Multiracial Jewish Families

Increasingly, Jewish families are adopting non-white babies.

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Adoption is on the rise in the Jewish community. And with this trend increasing numbers of children from a variety of racial backgrounds are  becoming part of the Jewish community. This article, reprinted with permission from Beliefnet.com, explores this growing trend.

Ari Wolff’s mom was worried about sending her 8-year-old to overnight camp for the first time last summer. She had the usual concerns: Would he be homesick? At a Reform Jewish camp in California, would he be too far from their home in Honolulu? 

But she also had one more: Would children tell him he wasn’t Jewish because he is black?

Trans-racial Adoptions

multiracial family

Ari, now 9, is one of a growing number of children from African-American, Latino, Asian, and mixed-race backgrounds being adopted by Jewish parents. Nearly unheard of 15 years ago, trans-racial adoptions are today, quite literally, changing the face of the Jewish community. 

No one knows just how many Jewish children come from other ethnic backgrounds. 

In years past, most were born in Korea, Vietnam, and Latin America. Americans–of all religions and ethnicities–continue to adopt children from those countries, but today, experts say, the former Soviet Union and China are the leading birth countries in international adoptions and are the source of 4,500 and 4,000 children, respectively. 

And while domestic adoptions of children from black and Hispanic backgrounds were first seen in significant numbers in the early 1970s, they seem to be increasingly popular among Jewish parents today. 

The 1990 National Jewish Population Study–the last completed “census” of American Jewry–found that 6.5 percent of all respondents were nonwhite, said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, based in San Francisco. 

Four percent of the study’s “core population”–meaning Jews by birth or conversion–were black or Hispanic, he said, which equaled about 220,000 people. 

A decade after the study, it’s now possible that through adoption, adult conversion, and intermarriage, the percentage of nonwhite Jews in America is as high as 10 percent, Tobin said. 

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Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a staff writer for The Jewish Week.

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