Bene Israel - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Bene Israel traditionally prefer cross-cousin marriage in order to ensure that wealth and prestige are retained within the family. Postmarital residence is ideally patrilocal, although actually there are variations from the ideal. Divorce is completely disapproved of and was extremely rare in India, although in Israel it is on the increase. Widow remarriage was also discouraged in India. The incidence of polygamy is sharply declining among the Bene Israel; and in Israel, where polygamous marriages are forbidden under Contemporary Jewish religious law, there are only a few Bene Israel polygamous families in the whole country.

Domestic Unit. In India, the ideal pattern of family living among the Bene Israel was a structure based on a complex network of rights and duties between members that is usually described as "joint." In its ideal form, the joint family has its basis in common property; members live in a single Household and share common resources. Most Bene Israel joint families are lineal, whereby sets of two husband-wife pairs (with children) belonging to different generations live Together. In addition, there is a collateral joint family composed of a man, his wife, and their unmarried children and a man's married brother(s) with wife (or wives) and children. The "augmented family" refers to a lineal joint family where the senior male member has died. "Family with dependents" refers to a unit composed of husband, wife, and their unmarried children and other kin such as the wife's brother, who could not be said to constitute an augmented family. "Nuclear Families," composed of a husband and wife with or without unmarried children, represent a high percentage of families, particularly in Israel but also in India too, depending upon the stage in the life cycle. In many cases, the phenomenon of "proximal housing," whereby patrikin live in separate yet adjacent or neighboring apartments, enables families to operate in a joint fashion by adhering to the ideal of mutual cooperation without making coresidence a requirement.

Inheritance. A man's estate is divided among his widow and sons, although an amount is kept aside for unmarried daughters' dowries.

Socialization. Socialization of the child is carried out within the joint family, all female members helping to raise the young child and male members acting as discipliners. The mother's brother is particularly loved. A high value is placed on education. Today in Israel all Bene Israel attend regular schools with other Israeli children. Boys have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the age of 13.

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