Mar­ry­ing Out: Jew­ish Men, Inter­mar­riage, and Fatherhood

Keren R. McGinity
  • Review
By – April 30, 2014

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.

Relat­ed content:

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions