What happens when Jewish women intermarry? Do they lose their ties to Judaism, or do they develop stronger ties to the Jewish community? Keren McGinity’s new book,
Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America
, tackles these very questions. McGinity, a formerly intermarried Jew herself, through her research and her interviews with 46 women in the Greater Boston area, confronts the stereotype that once a Jew intermarries, she loses her connection with the Jewish community. Instead, McGinity argues that intermarried women became more involved Jewishly, raising their children with Jewish backgrounds and strengthening their own Jewish ties.
Still Jewish looks at four different time periods: 1900-1929, 1930-1959, 1960-1979, and 1980-2004. The first period discusses how the growing work force and women’s rights movement allowed for the interaction of Jews with other Americans, as well as increasing womenâ€™s independence from traditional norms, such as staying at home while the men worked. In the second period, what McGinity dubs as the “transitional period,” mixed-marriages between Jewish men and gentile women were much more common, possibly showing the importance of the role Jewish women held in maintaining Jewish traditions in their homes. In the 1960’s, the beginning of the third era, Jewish women began to identify more with their heritage when they intermarried and began raising their kids with Jewish backgrounds. In the fourth period, McGinity found that many women were inspired by their Gentile husbands and multiculturalism to create their own Jewish self-identities and to connect with their communities.
Recently, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Ms. McGinity a few questions about her book and her research.
Q. Are there identifiable factors that lead some intermarried women to affirm Jewish choices while others do not?
A. The identifiable factors that lead some intermarried women to affirm Jewish choices are contextual and historical. Specifically the countercultural movement, the rise of ethnic consciousness, and second wave feminism of the 1960’s and 1970’s influenced intermarried Jewish women’s experiences, how they self-identified, and how they raised their children.