What does masculinity have to do with religiosity and inmarriage?

The liberal Jewish community is grappling with the question of attracting and retaining men and boys, both as participants in religious life and as spouses for Jewish women (who are less likely to marry out and tend to marry out older, if they do at all).

This blog covered one response a couple of months ago: Moving Tradition's Campaign for Jewish Boys. One core aspect of their Brotherhood program is engaging Jewish boys in thinking about, amidst American ideals of masculinity, antisemitic stereotypes of the feminized Jewish man, and a patriarchal text and study-based religious tradition, what it means, to them, to be a Jewish man.

But what is really the relationship between internalized conceptions of masculinity and men's patterns of out-marriage and religious participation?

On Homespun Wisdom, Jamila asks: What do Jewish Women, Chinese Men, and Black Women have in Common? Referring to Sylvia Barack Fishman's 2008 work Matrilineal Ascent/Patrilineal Descent, she writes:

An article I read about the feminization of the Jewish church makes the Jewish religious community sound eerily similar to the black church community: more women than men; women lamenting the loss of men to the community, imploring them to ‘come home and have babies’; men who are disdainful of ’their’ women and have become avoidant of religion in general.

This is fascinating to me. My (not all that expert) impression is that the history and politics of masculinity in the African American community are very different, even radically different from that of the Jewish community -  and yet the outcome, at least with regards to out-marriage and religious participation, is quite similar.

One possibility is that despite their apparent differences, there are some important fundamental similarities between African-American and Jewish masculinity. Another is that conceptions of masculinity are perhaps more tangential to the issue of men's religious and romantic orientations than one might have thought.

Jamila's hypothesis about the common denominator among Jewish women, Chinese men, and Black women is:

"Who dates out, the men or the women, has a lot to do with who the culture puts more pressure on–the boys or the girls–to carry that culture in the future."

While my impression is that traditionally, the Jewish community has done its best to put plenty of pressure on everybody not to marry out, thinking more closely about how that pressure is gendered might be helpful. Jamila makes a connection between that pressure and the fact that Judaism has been a matrilineal religion - but it seems to me that factor could go in both direction. In a way, Jewish women are more free to marry out because they don't need to reproduce with a Jewish man to have Jewish children.

On the other hand, women have done and continue to do (despite wonderful progress) most childrearing work. Liberal Judaism has let go of many of the traditional modes of more or less mandatory men's involvement in the religious life and religious education in which boys participate: heder, shul, yeshiva etc (modes which incidently also at least periodically relieve women of some of the burden of childcare for boys).  It makes sense that the gap in Jewish continuity work created by the loss of those traditional forms of childcare/education would have naturally shifted over into women's general basket of childrearing responsibilities. Especially since Jews too are immersed in a broader culture that has all too often placed near complete accountability for children's welfare, morality, and behavior on mothers.

I think that increasing the childrearing expectations placed on Jewish men (and increasing their ability to fulfill them by instituting and advocating for more family friendly workplace conditions: flextime, paternity leave, etc) could only help in encouraging men to value and transmit their own heritage to their children.

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

A bit of an international/historical angle this last week, along with some bonus reflections on the father/son dynamics of circumcision.

  1. The Future of Foreskins (2002), Daniel S. Brenner
  2. Evaluation of the Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project: Promoting Retention of Pardes Educator Program Alumni (2011), Ezra Kopelowitz, Stephen Markowitz
  3. The International Migration Factor: Causes and Consequence (1977), Gaynor I. Jacobson
  4. World Jewish Population, 2010 (2010) Sergio DellaPergola
  5. Russian Jews in America: Status, Identity and Integration (2004), Sam Kliger

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

The capture and killing of Bin Laden, Yom HaShoah, the Royal Wedding, a return to hametz, and... maybe some fundraising concerns?  It was a big week. Here's what you were reading:

  1. Six Key Trends Transforming Jewish Philanthropy (2011), Lisa Eisen
  2. Jewish Morale in the Present Situation (1937), Morris D. Waldman
  3. Contact: The Journal of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life -- New Trends in Fundraising (2010) Robert P. Aronson, Marjorie Kaplan, Naomi Levine, Gail G. Littman, Jeffrey R. Solomon
  4. Sunsetting a Foundation (2011), Mem D. Bernstein
  5. Patterns of Singularity: The Motivations of Independent Jewish Funders in Times of Economic Distress (2009), Dasee Berkowitz, Steven M. Cohen

Sex Abuse and Corruption

This month, Child Abuse prevention month, our newsletter addressed the extremely difficult issue of abuse in our religious communities - including the great progress in awareness and prosecution that has been made over the past few decades.

