January 20, 2010
A recent book by well-known Israeli demographer Prof. Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University shows that the percentage of Jews marrying non-Jews has been steadily soaring since the 1930s, when no country's Jewry had an out-marriage rate of 35% or more.
Today, a significant proportion of world Jewry has an out-marriage rate of between 35 and 45%; the Jewries of the UK, France and Latin America are examples.
The figure is lower in Australia - around 25% - while in Israel it is about 5%.
Since marriage with non-Jews might be inevitable in pluralistic societies, and since many of the non-Jewish spouses do not convert to Judaism, might it not be timely and wise to declare the traditional definition of a born Jew - a person born to a Jewish mother - an anachronism, and put into practice the outreach programme urged back in the 1980s by the distinguished American Reform rabbi Alexander Schindler, so that children of Jewish fathers (only) are also welcomed into the fold?
Instead of discouraging conversion, as is usually the case, Judaism across all strands should surely encourage it. In these spiritually bereft times, Judaism - rather than some cult or Islam - might provide the sanctuary for which many gentile seekers after religion are searching.