Double or Nothing?: Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage

Double or Nothing?: Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage

by Sylvia Barack Fishman
     
 

"What is the impact of mixed marriage on Jews and Judaism? Will the blessing of American openness cause Jewish culture to be virtually loved out of existence in twenty-first-century America? These provocative questions frame Fishman's study." "Drawing on more than 250 original interviews with mixed-married men and women, focus group discussions with their teenaged…  See more details below

Overview

"What is the impact of mixed marriage on Jews and Judaism? Will the blessing of American openness cause Jewish culture to be virtually loved out of existence in twenty-first-century America? These provocative questions frame Fishman's study." "Drawing on more than 250 original interviews with mixed-married men and women, focus group discussions with their teenaged children, and materials produced by communal, secular, and religious organizations, Fishman examines family dynamics in mixed-married households. She looks at the responses of Jewish and non-Jewish families and friends. She investigates how the "December dilemma" plays itself out in diverse mixed-Jewish households and explores popular cultural depictions of mixed marriages in fiction, film, and television." While understanding and accepting the cultural imperatives that have produced high intermarriage rates, Fishman emphasizes the key role of education in creating Jews who seek to remain affiliated. As one reviewer points out, her book offers a "well-thought-out response to a problem that has generated more hysteria than reasoned analysis."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Recent population surveys have fixed the rate of mixed marriages in the Jewish community at about 50 percent, but they rarely prod the surface of that statistic. Fishman, however, employs a social scientist's eye to explore family dynamics in order to illuminate the larger social and psychological dimensions of mixed marriages. She posits that the unprecedented acceptance enjoyed by contemporary Jews and the permeable and tolerant boundaries of American society have resulted in the attractiveness of marriage between Jews and non-Jews. Because many who intermarry maintain their own faith-some raising children in one religion, some in both-negotiation and emotion color family life. "We are making the world a better place just by raising our children to participate in two religions," argues one couple. The book follows Jews and non-Jews as they "step through the looking glass into a world familiar yet different," says Fishman. Based on original interviews and published materials, Fishman's research reaches beyond the topic of mixed marriage to describe the complexion of American life in general, its perceptions, strengths and stereotypes. She places real-life mixed marriages in their literary and cultural American contexts, examining depictions of intermarriage in films, books and popular culture. Fishman concludes by discussing the impact of mixed marriage on Jewish heritage and the future of American Jewish life. Given the high percentage of intermarried families, this book should find a ready audience that will resonate with the experiences of Fishman's interviewees. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fishman states in her introduction that "the condition of American Jews today is in many ways idyllic" and that "no social phenomenon expresses the extraordinary new status of American Jews more than their attractiveness as romantic and marital partners for mainstream Christian Americans." After these bold and potentially offensive pronouncements, the book surprises with cogent analysis that completely opposes the introduction's flippant tone. Fishman, a professor and associate editor of Brandeis's "Series on Jewish Women," goes from arguing that everything is just fine to proving that it isn't, then sets forth the work that we all need to do against anti-Semitism and ignorance on the part of Jews and gentiles. She bases her analysis on the Morning Star Commission's study on Jewish ethnic identity, interviews with married and unmarried Jews and gentiles, and scores of statistics and studies. She ponders why Jewish people are intermarrying at such a high rate yet passes no judgment, instead asking how we can support intermarried couples while strengthening the Jewish community. Despite Fishman's wavering intent and contradictory conclusions, the book is a useful research tool because of its excellent quantitative, qualitative, and bibliographic resources. Recommended for sociology or religion collections in academic libraries.-Khadijah Caturani, "Library Journal" Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Fishman...employs the social scientist's eye to explore family dynamics in order to illuminate the larger social and psychological dimensions of mixed marriages . . . Fishman's research reaches beyond the topic of mixed marriage to describe the complexion of American life in general, its perceptions, strengths and stereotypes . . . Given the high percentage of intermarried families, this book should find a ready audience that will resonate with the experiences of Fishman's interviewees."—Publishers Weekly

"Using her analysis of 254 original interviews with mixed marriage families, group discussions, as well as the latest survey data from the 2000 National Population Survey, Professor Fishman skillfully explores the impact of this phenomenon and what it means for the future . . . [by] stressing the important role of education in maintaining Jewish affiliation. In a fascinating section Fishman examines depictions of intermarriage in contemporary films, books and television. This book is a serious and valuable analysis of a phenomenon that is changing the parameters of American Jewish life."—Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Journal

"The book intersperses comments from the respondents into the text, which makes for interesting, accessible reading and also humanizes these much-discussed issues. Fishman also shows how interfaith families are depicted in American literature, film and popular culture and looks at the issue of intermarriage in Jewish societies historically."—New York Jewish Week

" . . . Whereas previous studies have focused on numbers —thus providing a snapshot in time—[Fishman] brings the carefully researched stories of 254 mixed-married, intermarried and converted adults. [Fishman] goes beyond the statistics to provide a picture of how their religious identity evolved over the course of marriage. In the process, she ends up describing an enormous hybrid sub-culture of North American Judeo-Christian families, that differs 'strikingly' from all other American Jews . . . [An] insightful book."—Jerusalem Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781584652069
Publisher:
Brandeis University Press
Publication date:
03/01/2004
Series:
Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life & HBI Series on Jewish Women
Pages:
220
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

SYLVIA BARACK FISHMAN directs the program in Contemporary Jewish Life in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University, where she is a Professor. She is co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Her most recent book, Jewish Life and American Culture (2000) explored the way American Jews negotiate the Jewish and secular pieces of their lives. Her earlier books include A Breath of Life: Feminism in the American Jewish Community (1993), named a 1994 Honor Book by the National Jewish Book Council; Follow My Footprints: Changing Images of Women in American Jewish Fiction (1992); and Changing Minds: Feminism in Contemporary Orthodox Jewish Life (2000).

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