In this article “intermarriage” refers to the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew who does not convert to Judaism.The terms “interfaith marriage” and “mixed marriage” will be used interchangeably with “intermarriage.” In sociological terms, marrying within one’s ethnic or religious group is called endogamy, while marrying outside is exogamy.At least two factors would lead the naive observer to suppose that Jewish women would, in fact, have been more prone to interfaith marriage than Jewish men.First, according to the sex-ratio data derived from the 1970 NJPS, there were more Jewish women than men available for marriage in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
A second reason to suppose that Jewish women might have married out more than Jewish men is that, according to traditional Jewish law, a child’s religion is determined by the religion of the mother.141–142) Jewish women, however, were anomalous in this regard. They were raised to believe that there was nothing superior to a Jewish man.And, despite the social class advantages that might have accrued to them through marrying non-Jews, the rate of interfaith marriage for Jewish women was, until the decade of the 1970s, always considerably lower than that of Jewish men. Apart from the fact that both groups are subject to the same societal influences, the two rates are also integrally connected to each other: as increasing proportions of Jewish men intermarry, there will be fewer available Jewish males for Jewish women. 8–9) Until the mid-1970s, the issue of gender differentials in exogamy was often noted in passing in articles describing mixed marriage.One would therefore expect stronger sanctions against out-marriage for men than for women, whose exogamy would not appear to threaten group survival to the same degree.Why is it, then, that, until the last two decades or so, Jewish women were so reluctant to intermarry?