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Intermarriage - Judaism is the problem and Jewish Intermarriage and acceptance explored some aspects of how the community and intermarried couples feel about their marriages. But the really big question is, "Why don't don't nice Jewish boys marry nice Jewish girls?"

In the monograph, Matrilineal Ascent/Patrilineal Descent Sylvia Fishman and Daniel Parmer offer some answers, discussed and elaborated in different ways also here and here by by Julie Wiener and Sarah Bronson.

Jewish men, it seems, have a "toxic" view of Jewish women, as Fishman and Parmer write:

...many adult Jewish men--especially those who are attracted to and marry non-Jewish women -- complained that dating Jewish women is “work,” not “fun,” and that Jewish women are demanding, overbearing, and best escaped.

Fishman added in an Opinion/Opinion.html">interview: “Jewish men talk about Jewish women being loud and pushy; non-Jews describe them as vivacious and assertive...Jewish men describe Jewish women as chunky; non-Jewish men call them luscious, voluptuous."

And, according to Sarah Bronson

Fishman conducted studies in the late 1990's in which groups of Jewish men, non-Jewish men, Jewish women and non- Jewish women in and around Los Angeles were asked to choose, from among many photos of anonymous females, a "typical Jewish woman" and to describe her. They were then asked to describe the "ideal Jewish woman."

The last three groups - male and female gentiles, as well as Jewish women - overwhelmingly described Jewish women in neutral or positive terms such as "smart," "able to talk about anything," "beautiful," "voluptuous" and "well-read." In describing the ideal Jewish woman, they used the same terms.

The responses of Jewish men were markedly different. They were likely to describe the typical Jewish woman as "talking too much," "having to have an opinion about everything," "obsessed with food," "overweight" and "materialistic." And when they described the "ideal" Jewish woman, they chose different photos - of supermodels - and described them in opposite terms, such as "quiet," "not saying much" and "likes to listen.

Fishman and Parmer tell us the reason that Jewish men don't like Jewish women is that they aren't interested in Judaism:

The bottom line seems to be that when Jews do not find Jewishness attractive, they do not find Jews attractive. The tenuous Jewish identification of intermarrying men precedes their intermarriages, rather than the intermarriage causing the weak Jewish identification.

. This is a pretty strong indictment of Jewish men, who are leaving all these Jewish damsels, whether fair or chunky, overbearing or docile and accepting, in great distress. Are Jewish women really chunky and overbearing? Below is a picture of a chunky "Jewess." Decide for yourself.

Bar Raphaeli
Bar Raphaeli - 'Chunky Jewish woman?'

What about Jewish women? After she wrote her first column about the issue, Julie Weiner had second thoughts:

Just as I was feeling pleased with myself for penning such an astute column, I began to wonder if I’d given Jewish men a fair shake. After all, they’re hardly the only ones guilty of gender stereotyping.

The New York woman who praised my column noted that “the handful of Jewish men I dated seriously were commitment-phobes who are now (many years later) still unmarried or with non-Jewish women.” And a friend married to a former Unitarian echoed this attitude, writing that the few Jewish men who were interested in her “were often so neurotic it was clear it wouldn’t go past a few dates.”

Mentioning that one’s Jewish suitors tend toward the neurotic hardly makes one a bigot, yet it is interesting that comments like these frequently surface in conversations with intermarried and single Jewish women -- and I must confess I’ve had similar thoughts at times myself.

But short of public service messages to convince Jewish men that Jewesses are really not too overbearing -- alongside parallel ones extolling the brute strength and psychological resilience of Jewish men -- can stereotypical attitudes be changed?

And did I, in last month’s column, inadvertently overstate their whole influence on intermarriage trends?

And Weiner reached the same conclusion that Fishman did. The real problem is that Jewish men don't like Judaism:

The problem, I’ve decided, isn’t that Jewish men don’t want to marry Jewish women. It’s that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to join synagogues, learn about Judaism or celebrate Jewish holidays, and they’re apathetic about passing the traditions on to their children.

Nonetheless, the fact is that the supposedly chunky and overbearing Jewish women and the supposedly neurotic and uncommitted Jewish men mostly get married - they just don't get married to each other. Someone finds those women attractive and someone gets those men to be committed. And when we look at non-religious aspects of Judaism, such as support for Israel in Fishman and Parmer's study, the differences are more difficult to analyze and less dramatic. True, 55% of Jewish secular women have been to Israel among inmarried Jews, but only 38% of men. But among orthodox men and women, more women than men have also been to Israel - 91% versus 81%, so that difference is not due to different attitudes to religion. Among intermarried "Just Jewish, Secular" Jews 55% of men, but only 22% of women, insisted on circumcision of male born children. Those are women who supposedly tried very hard to find Jewish husbands because Judaism is so important to them, but failed in their quest, being spurned as chunky and overbearing. Religion as such or Jewishness can't be what separates the men from the women, though particular expressions of Jewishness may be more beloved of women than of men. Yet there is something to the sex differential argument. A 1989 study by Kosmin, Lerer and Mayer indicated that Jewish men were twice as likely to marry non-Jews as Jewish women. But later data indicate that intermarriage rates are now about equal. That being the case, it is not exactly fair to blame Jewish men for lack of interest in Judaism.

