Jews - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family. Jewish marriage and kinship practices conform to those of mainstream North American Culture: monogamous marriage, nuclear families, bilateral Descent, and Eskimo-type kinship terms. Surnames are patrilineal, although there is a trend toward women keeping their own surnames at marriage or hyphenating their husbands' surnames and their own. The importance of family continuity is emphasized by the custom of naming children after deceased relatives. Although marriage with non-Jews (goyim) was proscribed and sanctioned by ostracism in the past, the intermarriage rate today is increasing as among North Americans in general. Though Jewish families have fewer children, they are often described as child-oriented, with family resources freely expended on education for both boys and girls. Jewish identity is traced matrilineally. That is, if one's mother is a Jew, then that person is Jewish according to Jewish law and entitled to all the rights and privileges that status brings, including the right to emigrate to and settle in Israel as citizens.

Socialization. As with most Americans and Canadians, early socialization takes place in the home. Jewish parents are indulgent and permissive and rarely use physical punishment. Socialization as a Jew takes place in the home through story-telling and participation in Jewish rituals, and through attendance at Hebrew school in the afternoon or evening and participation in Jewish youth groups at the synagogue or community center. Orthodox Jews often run their own Grammar and high schools, whereas most non-Orthodox Jews attend public or private secular schools. Acquisition of knowledge and the open discussion of ideas are important values and activities for Jews, and many attend college and professional schools.

The Bar Mitzvah ceremony for a boy at age thirteen is an important rite of passage as it marks him as an adult member of the community for religious purposes, and the Bat Mitzvah ceremony for a Reform or Conservative girl at age twelve or thirteen serves the same purpose. In the past the Bar Mitzvah ceremony was much more elaborate and spiritual in focus; today both ceremonies have become important social as well as religious events for many Jews.

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