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August 19, 1994 - Image 88

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-08-19

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

PARENTING

A NEW KIND OF
SIMCHA

The changing Jewish
family presents
dilemmas in life-cycle
celebrations.

T H E D E TRO I T J E W IS H NE W S

CARLA JEAN SCHWARTZ SECTION EDITOR

14

hen Bloomfield Hills
attorney Larry Jack-
ier married Eleanor
Folbe last month, he
suggested that the
rabbis begin the ser-
vice with "We The
People." The Jack-
iers wanted their
seven children from
their first marriages, as well as
their four grandchildren, to
stand under the chuppah. "They
all participated, and we had a
great time," said Mr. Jackier.
Rabbi David Nelson of Con-
gregation Beth Shalom in Oak
Park remembers when the par-
ents of a bar mitzvah child called
him a "Neanderthal" because he
suggested that only biological
parents—not stepparents—stand
on the bimah. He was trying to
be sensitive because only one of
the divorced parents was remar-
ried.
"There are no set rules," says
Rabbi Nelson.
That's because the Jewish fam-
ily no longer mirrors the picture-
perfect Jewish nuclear family of
a few decades ago 'where multi-
generational clan gathered for
life-cycle events.
The National J . .vish Popula-
tion Survey, co , cted by the
Council ofJewi: 3derations in
1990, showed t L only 14 per-
cent of the Jewish population in
the United States lives in a fam-

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •



he bar/bat
mitzvah
ceremony and
party is usually more
complex than other

life-cycle events
because the children
are young and the
parents plan the

milestone.

ily of two parents and one or more
siblings. Experts no longer de-
bate the 50 percent intermarriage
rate, they just want to know how
fast it is rising.
The Jewish family is in a state
of flux. According to Dennis Or-
thner of the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, there is

structural change occurring in
the Jewish family unit, but with
no defined norms or expectations.
Historically he says, there have
been four basic family forms:
communal groups in biblical
days; extended family groups in
the agricultural period; the tra-
ditional, nuclear family after in-
dustrialization; and now the
family unit with no defined
norms.
The contemporary Jewish fam-
ily, like the contemporary Amer-
ican
family, includes single parents,
gay parents, divorced parents,
stepparents and a myriad of chil-
dren. The Ozzie and Harriet
family, with a mom, dad and
well-adjusted siblings, is as out-
dated as the 1950s sitcom. So,
when it comes to dealing with
life-cycle events such as bar-mitz-
vahs, weddings and funerals,
there are complex issues as to the
roles of parents without partners,
members of blended families and
non-Jewish relatives. There are
agonizing questions with no

clear-cut an-
swers.
Can a single fa-
ther light candles on
Shabbat? How can non-
Jewish grandparents partici
pate in their grandchild's bar
mitzvah? Are stepparents al-
lowed on the bimah? Should an
ex-son-in-law attend his ex-fa-
ther-in-law's funeral? Should a
gay father or lesbian mother in-
clude his or her partner in a reli-
gious ceremony?
The bar/bat mitzvah ceremo-
ny and party is usually more
complex than other life-cycle
events because the children are
young and the parents plan the
milestone.
Aimee Dorfman, 14, of Farm-
ington Hills, confronted some in-
teresting issues at her Temple
Israel bat mitzvah held last year,
which included her father, moth-
er and stepmother. "I was a little
nervous about the seating," she
recalls.
But everything went smooth-
ly. Aimee sat at a table with her
friends; while her mother sat at
a table with Aimee's maternal
grandmother; and her father sat
with his new wife at another
table. For the candlelighting cer-
emony, her mother and father lit

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