The Jewish Family

  • Harriet HartmanEmail author
Part of the American Jewish Year Book book series (AJYB, volume 116)


The family remains central to the continuity of the contemporary American Jewish community. But how the Jewish family is Jewish (and ‘how Jewish’ Jewish families are) varies widely and touches on fundamental assumptions about Jewishness, even as the family shapes the very Jewishness to which it contributes. Today’s Jewish family is faced with important challenges in its effort to fulfill its functions, both traditional and contemporary. Confronted with declining rates of marriage, delayed marriage, low fertility, and interfaith marriage, contemporary family patterns appear to contribute to a shrinking Jewish population. Jewish engagement promotes healthier family-oriented behaviors. Yet some families, marginalized by the mainstream Jewish community, find it difficult to be engaged Jewishly on a communal level, because of their special needs or conditions, such as economic vulnerability, immigrant status, multiracial/cultural diversity, and sexual orientations. Family profiles vary across Jewish communities, adding to difficulties in meeting diverse needs. It is therefore important to understand the American Jewish family today, its dilemmas and challenges, as well as its major sources of diversity. This chapter reviews the research about contemporary American Jewish families and discusses implications of cutting-edge studies for the contemporary Jewish community.


Family Denomination Immigration Jewish engagement Disability Economic vulnerability Sexual orientation Fertility Dual-earners Single parents 


