Hold the Mazel Tov

This story warrants no celebration. I mean, talk about an evergreen topic on the religion beat. The primary problem with this story from the Detroit Free Press, which tragically got picked up by the United States' largest newspaper, is that it suffers from dry rot.

Never can I recall reading a religion story in a major newspaper that was so stale. Well, in a major newspaper not named the Los Angeles Times.

So what's the big news? It's this crazy new thing called intermarriage. And it's tearing through the American Jewish community.

It's a growing trend in the American-Jewish community, where about half of recently married couples nationally have non-Jewish spouses, according to experts analyzing data from the National Jewish Population Survey and other studies.

While the percentage of interfaith marriages is lower in metro Detroit, the numbers are increasing, especially among those 35 and younger.

That growing rate concerns those who fear it will erode the vitality and numbers of a small community. Studies show that interfaith couples are much less likely to maintain Jewish traditions.

What's the first hint that this story is more than a little bit stale?

The NJPS report is 10 years old. That's right: Jewish intermarriage was "the great fear" 20 years ago and it's been a decade since there was any real news about it. Libraries have long since been filled with books discussing interfaith marriage. Plenty have called it a disaster; some even referred to it as the Second Holocaust. But that ship sailed eons ago.

If you need further proof, consider this: Even "The Simpsons" have gotten around to the issue of Jewish interfaith marriages.

The Detroit Free Press could have freshened this story up a bit by talking about the premise of Naomi Schaefer Riley's column for the Washington Post this month: Interfaith marriages, across all religions, are increasing -- and increasingly failing. But they didn't. Reporter Niraj Warikoo repeatedly just returned to the fact that for some families in which one spouse is Jewish and, apparently in all cases, the other is Christian, the set up seems to work "[b]ut the concern remains among some." Over and over this is repeated.

The reasons why are easy to understand. It's just that this isn't news.

On top of everything else, this story violated a general rule of journalism: don't frame headlines as questions. ("Do interfaith marriages threaten Jewish identity?") When we are talking about newspaper articles and not blog posts, a question headline usually indicates that the reporter didn't do enough research.

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