Popular Science Monthly/Volume 69/December 1906/The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment III

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Mixed Marriages between Persons of Different Christian Denominations

THE assumption that Jews and christians refrain from intermarriage because of an inherent racial antipathy existing between the Aryan and the Semite is disproved by the large number of mixed marriages in western Europe and America. All the facts go far to prove that the only reason why they have not intermarried during the middle ages and even as far as the first half of the nineteenth century was the difference of religious belief. It was both the church and the synagogue which discouraged intermarriage between Jews and christians. Not only has the church prohibited intermarriage with Jews, mohammedans and heathens, but even the adherents of the different christian denominations have been thus enjoined. In the beginning of the nineteenth century intermarriage between catholics and protestants was comparatively rare in Europe and America. With the change of conditions characteristic of our age, a spirit of toleration has become dominant, and mixed marriages are to-day more or less common. In some countries in Europe denominational statistics have been compiled, and these are of considerable interest in this connection. In Hungary, where many religious confessions are represented, the following are the rates of intermarriage: To 100 marriages contracted in 1903 between persons of the same creed there are mixed marriages among unitarians, 167.73; protestants, 49.39; reformed church, 48.52; Greek catholic, 42.79; Greek oriental, 16.88; Jews, 7.21. Here we find a connection between the degree of religious toleration and the proportion of mixed marriages. The unitarian church, which does not prohibit its adherents to marry outside of their faith, shows the highest proportion of mixed marriages of all the other denominations. In fact, there were more mixed than pure marriages. Next come the evangelical and reformed denominations, with nearly 50 mixed to 100 pure marriages. The large proportion of mixed marriages among the Greek catholics is due to intermarriage with adherents of the Roman catholic and Greek oriental churches; comparatively few marry protestants. The Jews and the Roman catholics have the lowest percentage of mixed marriages. It must, however, be mentioned in this connection that in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, where social intercourse between Jews and christians is more common, and the Jews are on a higher economic and intellectual plane than their coreligionists in the province, the rate of intermarriage is nearly double, reaching 17 per cent, in 1904, although it is only ten years since they have been legally permitted to marry with christians. In Germany similar conditions prevail. Of a total number of 468,329 marriages contracted during 1901, only 41,014 were between persons of different faith, i. e., only 9.59 mixed marriages to 100 pure marriages. Among the Jews in that country there were during that year contracted 3,878 pure and 658 mixed marriages, or 16.97 per cent., which shows a larger tendency to intermarry among the Jews than among the general population. Taking the three chief religions in Germany, we find the following proportions of mixed marriages:

Religion and Country Pure Marriages Mixed Marriages No. of Mixed to 100
Pure Marriages
Germany (1901).
Protestants 277,480 39,115 14.10
Catholics 145,141 39,115 26.95
Jews 3,878 658 16.97
Prussia (1901).
Protestants 172,570 23,794 13.78
Catholics 87,898 23,794 27.07
Jews 2,570 455 17.71
Bavaria (1901).
Protestants 13,390 4,588 37.03
Catholics 31,739 4,588 14.45
Jews (1902) 447 42 9.40

It is noteworthy that in Germany catholics are more given to intermarry than the protestants, which is exactly the reverse of conditions in Hungary. To 100 pure catholic marriages, during 1901, there were 26.95 catholics who married protestants, while only 14.1 per cent, of protestants were married to catholics, which is even less than the rate of Jewish mixed marriages in that country, 16.97 per cent. In Prussia also the catholics intermarried more than the protestants and Jews, the proportions being, catholics, 27.07 per cent.; protestants, 13.78 per cent., and Jews, 17.71 per cent. In Bavaria, on the other hand, the reverse is true. There the protestants intermarry to a much larger extent than the catholics. The latter had 37.03 per cent, of mixed marriages, as against only 14.45 per cent, among the former, and 9.4 per cent, among the Jews. It appears from these figures that adherents of the religion of the majority of the inhabitants are less likely to marry outside of their faith than persons following the creeds which are in the minority. Thus in Germany where 62.51 per cent, of the population is protestant, and only 36.06 per cent, catholic, the latter are more apt to marry protestants; similarly in Prussia (population, 63.29 per cent, protestant and 35.14 per cent, catholic), the catholics have 27.07 per cent, of marriages with protestants as against only 13.78 per cent, of marriages of protestants with catholics. In Berlin, where the population consists of 84.18 per cent, protestants and only 9.98 per cent, catholics, there were in 1904 only 19.93 mixed marriages of protestants to catholics, as against 323.81 per cent, of catholics to protestants, while in Bavaria, having a majority of catholic population, 70.65 per cent., and only 28.32 per cent, of protestants, it is the protestants who have a higher proportion of mixed marriages, 37.03 per cent., as against only 14.45 per cent, among the catholics. The powerful influence of the majority and its tendency to absorb the minority are thus demonstrated. The immediate cause is, of course, to be sought in the fact that there is often some difficulty to find a suitable partner among the minority, and when one is found among the followers of a different creed, all religious scruples are laid aside.[1]

