Underpaid Women Not Worrying About Intermarriage
11/16/2010 - 19:47

Intermarriage is not the central focus of a new study about people working for American Jewish organizations.

Rather, the most dramatic finding (according to me) of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America/Berman Policy Archives study can be summed up this way: Jewish women workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Women, the new study finds, “significantly trail men in compensation, with an overall gap of $28,000. Holding constant age, years in the field, level of responsibility, hours worked, and degrees earned, women’s salaries still trail men’s by about $20,000.”

Ouch. But why am I mentioning this on a blog devoted to all things intermarriage?

Well, since “Profiling the Professionals” was conducted by Steven “Marry A Jew” Cohen, I of course was curious what it would say about intermarriage. Not surprisingly, it echoed the findings of Jack Wertheimer’s recent study of young Jewish leaders: fewer people see intermarriage as a problem.

As Cohen writes:

Once a cause of much concern and a focus of ideological opposition in Jewish life, intermarriage has become increasingly tolerated, accepted, and even welcomed. Significantly, only 58% of Jewish communal professionals would be upset were their child “to marry a non-Jew who didn’t convert to Judaism.” An even smaller number — about one-third — express normative support for the endogamy (in-marriage) norm and are not comfortable with the idea that Jews should marry whomever they fall in love with, even if they are not Jewish.

This being a Cohen study (see my complaints about his Foundation for Jewish Camps study) the author makes a point of noting that:

Jewish communal professionals come disproportionately from stronger-than-average Jewish home and educational environments. More than the population at large, they report in-married parents who were more observant and more traditional than the norm. In addition, the professionals participated in a variety of Jewish educational experiences from childhood through young adulthood.

According to the study, only 7 percent of respondents have intermarried (weaker-than-average?) parents and:

Of those who are married, the vast majority (89%) are in-married. Clearly, the intermarried are significantly underrepresented in the ranks of the Jewish communal professional. These results point to the power of in-marriage to both reflect and predict engagement in Jewish life.

Another potential explanation for the results, one that Cohen leaves unexplored, is the possibility that the intermarried do not feel comfortable or welcome working in the Jewish community.

Since this is a Cohen production, the conclusion includes the “diminished enthusiasm” for in-marriage among its “disturbing trends” demanding “attention and contention.”

So Jewish gals, head straight to your boss and demand a $20,000 raise! (Don't blame me if you get fired.) After all, with intermarriage increasingly the norm, you can no longer rely on that rich Jewish doctor husband of stereotypical lore to pay the bills!

Do you like “In the Mix” even though it is authored by a “weaker than average” Jew? Then like it on Facebook!


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Great article Julie, and very insightful comments, Hila. The issues you raise here are precisely why I continue to blog with the moniker "Shiksa in the Kitchen" even though I've converted to Judaism. The word shiksa has a historically derogatory connotation, meant to convey that the shiksa is somehow "less than" somebody who was born into Judaism. I am working hard to change this definition. I feel we need to focus on welcoming people who would willingly embrace Jewish culture and traditions, not make them feel like outsiders. I am not ashamed of my Gentile roots. If my new Jewish family had turned away from me because of my genetics, I may never have joined the Tribe and given my whole heart to Judaism. That means one less person studying Torah, one less supporter of Israel, and one less person raising Jewish children. Many interfaith couples I know are extremely committed to instilling Jewish values in their children, even when one partner has chosen not to convert. I feel a more inclusive environment and open sharing of traditions will make Judaism stronger, not weaker.
I think there's more children of intermarriage in communal Jewish work than people know. Not sure how all this was controlled in the study. But more than outside the institutions, "institutional Jews" keep their intermarriages on the down low. At my first Hillel conference, I had no less than six people "come out" to me. The pressure is greater on the inside.
The Torah has plenty of instances of intermarriage among our patriarchs and matriarchs. Moses was intermarried, for instance. Just because someone intermarries doesn't mean they're leaving Judaism. And if in-married Jews make intermarried Jews feel uncomforatble, that is what is wrong. Our Jewish institutions need a diversity of Jewish leadership.
Julie, I think you make two really good points--one is that it's possible that intermarried people don't feel comfortable being staff in Jewish organizations--and the other is that women are still getting paid way less than men. Obviously, we have lots to work on!
What a great article Julie. I agree with you. Jews should definitely intermarry and anyone who disagrees is wrong. The problem with Jewish society today is that not enough of our parents and grandparents intermarried. Who is Steve Cohen to define Judaism? Just because our Chanukah Bush doesn't fit his narrow idea of what constitutes Jewishness doesn't mean it is not Jewish expression. I bet he supports Matzah on Passover too.
Wow Julie, this piece was a bit harsh – especially regarding Steven Cohen. I often appreciate your writing, but now I feel that you have crossed a line. Count me among those who are out of step with your view of the ideal inclusive Jewish community. It may not be Jewish by the communal definition, but I am against intermarriage – primarily on halachik grounds. You are certainly entitled to your opinion of the wonders and benefits to the Jewish people, but I'll go with traditional Jewish law which prohibits marriage to gentiles. I can appreciate all Jews (and all people) but it appears to me that choosing to marry a gentile spouse undermines the future of Judaism. Steven Cohen is right about that. Perhaps intermarried Jews do feel uncomfortable taking on Jewish leadership roles; that is the way it should be. That model of leadership will eventually spell the end to Jewish tradition, Jewish people-hood, and Jewish life. Sorry to be so un-PC.
In response to Rabbi Tuvia Berman -- I think your point is valid from a purely halakhic standpoint. But that means any Jew that doesn't follow every single commandment (according to your definition of halakhic) may as well not be Jewish. (I don't believe that your opinions are only based on halakha -- people often use halakha as an excuse to justify holding onto behaviors and attitudes that include extreme social biases which have nothing to do with halakha). Also, Julie's opinions (with which I agree) are not predominantly directed to Jews who follow a strict halakhic life style (ie. the majority of Jews, while there are even some intermarried Jews who are otherwise halakhicly observant). Many of us feel exactly the opposite of how you do -- that having an exclusive attitude (in addition to exclusive policies) will actually spell the end of Judaism (eventually no one will fit the "proper" definition of who is a Jew, halakhicly). So either you allow the community to grow and expand or you turn everyone away. It's not even a matter of being PC or not -- to me, this is a deep moral question. How do we treat other human beings? Should we really think it's okay to view non-Jews as inferior or unfit for marriage when many are extremely supportive in raising Jewish children and passing on Jewish practices and values? You might want to read up on more open-minded approaches to intermarriage, for example from Orthodox rabbi Steve Greenberg (http://www.clal.org/ss43.html).