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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March 2005, 12:33 GMT
Intermarriage 'threatens UK Jewry'
By Martha Dixon
BBC News

Young Jews
Britain's Jewish population is in decline
Jewish leaders in the UK are warning that British Jewry may die out if more is not done to try to combat intermarriage.

Studies show between 30% and 50% of young British Jews now marry outside the religion.

Britain's Jewish population is in serious decline. The last census for Britain showed that 266,000 people said they were Jewish - 0.5% of the population.

Dwindling numbers

But 50 years ago figures show there were at least double that number, with about 500,000 British Jews.

"Intermarriage and assimilation are the biggest threat to British Jewry right now," says Rabbi Yitchak Schochet, adviser on family issues to the Chief Rabbi.

"In North America there is a great opportunity for social interaction which can put an end to intermarriage because of the millions of Jews who live there.

Rabbi Yitchak Schochet
Rabbi Yitchak Schochet: "Assimilation threat"
"In Britain we are considerably smaller, which presents a big problem. Intermarriage rates will continue to escalate and that could put an end to British Jewry full stop."

Many in the Jewish community are working to reverse the trend to "marry out".

At an evening get together at the Jewish Learning Exchange in Golders Green in North London, young Jews mingle over coffee and cakes.

Organisers say they hope this evening may produce more than just heightened knowledge about their faith.

This is also about giving young single Jews the opportunity to meet possible future partners.


For some marrying within the religion is a cultural choice - but many also believe that Judaism can only be passed on from mother to child and "marrying in" is therefore vital for the continuation of the faith.

"Matchmaking is in the back of our minds all the time because we know it's so important," says Danya Ross who is sitting in the dining room of a big Jewish family house not far from the Jewish Learning exchange in Golders Green.

Danya is part of an army of modern matchmakers who give hundreds of hours every month to organise dates for young single Jews.

Danya and her friend Joanne Dove
Matchmaking is a serious business in the Jewish community
"The good thing about matchmaking is to carry on the Jewish generation - to be able to marry Jewish men with Jewish women.

"Second of all, when you date in a matchmaking style you're very focussed on marriage and you're not focussed on how long you are going to date for, or flirting, or faffing, or anything like that."

Danya and her friend Joanne Dove use modern methods to get people together like texting and mobile phone calls.

They say they are thinking about getting a larger network together of single contacts - perhaps to go overseas.

While we chat a young 21-year-old girl from the neighbourhood comes breezing into the house, very excited about her new boyfriend. The two were introduced to each other through Danya and Joanne.

Multicultural society

But not everyone thinks marrying out will see the end of British Jewry.

"Britain is a very tolerant and multicultural society- and that means people from different faiths will work together, live together and fall in love together," says Rabbi Jonathan Romain, a rabbi from the British reform movement.

The Jewish reform movement is currently in the minority in Britain.

Britain is a very tolerant and multicultural society- and that means people from different faiths will work together, live together and fall in love together
Rabbi Jonathan Romain
Teaching Hebrew to converts at the Maidenhead synagogue, Rabbi Romain explained that he thought Jews needed to accept and embrace Britain's multicultural make-up.

"If we cry foul and say they are betraying their faith then we will make sure they opt out of the community but if we recognise that they still often feel Jewish and want to retain their place in the community then they will stay and we will gain not only them but their non Jewish partners as well. It's all a matter of recognising the new social reality."

The more orthodox mainstream in Britain currently finds these sorts of views extremely controversial. Both groups though are aware that the future of their faith is at stake.

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