Jews, Arabic-Speaking - Marriage and Family

Marriage. According to Jewish law, uncles may marry nieces, but aunts may not marry nephews. Marriage with all four first-cousin-types is permitted. Polygyny is also permitted, although restricted by clauses in the marriage contract. Polygyny has traditionally been infrequent, however. Levirate marriage with the widow of a childless brother could occur. Divorce was permitted, but unlike a Muslim, a Jewish man could remarry his former wife only if she had not married another man before such remarriage.

Domestic Unit. Most households were composed of either nuclear families or small extended families. Wealthy households also included servants.

Inheritance. Inheritance in Jewish law favors the males. Traditionally, sons and their descendants inherited from the father; daughters only inherited when there were no sons or male heirs to the sons. A husband might inherit from his wife, but she could not inherit his estate. The marriage contract was intended to ensure her subsistence. If a man had no children, his brothers inherited his estate. The firstborn son received a double portion. Some families did have special rights to particular positions in the Jewish communities and to quasi-official posts. For a long time, a family claiming descent from King David supplied the exilarchs ( resh galutha ) who were the recognized heads of the Jewish community under the Sāssānians and under the Umayyad and ʿAbbāsid caliphs. Members of the Ha-Dayyan family in Aleppo, which claims descent from the exilarchs, are still alive. They supplied leaders to the Mustarib segment of Aleppine Jewry until World War I. The Laniado family has long been the leading rabbinic family among Sephardic Jews of Aleppo. For many generations, the family of Moses Maimonides led the Jews of Egypt. Some Jewish families inherited preferences for such positions as the customs collector and the sarraflik (the governor's financier).

Socialization. Emphasis has generally been placed on respect for elders, traditional religion, and conformity to social rules. Sons kissed their fathers on the hand on ritual occasions. Corporal punishment, including bastinado ( falaqa ) was used in schools. Fathers might also bring adolescent sons to their schoolteachers to discipline them. Boys were sent to schools to learn Hebrew, the Pentateuch, and prayers, usually by rote. Larger communities, such as Aleppo and Baghdad, had advanced rabbinic schools ( midrashim ), where Talmud was taught. Girls were generally trained at home by their mothers and were subject to the discipline of both their parents and their older siblings. Beginning with the nineteenth century, there were Western-style schools for boys and girls, run either by Christian missions or by the Alliance Israelite Universelle.

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