Intermarriage between persons of different creeds is a recent phenomenon, only one hundred years ago it was quite rare. "In no respect has modern civilization acted more beneficently than as promoter of religious toleration," says Westermarck. "In our time difference of faith discourages sympathy to a much less extent than it did in former ages."[2] "In Prussia the number of mixed marriages has quadrupled within the last fifty years, while the number of marriages in general has increased only 70 per cent, during that period. In Bavaria the increase has been more pronounced. During the first half of the nineteenth century they constituted less than three per cent, of the total number of marriages, while to-day one in ten marriages is contracted between persons of different faiths.

All these facts and figures emphasize that it was not any racial antipathy between the so-called Semite and Aryan which kept the Jews of former days from marrying with christians. There were practically no mixed marriages among persons of any religion during medieval days. The same prevails to-day in Russia, where mixed marriages are prohibited by law. With the progress of religious tolerance characteristic of our age, the number of mixed marriages has increased among persons belonging to all creeds, including the Jews.


Fertility of Mixed Marriages

Besides the religious and sentimental objections which are being made against intermarriage by Jews and christians, many other arguments were brought forward against them. Some have stated that mixed marriages are infertile, that a large proportion remain sterile and that the average number of children born to each marriage is much below the average of pure marriages. It has also been asserted that intermarriage of different races leads to physical, moral and intellectual deterioration. Only few of the virtues of each are inherited, but most of the vices are transmitted to the progeny.

The fertility of mixed marriages has especially been discussed by Joseph Jacobs, who calculated that even if one tenth of all the Jews and Jewesses married outside of their faith, only a little over two per cent, would be left of the original ten per cent, within six generations or 200 years. This idea prevailed, until recently Arthur Ruppin, after a thorough study of Prussian statistics, showed conclusively that there is no real basis for any such assertion. The fertility of mixed marriages in Prussia is not much below that of pure Jewish marriages.

Superficially, statistics would seem to indicate a lower birth rate of Jews married to non-Jews, as can be seen from the following figures, calculated by J. Thon, showing that in Bavaria the fecundity of the various classes of marriages was as follows:

Christian Jewish Mixed
1876-1900 2.64 3.54 1.58
1902 4.40 2.20 1.38
1903 4.31 2.31 2.11

In Prussia and Hungary the same is shown to be the case, while in the city of Berlin the fertility of mixed marriages appears even lower. The percentage of complete sterility is also stated to be higher among mixed than among pure Jewish couples. In New South Wales 13.41 per cent, of all the Jews married to Jewesses were sterile, while among Jews married to christians 30.55 per cent, were sterile. The average number of children was 3.48 among the general population, 4.06 among the Jews and only 2.01 among Jews married to christians.[3]

