanation is that the Taglit experience makes these people want to look for a Jewish spouse.” As part of an ongoing research project to assess the long-term impact of Birthright, Saxe has been following a group of 3,000 graduates of the program in recent years. Most of them are today in their early thirties and participated in Birthright sometime between 2001 and 2006.
His findings were presented at a two-day international academic symposium devoted to Taglit that is being held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is the first conference in Israel to be held on Taglit-Birthright, a program that over the past 13 years has brought more than 300,000 young Jewish adults to Israel on free 10-day trips.
Saxe’s latest findings show that participants in Birthright have a 31 percent chance of being married by age 28, while non-participants (a group comprised of young Jewish adults who expressed interest in participating in Birthright but never followed through) have a 39 percent chance. By age 30, Birthright participants have a 40 percent chance of being married, while non-participants have a 49 percent chance. And by age 34, Birthright participants have a 59 chance of being married, while non-participants have a 68 percent chance.
Saxe said another explanation for delayed marriages could be that Birthright participants who were or later became romantically involved with non-Jews were more likely to request that their partners convert before they married – a process that could also take time.
His latest findings show that among Birthright participants involved in interfaith marriages, 13 percent had spouses who underwent formal conversions. Among members of the non-participant group, formal conversions were almost non-existent. In general, Birthright participants are far more likely to marry within the faith than are non-participants. The latest research shows that 73 percent of participants in the program ultimately marry other Jews, as compared with just 50 percent among non-participants.
“It is still surprising to us how effective the program has been in promoting in-marriage,” said Saxe.
The findings also show that one out of every four Birthright participants ends up marrying another Birthright participant.