'There's no crisis, everything is fine'

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Thi is what leading figures, who were born Jewish, say about the change in marriage patterns:

Howard Jabobson, novelist, author of Roots Schmoots: "It is the experience of most Jewish men - and most Jewish women who observe Jewish men - that Jewish men are never more Jewish than when they marry a gentile.

"We used to laugh about it when I was a kid in our Jewish community in Manchester. We were always amused by the inter-marriage couples, because the one that displayed the most "Jewishness" was always the gentile partner.

"The debate about who counts as a Jew and who doesn't, doesn't matter to the Jews who marry out. It is the Orthodox Jews who have given themselves their own conundrum - so we are losing Jews. But there is no crisis, everything is fine. The only figure that would worry me would be if 100 per cent of Jewish men were found to be marrying Jewish women."

Jonathan Miller, writer and director: "I am Jewish, but I suppose I am Jewish by default. I can't bear the religion any more than any other. I'm Jewish, but only because somebody might call me one. I can't escape. There is just no way of evading it.

''But if there is a shrinking Diaspora, I don't think it is a particularly important matter.

''I don't want to see the Jewish community shrink by elimination, but by assimilating or by progressive transparency, that seems to be good and reasonable and inevitable. It is a form of natural speciation, just as in the jungle - its is simply not troublesome.

''A lot of intelligent Jews deplore aspects of their own group - because if there are virtues there are bound to be vices. I do regret cleansing of ethnic groups, but natural assimilation is part of nature.

''There may be people who'll say I'm a traitor, that I've forgotten the six million, but I remember them very well.''

Clare Rayner, author and agony aunt: "Essentially I'm Jewish, but actually I'm an atheist.

''An enormous number of my non-Jewish male friends who've married Jewish women, think they are living in the middle of a Jewish joke. But my non- Jewish women friends who've married Jewish men, don't feel it is so funny.

''Jewish men who marry out may well have such a feeling of guilt that they worry about it. Worrying about whether children of originally non- Jewish women are jewish or not is frankly a load of cods wallop. I can't be doing with it.

''One of the healthiest things to have happened to Judaism at the liberal end is its recent willingness to accept converts.''