Naomi Schaefer Riley in her Forward article argues that Jews can learn from Mormons about keeping intermarriage rates low forgot that we invented the techniques and certain parts of the Jewish community, salient among us, the ultra-Orthodox and Yeshivish communities still practice it to a degree that probably exceeds Mormon in-marriage. Secondly, is the prevention of intermarriage as important for a religion where religious authority flows bottom up with Jews “choosing for themselves” rabbis than top-down authority such as Mormonism’s governing LDS hierarchy.
Jews marry older and adapted to this by greater use of fertility and family law experts to handle the lower fertility and higher divorce that may naturally come with later marriages and intermarriages. (See my 2011 blog: Marry Jewish and Avoid Anti-Semitism)
Mormons may have looked to the polygamy of pre-Rabbeinu Gershom Jewish times of around 1000 CE, but might have neglected to read the fine talmudic text discouraging men from having more than one wife. Utah’s acceptance to U.S. statehood seemed to be impetus for transitioning to monogamy for the Mormons who chose to stay in America rather migrating to Mexico, as did Mitt Romney’s great grandfather Miles Park Romney, a Mormon polygamist with five wives, who fled to Mexico to escape a crackdown on the practice of polygamy in the late-1800s and established a settlement there.
Jews have historically protected women’s right of marriage choice and divorce, from Talmudic times when a mature female, having grown three pubic hairs, was able to refuse her father’s choice of groom and accept marriage offer on her own, continuing through Rabbeinu Gershom who instituted the prohibition of divorcing a woman against her will.
The rough trajectory of women’s empowerment through choice and educational investment has continued in parts of the Jewish community leading to later marriage and divorce and remarriage. All of these factors lead to greater out-marriage. Historically when Jewish males outmarried, their wives magically became Jewish even without the benefit of formal conversion. With Jewish women, matrilineal Jewish descent solved that problem. I don’t think this general historical trend is going change much, except now patrilineal Jewish descent is accepted in wide parts of the Jewish community. So, intermarriage for the Jews may have been historically beneficial. Perhaps not so for the Mormons.
I wish on the Mormons the historical resiliency of the Jews.
Pini Herman, PhD. specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis, has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography, Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work, Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: firstname.lastname@example.org To follow Pini on Twitter: Follow @pinih
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