Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage & Fatherhood.

Author:Hartman, Harriet
Position:Book review

Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage & Fatherhood. By Keren McGinity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, Z014. xvi + 269 pp.

Interfaith and interracial marriages have more than doubled in the United States in the last several decades, according to the Pew Forum's 2012 study of "The Rise of Intermarriage," and interfaith marriages of American Jews have been in the forefront of these changes. According to the 2013 Pew Survey of American Jews, close to 60% of marriages since 2000 including Jewish spouses are to non-Jews (up from about 40% for marriages in the 1980s, and 17% for marriages before 1970). While in the past, mixed marriages were more common between Jewish men and non-Jewish women, contemporary marriage is characterized by greater gender parity in terms of intermarrying--Jewish women are as likely to intermarry as Jewish men.

Concern about whether their children will identify as Jews has given rise to several books in the last decade, including two by Keren McGinity. Her first, Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America (2009), traces the changes for intermarried Jewish women through four different time periods, starting with 1900-1929 and ending with 1980-2004. Through interviews and historical analysis, she documents how, as Jewish women increasingly have married "out," they have also ventured more deeply "in" to their own Jewishness and Jewish identity. Her second, Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage & Fatherhood (2014), focuses on Jewish men who marry non-Jews. As in her first book, the data on which she bases her insights are qualitative interviews with a small number (27) of Jewish men in one community (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and about half of their wives (13). She is well aware that these men are not representative of most intermarried Jewish men, given the special nature of their college-town residence, their involvement in the Jewish community, and the relative affluence, high education, and professional occupations of the sample. Nevertheless, she does attempt to compare the two cohorts, those born between 1922 and 1945 and those born between 1946 and 1904, into which her sample falls. What becomes apparent, however, is that the similarities between the cohorts are greater than the differences: Jewish men are continuously seen as desirable marriage partners (primarily because of their earning power); non-Jewish women are seen as culturally desirable; the men's upbringing...

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