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.

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

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America