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Still Jewish

Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America

Keren R. McGinity
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 325
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  • Book Info
    Still Jewish
    Book Description:

    Over the last century, American Jews married outside their religion at increasing rates. By closely examining the intersection of intermarriage and gender across the twentieth century, Keren R. McGinity describes the lives of Jewish women who intermarried while placing their decisions in historical context. The first comprehensive history of these intermarried women, Still Jewish is a multigenerational study combining in-depth personal interviews and an astute analysis of how interfaith relationships and intermarriage were portrayed in the mass media, advice manuals, and religious community-generated literature. Still Jewish dismantles assumptions that once a Jew intermarries, she becomes fully assimilated into the majority Christian population, religion, and culture. Rather than becoming lost to the Jewish community, women who intermarried later in the century were more likely to raise their children with strong ties to Judaism than women who intermarried earlier in the century. Bringing perennially controversial questions of Jewish identity, continuity, and survival to the forefront of the discussion, Still Jewish addresses topics of great resonance in the modern Jewish community and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5961-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Hannah Noble met her husband in medical school. He moved in with her on their second date, and they named their future children. Though he was Methodist, Hannah, raised as a secular Jew, knew she wanted to marry him and did not think that their different backgrounds would generate problems: “I didn’t really think about having a Jewish life back then.” However, they discussed religion during their engagement; her betrothed refused to raise his children as atheists and Hannah refused to raise them as anything but Jews. As a result, what had been a non-issue when they first met and...

  6. 1 Immigrant Jewesses Who Married “Out”
    (pp. 19-62)

    Immigrant Jewish women who intermarried in the early decades of the twentieth century were highly independent thinkers who refused religious conformity as a way of life. The Jewish women I consider here immigrated to this country between 1886 and 1894, and subsequently married Gentiles. Their Eastern European places of origin were similar, as were their Orthodox beginnings, and as activists they shared some political views and experiences. The lives of Mary Antin Grabau, Rose Pastor Stokes, and Anna Strunsky Walling illustrate freedom of choice and expression in the New World. These immigrant women who intermarried did not cease to self-identify...

  7. 2 Intermarriage in an Age of Domesticity
    (pp. 63-108)

    The lives of ordinary Jewish women who intermarried between 1930 and 1960 have heretofore been invisible. Jews assumed that Jewish women who married non-Jews all but disappeared by rejecting their religion and ethnic group, and by severing their connections with the Jewish community.¹ In other words, Jewish women who intermarried were considered no longer Jewish. However, a qualitative analysis of the meaning and published representation of intermarriage and gender suggests something different. Like their more famous, early-immigrant predecessors who intermarried, described in chapter 1, ordinary Jewish women selected their Gentile husbands in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Yet their histories...

  8. 3 Intermarriage Was A-Changin’
    (pp. 109-154)

    The decades of the 1960s and 1970s represent a turning point in intermarriage and Jewish women’s history. In contrast to women earlier in the century, some of the women I discuss in this chapter who were Jewish when they married non-Jews actually became significantlymoreJewish after they intermarried. They also defined on their own terms how they were Jewish and how they wanted to raise their children. Organized Jewish communities moved from being concerned about the increasing rate of intermarriage and what it portended for the future of the Jewish people to being alarmed about a full-scale crisis. As...

  9. 4 Revitalization from Within
    (pp. 155-196)

    Between 1980 and 2004 the high degree of disaffiliation permeating American society enabled women of Jewish heritage to marry men who frequently were not religious. The decrease in religious identification and observance among many Americans muted the differences between young Gentile men and Jewish women. The proportion of adult Americans among a nationally representative sample who indicated membership in a religious institution declined from 61 percent in the early 1970s and early 1990s to 54 percent in 2001, and the number who did not subscribe to any religious identification more than doubled between 1990 and 2001.¹ People met each other...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-216)

    America’s paradox of pluralism enabled the Jewish women in my study to marry Gentile men while also forcing the women to determine in what ways they integrated into the American population and how they retained their ethnic and religious heritage despite intermarrying. As I have described, America’s religious freedom, ethnic diversity, and marital opportunities offered Jewish women the chance to choose their own spouses and how they would self-identify. The meaning of religious identity thereby became increasingly personal and individualistic, as it did for many moderately affiliated American Jews.¹ The intrinsic struggle between the selection of a Gentile husband and...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 217-218)

    Although scholarly and personal interest in the concept and practice of intermarriage generated a substantial volume of literature, much more work needs to be done in this field. Titles referring to the “stranger” abound, including Ellen Jaffee McClain’sEmbracing the Stranger(1995), Gabrielle Glaser’sStrangers to the Tribe(1997), and Anne C. Rose‘sBeloved Strangers(2001). Yet, very little has been written about who the stranger is, what makes a person “strange,” and how that person experiences intermarriage. To truly understand Jewish-Gentile marriage, an examination of the Gentiles involved in Jewish intermarriages would seem important in order to draw a...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 219-220)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 221-292)
  14. Selected Index
    (pp. 293-306)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 307-307)