19 July 2007

What did they get Right in Mexico?

Esther posted an interesting statistic in the context of an argument for Jewish Education.

Here's the relevant piece - from Haaretz

In contrast, history teaches that the most salient factor in preserving Jewish identity is an old, unfashionable method: intensive (not necessarily Orthodox) Jewish education, specifically elementary and high-school education. Figures from last year show that in the United States, where only 25 percent of Jewish children are enrolled in Jewish day schools, the proportion of mixed marriages among young couples stands at 54 percent. In Mexico, by contrast, 85 percent of Jewish children study in a Jewish educational framework, and the intermarriage rate among young people is 10 percent.

I'm all for Jewish education (the miserable state of it notwithstanding), but I'm doubting that's what underlies this difference in intermarriage rates.

The major difference between the US community and the Mexican community is Ashkenazi/Sephardi makeup. I would wager (without seeing numbers) that the rates of intermarriage among Sephardim worldwide are much lower than among Ashenazim. The same underlying motivation that sends the kids to Jewish school is what keeps them from intermarrying. I'm all for education, but I'm betting that the Sephardim hold a deeper secret.

I had a Sephardi friend in Yeshiva who claimed that Ashkenazim relate to God as servants, where Sephardim relate to God as children. It's sweeping, but I think there's a kernel of truth in there. A servant either serves or rebels - those are his options. A son has a much wider range of relationship, a wider window of acceptance, a way to be Jewish from wherever he is. Ashkenazim oscillate between building the palace and tearing it down.

I don't know if I've put my finger on the difference, but I believe it's there. Am I right here? What do you think the Sephardi magic sauce is?

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