Study Finds Maine Has Highest Intermarriage Rate in U.S.

Study places Portland, Maine ahead of Seattle, San Francisco, which previously shared highest intermarriage rate.

In Portland, Maine, even the editor of the local Jewish newspaper was born to intermarried parents, and when she got around to marrying, it was not to a Jew.

Given her own experience, Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo, editor of The Voice, was not surprised by a new demographic study that found Portland and its environs to have the highest intermarriage rate in the country.

According to the study, which was funded in part by an intermarried couple, 61% of couples in married Jewish households are interfaith. This is the highest rate of any North American Jewish community measured in the past 15 years.

"There are kids in the [Jewish] preschool named 'Piscapo' and 'Isajar,'" Margolis-Pineo said. "Unless you're an idiot, you realize that there's a lot of intermarriage."

The study was conducted by Ira Sheskin, the director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami.

The new figures place Portland ahead of both Seattle and San Francisco, which previously had shared the highest measured intermarriage rate, at 55%, according to information from the North American Jewish Data Bank.

The national intermarriage rate was 48% in the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. By comparison, Boston - the closest major Jewish population center to Portland - has an intermarriage rate of 46%. New York and Los Angeles have rates of 22% and 23%, respectively.

Given the relatively low level of Jewish affiliation in Portland, and the small size of the community - it numbers only 8,350 Jews - one of the most remarkable facts is that an expensive demographic survey took place at all.

The study was made possible, in part, by the chairman and former CEO of L.L. Bean, Leon Gorman, grandson of the iconic company's founder. Gorman is not Jewish, but his wife, Lisa, is.

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