Dating and Marriage Trends in Small-Town Jewish Communities
by Becky Muller ’10 (January 2010)
Within in small Jewish communities, there are certain factors that influence dating and marriage. For example, residential and social proximity as well as religious and town politics all impact the choices that young men and women make when approaching the idea of dating and marriage.
My basic conjecture is that dating and marriage trends are affected by social proximity, such as a person’s involvement in clubs and organizations; and residential proximity, basically the idea that the smaller the community the more interaction it’s residents have with one another. While this increased interaction may seem to produce more Jewish marriages, in fact, through my research I have found an undeniable rise in intermarriage, which can be reflected by the desire of young adults to find a marriage partner outside their regular social circle.
Also contributing to the rise of intermarriage was the emphasis on Americanization in schools and clubs. Jewish social clubs during the early 20th century stressed the adoption of more gentile principles in order to assimilate the Eastern European Jews more completely into American society. Through this emphasis on gentile principles and attempts to socialize and work with non-Jews, there is a rise in intermarriages. However it is also seen that intermarriages are much more acceptable in small Jewish communities where parents recognize the lack of marriageable partners for their children.
For more information on Jewish life in small town communities, see Lee Shai Weisbach’s Jewish Life in Small-Town America and Peter Rose’s Strangers in their Midst.
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