According to recent surveys of American Jewish families, the Modern Orthodox are most likely to choose spouses of near-equal levels of income and education. They are also more likely to be married and less likely to get divorced, and on average they have more children than the non-Orthodox. Sylvia Barack Fishman explores what leads to the success of Modern Orthodox family life:
[According to one sociologist], the Jewish calendar creates opportunities for “family life” and “time together.” Participants [in one study] reported that it is precisely the Jewish community and Shabbat that are the primary sources of satisfaction and pleasure in most Modern Orthodox Jews’ lives.
It may very well be that [the necessities of Jewish religious observance] keep lives—and marriages—balanced. Shabbat traditions encourage intimate time for couples after a candle-lit dinner with wine—Friday night is the rabbinic version of “date night.” The long hours of Shabbat afternoons lend themselves to cellphone-free long walks and talks with children. In a session at the 2017 World Congress of Jewish Studies, the social economist Carmel Chiswick suggested that weekly Shabbat observance guarantees time for children, family, and friends—humanizing opportunities often missing in contemporary lives.
This depiction of [Modern Orthodox family life] is critically important today, when younger American Jews are undergoing a marriage crisis, in which only half of Jews ages twenty-five to fifty-four are married or coupled. . . . Some marry later than they intended, and some who had hoped to marry do not. Many women report that they had fewer children than they had hoped to because of delayed marriage and childbearing.
The Modern Orthodox family model of high education, high occupational status, high income—and high fertility—may have implications for all of us diverse American Jews across the denominational spectrum. The statistics of recent studies offer us an important lesson: graduate and professional degrees and impressive jobs need not make marriage during more fertile years and larger families impossible.
Sign Up For Our E-Mail List Get the latest from Mosaic right in your inbox
Sign up now for unlimited access