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Why the Modern Orthodox Family Works

According to recent surveys of American Jewish families, the Modern Orthodox are most likely to choose spouses of near-equal levels of income and education. They are also more likely to be married and less likely to get divorced, and on average they have more children than the non-Orthodox. Sylvia Barack Fishman explores what leads to the success of Modern Orthodox family life:

[According to one sociologist], the Jewish calendar creates opportunities for “family life” and “time together.” Participants [in one study] reported that it is precisely the Jewish community and Shabbat that are the primary sources of satisfaction and pleasure in most Modern Orthodox Jews’ lives.

It may very well be that [the necessities of Jewish religious observance] keep lives—and marriages—balanced. Shabbat traditions encourage intimate time for couples after a candle-lit dinner with wine—Friday night is the rabbinic version of “date night.” The long hours of Shabbat afternoons lend themselves to cellphone-free long walks and talks with children. In a session at the 2017 World Congress of Jewish Studies, the social economist Carmel Chiswick suggested that weekly Shabbat observance guarantees time for children, family, and friends—humanizing opportunities often missing in contemporary lives.

This depiction of [Modern Orthodox family life] is critically important today, when younger American Jews are undergoing a marriage crisis, in which only half of Jews ages twenty-five to fifty-four are married or coupled. . . . Some marry later than they intended, and some who had hoped to marry do not. Many women report that they had fewer children than they had hoped to because of delayed marriage and childbearing.

The Modern Orthodox family model of high education, high occupational status, high income—and high fertility—may have implications for all of us diverse American Jews across the denominational spectrum. The statistics of recent studies offer us an important lesson: graduate and professional degrees and impressive jobs need not make marriage during more fertile years and larger families impossible.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Jewry, Family, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays

 

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals