Article Library / 2015

2014-2015 Annual Assessment

Just over one-quarter of American Jewish households – 27 percent – consist of two parents with children under 18. But these households, although a minority of Jewish households, represent an exciting – and little recognized – positive model for future growth and development in the American Jewish community. Calling these households “Partnership Marriages,” Sylvia Barack Fishman shows how the majority of these households blend individualistic goals and aspirations with what we may call “traditional Jewish family values,” in “Gender in American Jewish Life”.28

Most American Jewish families with children living at home have two parents working outside the home for pay – about three quarters of spouses ages 25 to 64. The figures are similar even when broken down by decades. The great majority of American Jewish women with children under age six at home are also labor force participants. Husbands and wives tend to have similar levels of educational and occupational achievement. Even their salary levels are quite close. Divorce rates are substantially lower than in the population at large. One might assume that such households would be too busy for Jewish connections. But, as Harriet and Moshe Hartman demonstrate in detail ,29 these same households that display spousal parity are also among the most Jewishly involved households – however Jewish involvement is measured – in the United States. Indeed the majority of Modern Orthodox American Jews are part of this demographic and this lifestyle.

Because these “Partnership” families model “having it all,” to use a contemporary – if hyperbolic – phrase and concept, they should be studied to see how their histories and the strategies they employ might be extended to larger segments of the American Jewish population.