All these figures are no safe criterion as to the fertility of mixed marriages, because the usual method applied in calculating the material is fallacious. The way fertility is calculated is to divide the number of births in a given year by the number of marriages contracted during the same year. Only very few of the births during any one year are due to the marriages during that year, but are from couples married within the preceding twenty-five years. If the number of mixed marriages did not increase, such a division would more or less accurately give us the average fecundity. But as has been shown above, the number of mixed marriages increases regularly in every country considered, so that the births of the year considered represent the fecundity of a smaller number of marriages than have been contracted during this year. A smaller fertility is thus apparently seen among the mixed marriages. I will illustrate this by figures obtained by Ruppin about conditions in Prussia: During 1901 there were 4.2 births to each christian marriage; 2.80 to each Jewish marriage; and only 1.80 to each marriage of a christian to a Jewess and 1.53 to each marriage of a Jew with a christian woman. But recalling that only a few of these births were the results of marriages contracted during 1901, but represent marriages for about twenty-five years, we are led to investigate further. In 1876 only 256 mixed marriages were contracted in Prussia, and during the twenty-five succeeding years they increased annually, reaching 455 in 1901. If we accordingly calculate the birth rate for 1901 on the basis of the average number of marriages during these twenty-five years (1876-1901), the result is entirely different. Ruppin shows that the rates calculated by this method are 5.07 births to each christian marriage, 2.96 to each Jewish marriage, 2.5 to each marriage of a christian with a Jewess and 2.35 to each marriage of a Jew with a christian woman. The difference is thus not much in favor of pure Jewish marriages when compared with mixed. But even this does not give us a clear picture, because in many mixed marriages one of the parties accepts the religion of the other, and the births are then recorded not as the issue of a mixed marriage, but of a pure christian or pure Jewish marriage, as the case may be. Many births resulting from mixed marriages are consequently missing from the official records, thus reducing the average number of births perceptibly. Considering this and, in addition, the fact that most of the mixed marriages occur in large cities, where the birth rates are much lower than in the country, one is bound to agree with Ruppin that the Prussian official statistics do not support the theory that mixed marriages are less fertile than pure manages.

There is very little to be said about the alleged physical deterioration of the offspring of mixed marriages, because it has not been proved by any one.[4] Intellectually we do have proofs that the children born to mixed marriages are not below the average of Jewish and christian in Europe. Grant Allen was the first to point out the striking number of distinguished persons of half-Jewish blood as something simply extraordinary.[5] To mention only some of them—Sir John Herschel, the astronomer; Paul Lindau and his brother; G. Ebers, the Egyptologist; Professor Oldenburg, the philologist; Ludovic Halevy, the musician; Paul Heyse; Francis Turner Palgrave, the critic; W. Gifford Palgrave, the traveler; Sir H. Drumond Wolff, Prevost-Paradol; Edwin Booth, the actor; Bret Harte, the novelist, Elie Metchnikoff, the biologist; David Manin; Leon Gambetta; Sir John Millais, the British painter; and many others.


Religion of the Children resulting from Mixed Marriages

The church in many countries often complained that mixed marriages are a net loss to Christianity, because the children born to christians married to Jews are more apt to be raised in the tenets of Judaism. The Jews, on the other hand, have always maintained that each marriage of this kind is a distinct loss to Judaism. In fact, it has been pointed out that most of the children are brought up as christians, and that this is a distinct advantage to the Jews, because the race is thus maintained in its desirable purity, unadulterated by the infusion of foreign blood.

From statistical evidence available on the subject, it appears that about 75 per cent, of all the children born to Jews married to christians are baptized immediately at birth, and only 25 per cent, are raised as Jews. This is best seen in Hungary, where the law permitting mixed marriages stipulates that a person intending to marry one of another religion may make provision at the time of making the application for a marriage license about the religion of the children which may be born to them in the future. They may also leave the question open for future consideration, if they so desire. In the latter case it is provided that boys should follow the religion of their father, and girls that of their mother. Of the 3,590 mixed marriages contracted in that country from 1895 to 1903, only 801 have taken advantage of the provision of the law, and decided, at the time they applied for their marriage licenses, about the religious affiliation of their future children. Of these 685, or 85.64 per cent., declared that they desired to bring up their children as christians, and only 116, or 14.36 per cent., decided in favor of the Jewish religion. It is a striking fact that even in cases where the parents registered themselves as freethinkers married to Jews, one half declared their intention to raise their children in the tenets of the christian church. The Jews thus lose in Hungary 85.64 per cent, of the children born of mixed marriages, which is a net gain to the christian church.

In New South Wales, also, it was found that most of the children resulting from mixed marriages are raised as christians. Of the children born to Jews married to christian women, 44 were Jewish and 119 christian; of the children of christians married to Jewesses, 35 were christian and 20 Jewish. The net result is that from the children born to Jewish husbands married to christian wives only 26.99 per cent, were Jewish, and from children born to christian husbands married to Jewish wives 36.36 per cent, are Jewish. It is noteworthy that here the mother has more influence than the father in determining the religion of the children.