One apparent sign of progress was the case of Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, in 2010.

Baruch Lebovits, 60, received a sentence of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison a year ago, based on the testimony of a 22-year-old man who said the rabbi sexually abused when he was 16. The trial and stiff penalty sent shockwaves through Borough Park's tight-knit Jewish community.

Yesterday, however, a second man was arrested:

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the indictment of Samuel Kellner, 49, charged with paying a child to testify falsely that Borough Park rabbi, Baruch Lebovits, had sexually abused him. Kellner is also charged with attempting to extort $400,000 from the Lebovits family to prevent other children from accusing the rabbi and to stop those who had come forward from pursuing their cases.

Although Brooklyn prosecutors are currently saying that Rabbi Lebovits' conviction should stand, notwithstanding, and we can only hope that either way, justice, to the extent possible, will be achieved in this particular case - there is no question that these charges -  and the behavior they allege - will only make addressing the issue of abuse within our communities more challenging and more fractious in the future. This is a shame and it hurts everybody.

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

Happy Passover!

  1. Jews Look at Egypt Today: A Survey of American Jewish Leaders (2011), Samuel Abrams, Steven M. Cohen
  2. Passover, a Lesson In Inclusiveness (2009), Adam Bronfman, Kerry M. Olitzky
  3. Keeping Peace at the Seder Table (1984) Sally Shafton
  4. The Jewish Innovation Economy: An Emerging Market for Knowledge and Social Capital (2011), Joshua Avedon, Ariel Groveman Weiner, Felicia Herman, Shawn Landres, Dana Raucher
  5. Is Every Seder Kosher for Passover? (1999), A. James Rudin


The Week's Most Viewed Publications

  1. American Judaism: Changing Patterns in Denominational Self-Definition (1992), Arnold Eisen
  2. Jewish American Playmate: Is a Nude Jewish Centerfold Really a Watershed for American Judaism? (2001), Bradley Hirschfield (Really?? Again?)
  3. Kitsch, Schmaltz, and Other Jewish Values (1996), David Klinghoffer
  4. Synagogues and Federations: From Rivals to Partners (2010), Richard Jacobs
  5. Reframing the Study of Contemporary American Jewish Identity (2002), Bethamie Horowitz


The Week's Most Viewed Publications

It's still a (straight) man's world.

  1. American Jewry and the State of Israel: How Intense the Bonds of Peoplehood? (2008), Steven Bayme
  2. Synagogues and Federations: From Rivals to Partners (2010), Richard Jacobs
  3. Jewish American Playmate: Is a Nude Jewish Centerfold Really a Watershed for American Judaism? (2001), Bradley Hirschfield (It's okay, we know you're reading BJPA for the articles).
  4. God's Favorite: Rosh Hashanah 5771 (2010), Richard Jacobs
  5. Are Synagogues Still Relevant? (2011), Sidney Schwarz


The Week's Most Viewed Publications

Richard Jacobs (Union for Reform Judaism's new president), Aristides de Sousa Mendes (righteous gentile who saved 30k people), and hamentaschen.

  1. Synagogues and Federations: From Rivals to Partners (2010), Richard Jacobs
  2. Reinstating the Name and Honor of a Portuguese Diplomat Who Rescued Jews During World War II: Community Social Work Strategies (2008), Robert Jacobvitz
  3. Reconstructionism and Conservative Judaism (1984), Sidney Schwarz
  4. The True History of Hamantaschen (1994), Shalom Ben Velvel
  5. God's Favorite: Rosh Hashanah 5771 (2010), Richard Jacobs


The Week's Most Viewed Publications

Earthquake week - continuing to be all too relevant. Our thoughts are with Japan.

  1. Report Concerning Suffering Jews in San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (1907)
  2. Camp Works: The Long-Term Impact of Jewish Overnight Camp (2011)
  3. Be the Jew You Make: Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness in Post-Ethnic America (2011)
  4. The True History of Hamantaschen (1994)


How to Rehabilitate a Hero: from Oakland Federation to Portugal


Forbidden to practice in his trained profession as a lawyer and stripped of his position in Portugal's diplomatic corps, and his pension, Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in a poor house in Portugal in 1954.

