“Canadian communities cannot be complacent . . .”
By Alan Simons
JULY 29, 2009 – Some weeks ago, a report published by the United Israel Appeal (UIA)of Canada titled National Task Force on Jewish Demographics, produced some startling numbers, including a statement that said the overall Canadian Jewish population is not growing, it is a population that is ageing (in some communities, substantially so), and has a younger generation that is intermarrying in growing numbers.
By 2021, UIA state that: “2/5 of the largest communities in Canada are projected to have intermarriage rates above 50% and over 1/3 of all individuals residing in couples families will be living in interfaith arrangements.”
In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, which will account for 51.0% of Canada’s total Jewish population by 2011 (projected), UIA shows a dramatic increase in intermarriage numbers, from 14,705 in 1991, to a projected 29,891 in 2011 and an alarming leap to 42,954 in 2021.
The report cites suggestions on creating “pathways for interfaith couples and families.”
“It is incumbent upon Jewish communal institutions to strongly consider facilitating the participation of interfaith couples. . . . if the organized community can accept intermarried couples and their children through the institutions of the synagogue, school, daycare, and other community-oriented programs, then there is a greater likelihood that they will choose to be Jewish.”
UIA believes there are several areas where the organized Jewish community can make a difference:
-Having a Rabbi officiate at an interfaith ceremony is extremely important to the likelihood of future participation in Jewish life. In fact, 50% of interfaith couples married by a Rabbi indicated that it is important to them that their eventual grandchildren are raised Jewish as opposed to 18% when no Rabbi officiated at their wedding ceremony.
-Develop opportunities for grandparents to connect with their Jewish grandchildren in a Jewish setting.
-Offer experiences and materials for non-Jewish family members. For example, without any education, how many non-Jewish grandparents would support the concept of a Bris?
– Make resources readily available for intermarried couples. This could include a list of classes, peer groups, resources available, web sites . . .
UIA adds, “For interfaith couples, the more Jewish experiences they have = greater likelihood that they will raise their children Jewish.”
The key, we are told, is that “Jewish education (formal and informal) leads to more involved Jews. More individuals and families should be encouraged to participate. When they do participate, too few efforts are made to connect pathways, even though effectiveness is increased exponentially with multiple experiences.”
UIA also looked at the stagnant growth in Canada’s Jewish population. With only a 7.6% increase between 1991-2011(projected), this compares dismally to Canada’s Arab population, which shows an increase of 185.0% within the same period. In addition, the population of Toronto’s Muslim community in 1991 was 105,970. By 2011, it is projected to reach 402,250.
For a copy of UIA’s report contact Linda Kislowicz, CEO, UIA Canada. 1+(416) 636.7655
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