THE JEWISH NEWS
To Jewish Living
Meeting The Needs of Single Parents
Gary A. Tobin, Ph.D., is director
of the Cohen Center for Modern
Jewish Studies at Brandeis
University. For each issue of
L'Chayim, a rabbi, a Jewish
educator or other notable from the
community will present an overview
of the month's theme.
As Jews have become more
assimilated, they increasingly
resemble the social and
demographic makeup of the general
society in the United States. Like
other Americans, Jews are marrying
later, having children later, and
divorcing more often than Jews of a
generation ago. With divorce, the
net result often includes the creation
of a single-parent family.
households come into being for
reasons other than divorce.
Sometimes one of the parents
passes away. Other times a Jewish
woman chooses to have a child
when she is not married. But most
single-parent families are the
consequence of divorce.
How prevalent is the
phenomenon? Demographic studies
from the United States in Jewish
communities as diverse as San
Francisco, Baltimore, Rochester, St.
Louis, and many other Jewish
communities show that about one
in every 20 households consists of
a single parent and children. Of the
households with children in them,
about one in six are single parent.
Thousands and thousands of Jewish
children are living with one parent.
Reporting only the number of
families that are currently single
parent fails to completely capture
the extent to which Jewish children
are likely to live with only one
parent at some time. Many divorced
Jews with children marry again at
some point. These "blended"
families do not show up in the
Continued on Page L-2
The Ties That Unbind: Giving The 'Get'
By RABBI ELIMELECH GOLDBERG
In a world that once blanched
at the introduction of instant coffee,
we are now confronted with instant
everything. This phenomenon is
also relegated to the social
institutions of our lives even in the
Jewish world. We have instant
educations and conversions even ,
instant marriage and divorce.
While "here today and gone
tomorrow" might be the
existentialist's theme song, Judaism
believes in that which attaches with
the infinite. Generation is bound
with generation, Jew with Jew, man
with his universe. One of the
strongest ties that bind in our lives
is the Torah institution of marriage.
From the early moments of
Creation, the verse ". . . and he
shall cling to his wife and they shall
be of one flesh," has been a
fundamental ingredient in human
The commentators of the Talmud
fulfillment. This is a bond that
point out that the numerical value of
requires a great deal of deliberation
the term "get" is a reference to the
and one not subject to whimsical
12 lines that comprise this
severance. The Talmud tells us that
document. As in the boundaries of
at the moment of divorce, G-d
the Twelve Tribes of Israel, we
himself sheds tears upon the Holy
recognize that divisions are
called for. The entire
The Torah informs us that there
document is written on special
is no "instant off" for marriage.
parchment at the time of the
There are two ways in which a
marriage bond may be broken. Only divorce.
The first mandate for the
the death of a spouse or the giving
Jewish Court is to ascertain that the
of a "get" may remove it. Without
divorce is the only option left. Often
the "get" the marriage is still 100
people find the road to
percent valid. Neither the husband
reconciliation and happiness.
nor the wife may remarry, the
Negative histories can be undone
consequences of which could be
truly tragic as the scion of a married and foundations recreated when two
parties learn to understand
woman with anyone other than her
husband is a "mamzer," a
However, once it is clear that
"bastard," according to the Torah.
counselling is no longer an option,
The actual "get" process is
no other personal information is
simple and non-judgemental. The
necessary for the "get" process.
word "get" is a talmudic term that
Continued on Page L-2
refers to the document of divorce.