“I would rather be with God against man, than with man against God.” -Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Against the orders of the Portuguese government, Sousa Mendes, then the Portugese Consul general to France, decided to issue a Portuguese visa to anyone who requested one, regardless of race, religion, or economic status. He and children worked round the clock to produce visas for refugees. The visa allowed the bearer to flee from France into Spain, and to escape the Nazis. In this way, Sousa Mendes saved 30,000 lives, including 10,000 Jews.

The Portuguese government punished him for his disobedience. Thirty-four years later it changed its mind.

In 1988, "he was posthumously reinstated to the Portuguese diplomatic corps, given the rank of Diplomat First Class, and was subsequently awarded the highest honor and medal that can be bestowed on a Portuguese civilian: the Grand Cross of the Order of Christ... A postage stamp with Sousa Mendes’ likeness was issued and a new subway station named in his honor. A curriculum exemplifying Dr. Sousa Mendes’ deeds was developed and is now taught to every school child."

In Reinstating the Name and Honor of a Portuguese Diplomat Who Rescued Jews During World War II: Community Social Work Strategies, Robert Jacobvitz tells the story of how, in his position as director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay (of Oakland, California, where some of Sousa Mendes' descendants lived) he, Sousa Mendes' son and daughter-in-law, John Paul and Joan, worked on a shoestring budget to organize an international effort to persuade Portugal to recognize and honor Sousa Mendes - the only Portugese citizen ever recognized by Yad Vashem.  They were able to recruit Israel's first female Ambassador (and now member of the Knesset), Consul General to San Francisco Colette Avital, and then United States Representative Tony Coelho, the only Portugese American in Congress, as allies in their effort.

Jacobvitz frames this article as the story of how he applied his education from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler school of Jewish Social Work to organize a small team of committed to people to act as effectively, and appear to the world as, a large international campaign. I'm glad we have it in BJPA to serve as both a template and inspiration for future efforts by Jewish communal professionals.

Here are some more sources about Sousa Mendes:

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous is an organization dedicated to finding and supporting gentile rescuers (who are often too proud or humble to seek help) to make sure that the future is unlike the past:

John Paul once shared with me this response he received from a Portuguese group representative: “If your father rescued Jews, then let the Jews help you.”

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

  1. Camp Works: The Long-Term Impact of Jewish Overnight Camp (2011)
  2. Be the Jew You Make: Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness in Post-Ethnic America (2011)
  3. Israeli and American Organizational Responses to Wife Abuse Among the Orthodox (2011)
  4. Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation from Israel (2007)
  5. Jewish Futures Project: The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel: 2010 Updates (2011)
  6. Editor's Introduction to Jewish Identity (2011)

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

  1. Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities: A Case Study of the Jewish Community in the United States (2010)
  2. The Torah View of Mental Illness: Sin or Sickness? (1977)
  3. U.S. Jewry 2010: Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Population (2011)
  4. Israeli and American Organizational Responses to Wife Abuse Among the Orthodox (2011)
  5. A Tale of Two Jewries: The "Inconvenient Truth" for American Jews (2006)
  6. Furthering Pluralistic Jewish Education in Israel: An Evaluation of the Meitarim School Network (2010)

PLO Representative Maen Areikat at BJPA

3-10-11 Edited to add: You can watch the ustream version below, with ads, or find the ad free version in our collection.  NYU Wagner has also made a podcast available.

On Wednesday March 2, 12:15 PM, the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner and the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University will offer a "live stream" of an invitation-only talk with Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, Chief PLO Representative to the United States.

Entitled "The Palestinians and the American Jewish Community: A Challenging Relationship," the presentation will take place in front of a live audience of professors, students, Jewish communal leaders, journalists, and others. To see and hear this remarkable event, come back to this post, or go straight to ustream.tv: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ambassador-areikat

(Please note: Ustream shows about 30 seconds of advertising before beginning to stream the event, so please allow time for that. After that, it is possible to close the ad that appears along the bottom of the screen).

Video streaming by Ustream

"The Palestinians and the American Jewish Community: A Challenging Relationship" Presented by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner and the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University.

Wednesday March 2, 12:15pm EST. 

