NEW YORK, Nov. 1 (RNS)--A majority of American Jews do not oppose marriages between Jews and non-Jews, a national survey by the American Jewish Committee has concluded.

Such interfaith marriages may account for as many as 50 percent of Jewish marriages in recent years, some estimates suggest, according to The New York Times.

Forty percent of respondents to the 2000 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion--a telephone survey of 1,010 Jews--said they were neutral about interfaith marriages, and 16 percent said such unions were positive.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they did not agree with the statement, "It would pain me if my child married a gentile," while an even greater number--80 percent--said they agreed that "intermarriage is inevitable in an open society."

Thirty percent said they would be disappointed by an interfaith marriage in which the non-Jewish partner did not adopt Judaism.

Though 69 percent of respondents said Jews were obligated "to urge Jews to marry Jews," just 12 percent of all respondents said they strongly disapproved of interfaith marriages.

A majority--64 percent--of the roughly 100 Orthodox Jews surveyed expressed strong disapproval of marriages between Jews and non-Jews. That number dropped to 15 percent among the estimated 300 Conservative Jews surveyed, 3 percent among the estimated 300 Reform Jews surveyed, and 2 percent among the estimated 20 people who identified themselves as "just Jewish."

Eighty percent of Orthodox Jews said they believed rabbis should not officiate at interfaith marriages, though fewer than 20 percent of other respondents held the same opinion.

Fifty percent of all respondents said they believed that opposing marriages between Jews and non-Jews is racist, but a nearly equal number--47 percent--did not agree.

"I think in the wake of widespread intermarriage, you see a shift in attitudes," David Singer, research director for the American Jewish Committee, told the Times. "The taboo is broken. The result is that you see a process of accommodation coming to the fore."

The AJC opposes intermarriage. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

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