Israeli Education Minister Calls U.S. Jew Intermarriage 'Second Holocaust'

A study’s findings from nearly 30 years ago which reported that 52 percent of Jews were married to non-Jews

Many Israeli leaders have publicly shared that they believe a ‘second Holocaust’ is in the works among American Jews as a result of assimilation. This sentiment is based on the findings of a study which was conducted three decades ago by the Council of Federations, which is known as the JFNA today.

The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey included a sample set of 5,000 Jewish households. For years, Jewish leaders had called for a comprehensive survey to address the challenges their community was facing due to intermarriage and assimilation. When the findings of the survey revealed that as many as 52 percent of Jews were living in interfaith households, meaning that they were married to non-Jews. Although the main focus of the study was to understand integration and socio-economic issues regarding the Jewish community better, the sheer amount of Jews married to non-Jews was the biggest shocker.

In the following years, orthodox leaders of the Jewish community started using terms such as the ‘second Holocaust’ and ‘silent Holocaust’ to describe this phenomenon of intermarriage. Until this point, these terms were only used to describe the attempts of Arab countries to destroy Israel. They were never used on the American Jewish population.

Now, it appears that this concern regarding assimilation and intermarriage has re-emerged, finding itself in the spotlight once again. On July 1, the new education minister of Israel, Rafi Peretz said in a cabinet meeting that the assimilation of Jews worldwide, but mostly in the U.S, is like a ‘second Holocaust’ due to which 6 million Jews have been lost.

To some degree, Peretz’s comment holds. Studies have found that children of intermarriages are less likely to identify as Jewish, and even if they do, they are likely to be less religious. The same 1990 study found that out of the 777,000 children belonging to intermarried families, only 28 percent were raised as Jews.

Several Jewish leaders seem to have a different take on this ‘second Holocaust.’ For instance, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald of the National Jewish Outreach Program said that the phenomenon has more to do with the American Jewish community’s obsession with the Holocaust rather than assimilation.

He wrote, “We’ve reached the absurd point where the only feature of Judaism with which our young Jews identify is that of the Jew as victim — murdered, cremated or turned into a lampshade. Is there no joy in Jewish life? Is there no balm in Gilead? No wonder our young Jews are turned off and walking away from their heritage.”

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