The Ambassador will engage with a diverse representation of people highly involved in Jewish communal life or in the academic study of Israel and the Middle East. Clearly, questions pertaining to the American Jewish relationship with Israel are high on the American Jewish communal policy agenda and the Ambassador will address one component of this relationship. This event, in line with the missions of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and the Taub Center, seeks to elevate and inform discourse on Jewish communal policy. Ahead of the event, you may wish to read Mr. Areikat’s interview with David Samuels, published in Tablet Magazine.

Maen Rashid Areikat, PLO Representative to the United States


Maen Rashid Areikat was born October 12, 1960 in Jericho in the occupied West Bank. Prior to his appointment to Washington, Mr. Areikat served for 11 years at the Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD) of the PLO in Ramallah, most recently as its Deputy Head and Coordinator-General (2008-2009). Mr. Areikat first joined NAD in 1998, when it was headed by current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and served as its Director-General until March 2008. In addition to overseeing NAD’s day-to-day operations, Mr. Areikat was responsible for overseeing the work of the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU), which provides legal, policy, communication and technical support to Palestinian Negotiating Teams and to the Palestinian Leadership.

Prior to his service at NAD, Mr. Areikat spent five years at Orient House (1993-1998), the headquarters of the PLO in Jerusalem and of the Palestinian Negotiating Team to the Madrid peace talks. While at Orient House, he served as spokesperson for the late Mr. Faisal Husseini, former PLO Executive Committee member in charge of Jerusalem Affairs, and later as Desk Officer for the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Africa in Orient House’s International Relations Department. Mr. Areikat previously took part in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations at Beit Hanoun in Gaza and Taba in Egypt in 1996, in Jerusalem in 1997 and was an official member of the Palestinian delegation to the Wye River negotiations in 1998.

During the course of his career, Mr. Areikat has traveled extensively throughout the region and abroad, including numerous official visits to Washington, DC and several European capitals, and has participated in various conferences and symposiums on the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Areikat earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance from Arizona State University (ASU) in 1983 and his MBA in management from Western International University in 1987. He received his diplomatic training at the Ministry of External Affairs in Ottawa, Canada in 1993 and 1994, and completed a training course in good governance at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2001.

The Week's Most Viewed Publications

Here are this week's five most frequently viewed publications on BJPA - Everyone else is checking these out, if you haven't, what will you have to talk about at the water cooler?? (Do workplaces still have water coolers?) 

  1. Unity and Polarization in Judaism Today: The Attitudes of American and Israeli Jews (1988)
  2. Jewish Futures Project: The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel: 2010 Update (2011)
  3. The Torah View of Mental Illness: Sin or Sickness? (1977)
  4. What Independent Minyanim Teach us about the Next Generation of Jewish Communities (2007)
  5. U.S. Jewry 2010: Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Population (2011)

16K Berman Fellowship for Research on American Jewry

Are you doing doctoral research on the contemporary American Jewish community and could use $16,000?

We're glad to spread the news that one of our co-founders, Mandell Berman of the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation, is supporting the Association for Jewish Studies to sponsor a Fellowship for the study of North American Jewry.

(P.S. Don't forget to submit your research for inclusion on BJPA to share the fruits of your scholarship with the world).

Here is the announcement: 

The Association for Jewish Studies is pleased to announce the call for submissions for the Berman Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Support of Research in the Social Scientific Study of the Contemporary American Jewish Community. The application deadline is April 7, 2011

Fellowship Ad

 The Berman Fellowships – two awards of $16,000 for the 2011-12 academic year – aim to support the development and expansion of the field of the social scientific study of Jewish Americans and the contemporary Jewish-American experience; enhance funding opportunities for up-and-coming scholars in the midst of institutional cutbacks in higher education; and encourage graduate students in sociology, social psychology, social anthropology, demography, contemporary history, social work, political science, geography and education to expand their research to include the study of North American Jewry. Fellowships will be awarded for one academic year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year. Preference will be given to applicants seeking support for doctoral research, but requests for funding to support the writing phase of the dissertation will also be considered. Support for this project is generously provided by the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation. Further information, including application instructions, can be found on the AJS website. Please contact Karen Terry, AJS Program and Membership Coordinator, at ajs@ajs.cjh.org or 917.606.8249  if you have any questions regarding the application process or fellowship program.



More Entries