Over the last decade and a half, my work with Jews for Jesus has focused on working with Jewish-Gentile couples. Sometimes they are referred to me as interfaith couples or intermarried couples. Some are just dating. Others are in long-term relationships. However, the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) reported that for the first time the majority, over 52% of all Jews who married, were taking non-Jewish spouses. That rate has steadily increased, until the 2013 Pew Research on American Jewish Life reported the current Jewish intermarriage rate holding at 58%. Here are four things you need to know about the Jewish intermarriage trend in America.
1) It’s Not Easy
By this time, the American Jewish community has been undergoing a dramatic demographic change for 25 years. Intermarriage is no longer considered a taboo by American Jewry. So, 45% of all American Jewish households are now intermarried and raising children in cross-cultural and interfaith homes. At the same time, social research reveals that 75% of those marriages will likely end in divorce or marital dissatisfaction. In my experience, one of the greatest challenges in those Jewish-Gentile marriages is identified as an inability to find spiritual harmony.
2) All Communication is Cross-Cultural
Everyone assumes that we all use words in the same way. And yet, all culture is learned. We all attach specific meanings to commonly used words within our cultural experience. That is one of the issues I find among Jewish-Gentile couples. I once asked the Christian girlfriend of a Jewish man, “What does the word ‘Jesus’ mean?” She answered, “Doesn’t it mean Messiah?” Without answering her, I asked her Jewish boyfriend for his understanding of “Jesus.” With candor he said, “Uh, it’s what my family members say when we’re frustrated.” Now, that’s a cross-cultural disconnect!
3) There’s Hope
In ministering to Jewish-Gentile couples, I’ve found that the gospel, the good news about Jesus, is a natural fit. The history of the Israelite nation stretches across almost every one of the books in the Bible. The story of spiritual hope is set in a context that is familiar and accessible to Jewish people and non-Jews alike.
Also, the gospel is an effective hope of salvation for all people, including Jewish people. Jesus told a group of Jewish friends, while celebrating Passover, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). Yeshua, Jesus, is the one way of salvation that God provided for everyone. He is the hope of spiritual harmony.
4) There’s a Resource
My book, He Said then She Said: Helping Jewish-Gentile Couples Find Spiritual Harmony, is intended as a resource for individuals, couples or for anyone seeking to help Jewish-Gentile couples in their cross-cultural communication.
If you are a Jewish-Gentile couple seeking spiritual harmony for your relationship and your family, send me a message. I would love to be a part of your journey! Or, read how this Jewish-Arab couple found peace in Jesus.