Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage & Fatherhood by Keren R. McGinity gives the reader a fresh and lucid look at intermarriage. McGinity, who is affiliated with Brandeis University, conducted fifty-four in-depth oral histories of men and women involved in an intermarriage where the husband is Jewish and the wife is not. McGinity integrates her findings with an impressive command of the social and historical research on intermarriage, making this book an important analysis of this thorny issue. The volume can be viewed as a companion book to McGinity’s previous study, Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America.
The new book is filled with vivid vignettes about intermarried couples. In addition, McGinity discusses numerous special issues faced by these families, such as providing a Jewish education for the children. McGinity found that even though the men married non-Jewish women their Jewish identity remained important to them and they wanted their Jewish heritage to be transmitted to their children. However, translating desire into behavior is not easy. The men often faced tremendous professional pressure to make their work their top priority, leaving them with little time and energy to provide a solid Jewish upbringing for their children. This often left parenting to their wives, who are not knowledgeable about Jewish practice or not interested in providing a solid Jewish upbringing for their children. The end result is that often the children do not get an understanding of Jewish traditions despite the fact that their father might want them to have a strong Jewish sense of identity.
McGinity’s work sends an important message to the Jewish community. Jewish men in intermarriages “do contribute to Jewish continuity” and should not be written off by the organized Jewish community. More can be done to engage and empower them. McGinity urges Jewish communal leaders and communities to reach out to intermarried families. Jewish men, their non-Jewish wives, and their children should be encouraged to participate in synagogues and community centers. Furthermore, Jewish communal leaders should promote a “new model of Jewish identity and fatherhood” where both parents are actively encouraged to be engaged in the day-to-day responsibly of parenting their children at home and in the Jewish community.
McGinity’s findings and her analysis will appeal to all readers interested in Jewish families and the continuation of a vibrant Jewish community. Index, notes, photos, suggested readings.
- Internal Dialogue: Portraits of Intermarriage
- Essays on Interfaith Complexities
- Boy Vey! The Shiksa’s Guide to Dating Jewish Men by Kristina Grish