Nature has providentially arranged matters in most cases such that species and groups generally have aesthetic ideas that correspond to their own kind and culture. Iguanas like iguanas of the opposite sex, and Mr. Porker thinks Little Miss Piggy is gorgeous and not "chunky" or overbearing at all. Are the Jews different? Has sociology or social biology played a huge joke on the Jews in America?

Perhaps it is in order to look at sex differences in intermarriage among other minorities in the United States. Among American blacks, about twice as many men as women are married to whites. The number of intermarriages is increasing, and the number of female intermarriages is increasing faster than the number of male intermarriages according to a this study. Among Asian minorities in the United States, Among American born Asians, the rate of exogamous marriages to "white" mates is often nearly twice as high for women as it is for men. Exogamy is not a sex-linked characteristic of men, nor is "keeping tradition" a sex-linked characteristic of women.

There is at least one other potentially very important variable that has not gotten much discussion. Fishman points out:

Among American Jews aged 25 to 49, 22 percent of those who grew up with two Jewish parents are intermarried. Among those who grew up with one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent, 75 percent are intermarried. Thus, the widely discussed intermarriage rate of about 50 percent reflects two different populations with dramatically disparate rates.

Thus, it seems that the best way to prevent intermarriage is to prevent intermarriage. If there are two different populations, then the reasons for intermarriage in those populations and the reasons why they do or do not raise their children as Jews, and their attitudes to Jews of the opposite sex, should be studied separately for each group. The Jewish child of an intermarriage is Jewish by halacha if their mother was Jewish. Is the girl who got her "Jewishness" from her mother much more like to value it than the boy who got his Jewishness from his mother? Considering that fathers are role models for boys and mothers are role models for women, it is not so far-fetched. Among these children of intermarriage, how many are Jewish and really identify as Jewish, and how many are just "Jewish" because their mother happened to be Jewish? Phillps and Chertok have shown that the Jewish identity of children of intermarriages depends to a large extent on how they are raised. Only about a third to a half are raised as Jews. Which are the Jewish males who think Jewish girls are fubsy* and which are the females who think Jewish males are oppugnant? Which are the men who do not care about Jewish rituals or Israel? Are they, in equal proportions, children of inmarried Jews and children of intermarriages or are these views more common among nominally Jewish children of intermarriages, who really don't care about being Jewish?

Ami Isseroff



*"fubsy" (chubby and short) and "oppugnant" ( Tending to awaken hostility; hostile; opposing; warring.) are words that Colliers wants to take out of the English language. I am trying to save them from undeserved doom.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000614.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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i am the son of a jewish father and an english mother who ended up not going through with the conversion process because of all the shtuyot of the rabbis. i made the conscious decision to fulfill a long-held ambition to make aliyah, and i have been living here in israel for not long. it irritates me that i am regarded (and looked down upon, might i say) as a "goy" but frankly i know that the land of israel, the history, culture and literature of the jews are as much a part of me and my heritage as someone jewish "b'shnei hatzdadim" (or of course just with the crucial jewish mother/maternal great great grandmother). personally i conceptualise my identity as a "ben israel" with karaite, secularist leanings. i am of course a zionist, and i think it's a shame that the secular majority in this country defers to and allows a haredi oligarchy to dictate to it what it means to be a jew. it's a sore point for me because i cannot marry in this country (though of course, davka, i came here intending to one day marry a non-chunky, hebraic aphrodite, bar refaeli lookalike) nor receive certain other benefits. and of course my teudat zehut marks me as a "goy". all things which a few of my friends (also with intermarried parents, but with the crucial jewish mother) having not a fraction of my knowledge of hebrew, jewish and israeli history and religious understanding did not have to give a second thought.

now i've had a good gripe... i still love this place and intend to stay here. but i'm not prepared to "convert" when i already consider myself a jew and in my belief and reading of israelite history the whole concept of "converting" an "ivri ben ivri" is non-existent and clearly a much later rabbinical innovation. which is fine, but i wish it didn't impinge on my freedoms in very the land of my forebears.

intermarriage's malcontent, Wednesday, October 29th


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