In Copenhagen, where the number of mixed marriages is very large, Salomon states that most of the children are raised as christians. The same conditions are stated to prevail in Italy and France.

In Prussia this subject has been studied by the census officials for many years. The result is this: About 75 per cent, of all the children are christian, and only 25 per cent, are Jewish. Thus between 1885 and 1900 the figures are as follows:

Jewish Christian
1885 24.78 per cent. 75.22 per cent.
1890 25.48 per cent. 74.52 per cent.
1895 24.47 per cent. 75.53 per cent.
1900 24.21 per cent. 75.79 per cent.

These figures represent the children who lived with their parents in the census years mentioned, and show distinctly that only 25 per cent, of them are Jews, although among the parents 50 per cent, of Jews are represented. It is noteworthy that in Prussia it is the husband's religion which has more influence in determining the religious affiliation of the offspring. During the census of 1900 it was found that in families where the mother was Jewish and the father christian only 20.08 per cent, of the children were Jewish, as against 27.67 per cent, in families where the father was Jewish and the mother christian.

It must also be mentioned that this does not represent the entire loss sustained by the Jews through intermarriage. A person who has one parent of christian origin, even if raised as a Jew, is more likely to marry a christian than a Jew when he becomes of age, because socially he comes in intimate contact with his christian relatives. It is also not as difficult for him to be baptized, because he considers himself as much of christian as of Jewish origin. It is Ruppin's opinion that hardly 10 per cent, of the children resulting from mixed marriages remain Jews for any considerable length of time. Of these it is doubtful whether any Jews are left after two or three generations.

"The loss sustained by Judaism through mixed marriages," says Ruppin, "is not to be considered a negligible quantity. In 1901, after five years of legalized intermarriage in Hungary, the proportion of children born to mixed parents was 1.23 per cent, of the total number of Jewish births; in Prussia, after twenty-five years of mixed marriages, it was 10.47 per cent., and in Berlin even 15.15 per cent, of all the Jewish births were of mixed origin. Between 1875 and 1902 14,536 children were born in Prussia from mixed marriages." In fact, Ruppin points out that the loss is much greater than through baptism, which is very much in vogue in Prussia. He shows that in Prussia only about 400 Jews are converted annually to Christianity, as against 700 children of half-Jewish blood becoming christians. Only about 25 christians are annually converted to Judaism and 75 children of half-Jewish blood are gained by Judaism through intermarriage. In this connection it is of interest to mention the numerous christian missions to the Jews, which are mostly kept up on the moneys contributed by English-speaking people. It is well known that they meet with but little, if any, success. Their expense is enormous. According to Dr. Kohler,[6] the Berlin Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews spent more than 117,152 Reichsthaler upon the conversion of 461 Jews during the fifty years of its existence, while the London Society paid between the years 1863 and 1894 from £600 to £3,000 for the conversion of a single Jew. It appears from the figures given above that intermarriage brings much better results for the promotion of Christianity among the Jews than missions with their 'costly converts,' who only rarely prove to be desirable acquisitions to Christianity.


Dissolution of Marriage

There are but few data about the frequency of divorce among the Jews. In eastern Europe and the orient, the rabbinical law of divorce prevails among the Jewish inhabitants, and any trivial cause often suffices before some rabbis to grant a divorce. The husband can even send a divorce to his wife by proxy through a messenger. Divorces, while not uncommon, considering the ease with which they can be obtained, are not very frequent. Family ties are very strong among the eastern European Jews and only rarely is advantage taken of the rabbinical law to dissolve marriage. The western European Jews do not depend on the rabbinical divorce law, but follow the civil laws of the countries in which they live. From the few statistical data available it is seen that during the middle of last century divorce was less frequent among the Jews in Bavaria than among the christian population in that country. The same appears to be the case in Berlin, as can be seen from the following figures:

Average Annual Number of Divorces per 1,000 Population,
1885-1886. 1890-1891. 1895-1896.
Protestants 3.57 3.07 4.73
Catholics 2.71 2.81 3.35
Jews 2.67 2.51 3.26

Although the rates are lower among the Jews than among the christians, still there is to be noted a steady increase in the frequency of divorces among them, from 2.67 in 1885 to 3.26 in 1896. Another way to calculate the divorce rate is by taking the number of divorces in any one year per 1,000 married couples found in a city. In Berlin, during the five years, 1895 to 1899, the rates were 3.75 among the Jews and 5.09 among the christians.

