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June 24, 1988 - Image 95

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-24

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efore God brought Eve
down to Adam, says
the Midrash, He
braided her hair so that she
would appear more attractive
to her soon-to-be surprised
fiance. Nor did the Divine in-
terest in matchmaking cease
with His first effort: a Roman
matron once asked Rabbi
Gamaliel how God spends His
time since He• created the
world. Rabbi Gamaliel told
the woman that God is oc-
cupied arranging matches.
When the skeptical matron
was urged to try her hand at
matchmaking, she soon learn-
ed that success does not come
easily, and she handed the
task back to the Almighty.
Despite divine interven-
tion, many American Jews in
the 1980s remain single for
significant portions of their
adult lives.
In 1970, almost all Jews
were married by their mid-to-
late 30s, but today, in many
cities, large numbers of Jews,
like their non-Jewish peers,
remain single into their 40s.
More than one-third of Los
Angeles and Washington,
D.C. Jews in their 30s, for ex-
ample, have never been
Furthermore, increasing
numbers of Jews in America
are single, at least temporari-
ly, because of divorce. The
Jewish divorce rate, while
lower than the divorce rate in
the general population, has
increased steadily over the
past 20 years.
When the number of Jews
who have been divorced and
have remarried is combined
with the number of Jews cur-
rently divorced, we see that
about one-quarter of Jews in
many cities cope with the pro-
blems of divorce — including
single status — at some point
in their adult lives.
With numerous Jews un-
married, interest in potential
marriage partners is lively.
Personals columns with en-
tries seeking "SJMs" and
SJFs" cover pages in Jewish
periodicals throughout the
country. Jewish dating ser-
vices, both commercial and
not-for-profit, have

Dr. Sylvia B. Fishman is a
research associate with the
Center for Modern Jewish Studies
at Brandeis University. Reprinted
by permission of the Greater
Phoenix Jewish News.

However, until recently,
research analyzing the actual
dynamics of marriage-
making in Jewish America
has been meager. We have
had little more than anec-
dotal evidence on crucial
questions such as:
• Where do Jews today ac-
tually meet their mates?
• Are initial encounters
likely to take place in settings
substantially different than
their parents' first meetings?
• Do intermarried couples
find each other in the same
places which in.married
couples do?
• Are there differences bet-
ween Orthodox, Conservative,
and Reform meetings, and
between the meetings of
couples on different economic
A 1986 study of Jews in
New Jersey, gives surprising
new data on the Jewish con-
nection. With the media im-
age of sophisticated singles
before our eyes, we might
assume that the majority of
married couples under age 45
met "American style," on the
college campus, at the office,
or in some other public set-
ting. Indeed, couples in the
age 35 to 44 group are twice
as likely to have met their
spouses at school or at work
than couples in the group
over age 55.
However, despite the bad
press which the notorious "fix -
up" receives in each genera-
tion, more Jewish couples in
every age group still report
meeting each other through
friends or family than
through any other single
means. More than one-third
of couples ages 35 to 44 met
each other through family
and friends, while about one-
fifth met at work or at school.
Interestingly, although one
might imagine that Orthodox
couples are far more likely to
meet through friends than
Conservative, Reform, or
"Just Jewish" respondents,
there are no enormous dif-
ferences between denomina-
tional groups: about one-third
of each had met through
friends. Orthodox couples are,
however, far less likely to
have met in a public place
such as a restaurant; Conser-
vative couples are twice as
likely, and Reform couple
three times as likely to have
met in a public place.
Jewish couples with
household incomes about
$40,000 a year are twice as
likely to have met each other
at school than those with
household incomes under

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