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August 19, 1983 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-08-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

20 Friday, August 19, 1983


Jewish Agencies Not Addressing Problems of Divorce


(Copyright 1983, JTA, Inc.)

A sociologist, reporting
on a pilot study of "The
Jewish Community and
Children of. Divorce," has
asserted that Jewish reli-
gious and educational in-



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stitutions lack organized
programs to counteract the
adverse effects of divorce on
Jewish children, one of
them being a tendency
toward a weakening of the
Jewish ties of such children.
The pilot study was spon-
sored by the American
Jewish Committee's
William Petschek National
Jewish Family Center. The
study findings were an-
nounced by Dr-. Nathalie
Friedman, co-author of the
study, at a conference at

AJCommittee headquar-
ters in New York. Friedman
is associated with Columbia
University, as is her col-
laborator, Dr. Theresa Ro-


Stressing that the study
was "a preliminary investi-
gation" and that its findings
"should not be considered
conclusive," Friedman said
the aims of the study were
"to gain some insights" into
the impact of divorce on
children's Jewish identity
and activities" and to study

ways in which synagogues,
Jewish schools and other
Jewish institutions are
helping single-family par-
ents, frequently products of
She reported that the
data were collected
through interviews, av-
eraging two hours in
length, with 25 persons
likely to have profes-
sional contact with
Jewish single-parent
families, such as rabbis,
Jewish school adminis-

trators, day school per-
sonnel, Y officials, a child
psychiatrist serving a
largely Orthodox clien-
tele, a Board of Jewish
Education pedagogical
director, and members of
a Jewish federation task
force concerned with di-
vorced families.
Friedman cited a variety
of findings on the effects of
divorce on the Jewish iden-
tity of the affected children.
S he reported that custodial
,arrangements — particu-


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larly those in which the
child spends weekends with
the non-custodial parent —
often affect the child's
attendance at Hebrew
school and synagogue.
She found that many
households cease to have
religious rites in the home
because the mother, usually
the custodial parent, does
not know how to carry out
rituals which had been led
by the father, and does not
realize that Judaism per-
mits women to perform
those rituals.
- Another problem is that
the severe scheduling de-
mands with which many
working mothers must cope
make it difficult for them to
involve themselves or their
children in religious activi-
Friedman reported
that divorced parents
usually try to work to-
gether amicably before
and during a Bar or Bat
Mitzva but if problems
between them have been
severe, still greater bit-
terness can erupt around
that ceremony, making
the event a painful one
for the child. Divorced
parents whose usual re-
lations are hostile and
who tend to use their
children as "footballs,"
use the children that way
in the religious area.
All of the respondents
agreed that boys are more
emotionally affected by di-
vorce than are girls.

The sociologist reported
that the current data was
too sparse to indicate
clearly whether divorce
brings a great change in the
child's Jewish identity but
that the emotional and
logistical problems faced by
single-parent families may
affect the child's active par-
ticipation in Jewish life.
Friedman reported as one
of her main findings that
the communal representa-
tives interviewed for the
study could not give close
estimates as to the number
of divorced families in their
school, congregation or Y.
She stressed that "they
acknowledged they really
did not know and this led to
one of our central conclu-
sions: most of the institu-
tions are not geared to seek-
ing out the divorced persons
in their midst."
Another finding was
that while some Jewish
institutions have created
programs to help di-
vorced parents and their
children, most have not
viewed single-parent
families as "an area of
concern" and most
lacked formal methods of
identifying the divorced
Jews affiliated with

Two other speakers —
women who had been di-
vorced and had sought sol-
ace, advice and companion-
ship from several segments
of the Jewish community --
told of having received help-
ful counsel and strong sup-
port from some sources and
total lack of understanding
from others.


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