In eastern Europe there are more divorces among the Jews in Hungary and Roumania than among the christians. In Hungary, from 1898 to 1901, the divorces among the Jews constituted 9.51 per cent, of the total number of divorces granted in that country, although the Jews only constituted 4.42 per cent, of the total population. In Roumania 5.83 per cent, of the divorces granted during 1897 were granted to Jews, while only 4.55 per cent, of the total population was Jewish.

There are no statistics about divorces among the Jews in the United States, but it can be stated, without fear of meeting serious contradiction, that it is not uncommon. The divorce courts in New York City are quite often asked by Jews to dissolve their marriage. I am inclined to believe that it is in New York as frequent among Jews as among christians. On the east side of the city the immigrant population very often take advantage of the rabbinical law, and easily obtain divorces. But among the native Jews this never happens; they go to the civil courts for the purpose.

From a few scanty statistics about the causes of divorce among Jews, it is evident that there is very little difference between Jews and Christians in this respect. In Berlin, Buppin mentions that infelicity on the part of the husband is more frequently a cause among Jews than among christians, while infelicity on the part of the wife is more frequent among christians. Wife desertion is also more frequent among Jews than among christians in Berlin.

It has been stated that divorce is more apt to occur among mixed couples than among pure Jewish couples, and some statistics of the city of Berlin support this opinion. During the ten years, 1892 to 1902, to each 1,000 marriages there were divorces as follows: Jews, 3; christians, 3.91; Jews married to christian women, 10.09; christians married to Jewesses, 11.16. Mixed marriages are thus from three to four times more likely to be divorced than pure marriages. Marriages between christians and Jewesses are more often dissolved than marriages between Jews and christian women. Besides the excessive friction incidental between married couples of different faith, even between catholics married to protestants, it must be recalled that mixed marriages are taking place chiefly in large cities, where divorces are more common than in small towns and in the country. Besides, mixed marriages have lately been increasing, as was shown above, and divorces are more frequent among couples recently married than among those who have successfully passed several years of marital life. Statistics of divorce among mixed couples for a small number of years are, therefore, likely to be fallacious, and for a long period of years there are no available data.

With divorces the influence of the social environment is again evident. In the orient and eastern Europe, where the Jews live under strict adherence to their faith and traditions, participating but little in tendencies of modern life, the sacredness of the family ties is strictly guarded, and divorces are uncommon, although easily obtainable.[7] In western Europe and America, where the Jews are completely under the influence of modern city life, divorces are frequent and are growing in frequency.

  1. A somewhat similar phenomenon has been noted among the immigrant population in the United States. The Tenth Census made the interesting deduction that in those portions of the country where a single nationality was numerously represented, as, for instance, the Irish in New York City, there was little intermarriage with other nationalities. But where the nationality was not numerously represented, as the Irish in St. Louis, there was a greater tendency among the men to marry native-born women, or women of other nationality. (R. Mayo-Smith, 'Statistics and Sociology,' pp. 111-112.) The same is 1 true of the Jews in the United States: Very few marry christians in New York City, while in the western and southern states intermarriage is common.
  2. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, p. 376.
  3. Results of Census of N. S. W., 1901, Pt. III., 1902, Pt. V., 1903.
  4. If the proportion of stillbirths should be taken as an index of the vitality of the new born, then nothing unfavorable can be found in cases of mixed marriages: In Prussia the percentage of stillbirths was found from 1875 to 1899 as follows: Christians, 3.59 per cent.; Jewish, 3.21 per cent.; and mixed, 3.45 per cent. The rates of the mixed are thus about midway between the pure Jewish and pure christian.
  5. Mind, Vol. VIII., pp. 504-5.
  6. 'Jewish Encyclopedia,' Vol. IV., p. 252.
  7. It will appear from the figures given above about divorces in Hungary and Roumania that they are more frequent among the Jews than among the christians in these countries. But it must be recalled that the christians can not obtain divorces easily according to the civil laws of the country. The Jews, however, are left to themselves in this respect, and they can easily obtain divorces from the rabbis.