Ashkenazim - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Marriage. At this time it is estimated that, at least among Moscow Ashkenazim, as many as 50 percent (and possibly more) of marriages involving one Jewish partner are to a member of another nationality; men tend to "marry out" more than women, and Jewish women marry slightly later than those of other nationalities. Divorce is common. Intermarriage is more common among the educated and professionals. Endogamy is preferred, not only by Jews with a positive attitude to religion; the reason for this is not connected with religion but rather formulated (as is the preference for Jewish friends and business associates) in terms of the relative safety of marrying one's own kind, often in reference to possible future "hard times" when, under pressure, a non-Jew might "call you a Zhid" (the archaic term for Jew, now highly derogatory). Marriage to ethnic Russians is preferred over that to other non-Jews because of the notion that Russians are less nationalistic than, for example, Ukrainians or Belarussians. Jews between 25 and 30 years of age with higher educations and higher-status jobs and RSFSR residents have less objection to intermarriage. As early as the 1930s it was said that non-Jewish girls preferred Jewish husbands, who supposedly "drank less, took good care of and did not beat their wives."

Kinship Terminology. Russian has different kin terms for husband's and wife's sides of the family, but these distinctions are disappearing from Russian speech and even more rapidly from Jewish usage. A woman may take her husband's surname at marriage, as is traditional, but many keep their father's names (a common choice in the Soviet era). A strong survival of tradition is that a child inherits the given name of a deceased relative of the family's choice. Even antireligious Jews do not tend to name a child after a living relative. If the relative's name was a Jewish one not acceptable to Russians, a more acceptable or Russian name with the same first initial is given. After the Revolution, distinctively Jewish names became less desirable; many began to choose Russian names, using Jewish nicknames at home. Everyday usage of patronymics preserves names for a generation: "Davidovich" or "Abramovich" clearly indicate Jewish nationality.


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