  1. Adams, S. 2015, February 2. The best cities for singles. Forbes.
  2. Alba, R. 2006. On the sociological significance of the American Jewish experience: Boundary blurring, assimilation, and pluralism. Sociology of Religion 67(4): 347–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aviv, C. 2014, October. A new vision for family formation. Sh’ma, 9–10.Google Scholar
  4. Bengston, V., N.M. Putney, and S. Harris. 2013. Families and faith: How religion is passed down across generations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ben-Rafael, E., M. Lyubansky, and O. Gluckner. 2006. Building a diaspora: Russian Jews in Israel, Germany and the USA. New York: Brill Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Bernstein, R., and S.B. Fishman. 2015. Judaism as the “third shift”: Jewish families negotiating work, family, and religious lives. In Love, marriage, and Jewish families, ed. S.B. Fishman, 196–220. Waltham: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Blumenthal, T. 2015. Jewish single mothers by choice. In Love, marriage, and Jewish families, ed. S.B. Fishman, 168–195. Waltham: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bond, J. 2002. The National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW). No. 3: Dual-Earner Couples. New York: Families and Work Institute.Google Scholar
  9. Call, V.R.A., and T.B. Heaton. 1997. Religious influence on marital stability. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36(3): 382–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chalfant, H.P., R. Beckey, and C.E. Palmer. 1994. Religion in contemporary society, 3rd ed. Itasca: Peacock.Google Scholar
  11. Challenging the hook-up culture hype with data. 2013. Contemporary Sexuality 47(9): 8–9.Google Scholar
  12. Cherlin, A. 2010. The marriage-go round: The state of marriage and the family in America today. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  13. Chertok, F., and D. Parmer (with E. Aitan and J. Davidson). 2013. Living on the edge: Economic insecurity among Jewish households in greater Rhode Island. Waltham: Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  14. Chiswick, C. 2008. The economics of American Judaism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Chiswick, C. 2014. How economic choices shape religious tradition. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Christiano, K. 2000. Religion and the family in modern American culture. In Family, religion, and social change in diverse societies, ed. K. Houseknecht and J.G. Pankhurst, 43–78. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Cohen, D.N. 2013, September 16. Poll: American Jews with disabilities excluded by community. Haaretz.
  18. Cohen, S.M., and A.Y. Kelman. 2008. Uncoupled: How our singles are reshaping Jewish engagement. Jewish Identity Project of Reboot.
  19. Cohen, S.M., C. Aviv, and J. Veinstein. 2009. Welcoming synagogues project: Preliminary results from the 2009 Synagogue Survey on Diversity and LGBT Inclusion. Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation (IJSO), Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.
  20. Cohen, S.M., J. Ukeles, and R. Miller. 2012. Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 comprehensive report. New York: UJA-Federation of New York.Google Scholar
  21. Coleman, A. 2014, June. “Mom-dad” and “dad-mom”: Transgender parents and our children. Sh’ma, 20–21.Google Scholar
  22. Copen, C.E., K. Daniels, and W.D. Mosher. 2013. First premarital cohabitation in the United States: 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports 64. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  23. Dashefsky, A., and I.M. Levine. 1983. The Jewish family: Continuity and change. In Families and religions: Conflict and change in modern society, ed. W. D’Antonio and J. Aldous, 163–190. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. DellaPergola, S. 2013. How many Jews in the United States? The demographic perspective. Contemporary Jewry 33: 15–42.Google Scholar
  25. Edgell, P. 2006. Religion and family in a changing society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ellis, R.R., and T. Simmons. 2014. Coresident grandparents and their grandchildren: 2012 current population reports, 20–576. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  27. Ellison, C.G., A.K. Henderson, N.D. Glenn, and K.E. Harkrider. 2011. Sanctification, stress, and marital quality. Family Relations 60: 404–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. 2014. America’s young adults: Special issue. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  29. Fishman, S.B. 2004. Double or nothing: Jewish families and mixed marriage. Hanover: Brandeis University Press, University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  30. Fishman, S.B. 2015a. Gender in American Jewish life. In American Jewish year book 2014, ed. A. Dashefsky and I.M. Sheskin, 91–131. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fishman, S.B. 2015b. 2014 Sklare address: American Jewishness today: Identity and transmissibility in an open world. Contemporary Jewry 35: 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fishman, S.B., and S.M. Cohen. 2015. JPPI annual assessment. Jerusalem: Jewish People Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  33. Fossion, P., M. Rejas, L. Servais, I. Pelc, and S. Hirsch. 2003. Family approach with grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. American Journal of Psychotherapy 57(4): 519–527.Google Scholar
  34. Friedman, M.P. 2009. New Jewish matchmaking: A quantitative analysis of JDate users. Journal of Jewish Communal Issues 84(3/4): 345–352.Google Scholar
  35. Geffen, R.M. 2014. The roles of American Jewish grandparents: An exploration of the intergenerational transmission of values. Journal of Jewish Communal Services 89(1).Google Scholar
  36. Glass, J., and P. Levchak. 2014. Understanding the impact of conservative Protestantism on regional variation in divorce rates. American Journal of Sociology 119(4): 1002–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gold, S.J. 2003. Israeli and Russian Jews: Gendered perspectives on settlement and return migration. In Gender and US immigration: Contemporary trends, ed. P. Hondagneu-Sotelo, 127–147. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  38. Gold, S.J. 2016. Patterns of adaptation among contemporary Jewish immigrants to the United States. In American Jewish year book 2015, ed. A. Dashefsky and I.M. Sheskin, 1–44. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  39. Goldstein, E. 2007, July 5. Jews of many colors. The Jewish Week.
  40. Green, E. 2014, November. Keeping the faith. The Atlantic.
  41. Harden, N. 2013. Peter Pan goes to college. Society 50: 257–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hartman, H. 2007, March. The intersection of gender and religion in the demography of today’s American Jewish families. Brandeis University Seminar on Creating and Maintaining Jewish Families.Google Scholar
  43. Hartman, M., and H. Hartman. 1996. Gender equality and American Jews. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  44. Hartman, H., and M. Hartman. 2009. Gender and American Jews: Patterns in work, education, and family in contemporary life. Waltham/Hanover: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  45. Hartman, H., and I.M. Sheskin. 2012. The relationship of Jewish community contexts and Jewish identity: A 22-community study. Contemporary Jewry 32(2).Google Scholar
  46. Heaton, T., and C. Jacobson. 2000. Intergroup marriage: An examination of opportunity structures. Sociological Inquiry 70(1): 30–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hecht, S. 2007. Poverty in the Boston Jewish community. Boston: Combined Jewish Philanthropies.Google Scholar
  48. Heinlein, S. 2015, February 26. Black, Jewish, and adopted. Tablet.
  49. Henig, R.M. 2010, August 22. What is it about 20-somethings? New York Times Magazine.
  50. Heschel, S. 2004. Gender and agency in the feminist historiography of Jewish identity. Journal of Religion 84(4): 580–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Horowitz, B. 2013, October 18. And now for some good news about the Pew Survey. Forward.
  52. Hyman, P. 1983. The Jewish family: Looking for a usable past. In On being a Jewish feminist, ed. Susannah Heschel, 19–26. New York: Schuster.Google Scholar
  53. Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011—Special Study on Jewish Households with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender) Individuals. Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011. 2014, June. UJA-Federation of New York.
  54. Kadushin, C. 2011. Social networks and Jews. Contemporary Jewry 31(1): 55–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kelman, A.Y. 2010. The reality of the virtual: Looking for Jewish leadership online. New York: AVI CHAI.Google Scholar
  56. Keysar, A. 1994. Single-parent families’ participation in the Jewish community. Journal of Jewish Communal Services 70(2–3).
  57. Kim, H., and N. Leavitt. 2012. The newest Jews? Understanding Jewish American and Asian American marriages. Contemporary Jewry 32(2): 135–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Knopp, A. 2014. Why Jews of Russian-speaking backgrounds matter to our communal future. Journal of Jewish Communal Service 89(1): 105–111.Google Scholar
  59. Kosmin, B., and A. Keysar. 2013. American Jewish secularism: Jewish life beyond the synagogues. In American Jewish year book 2012, ed. A. Dashefsky and I.M. Sheskin, 3–54. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Kotler-Berkowitz, L. 2014, May. The great recession and American Jews: Evidence from Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland. New York: Berman Jewish Databank, Jewish Federations of North America.
  61. Krumrei, E.J., S. Pirutinsky, and D.H. Rosmarin. 2013. Jewish spirituality, depression, and health: An empirical test of a conceptual framework. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 20: 327–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Lareau, A. 2011. Unequal childhoods, 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  63. Levin, S. 2003. Mingled roots: A guide for Jewish grandparents of interfaith grandchildren. New York: Union for Reform Judaism.Google Scholar
  64. Levin, J. 2011. Health impact of Jewish religious observance in the USA: Findings from the 2000–01 National Jewish Population Survey. Journal of Religion and Health 50: 852–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Levin, J. 2015. Religious differences in self-rated health among US Jews: Findings from five urban population surveys. Journal of Religion and Health 54: 765–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lubrano, A. 2014, September. 17. Jews are the hidden poor. Philadelphia Inquirer.
  67. Macunovich, D.J. 2010, November. Reversals in the patterns of women’s labor supply in the United States, 1977–2009. Monthly Labor Review, 16–36.Google Scholar
  68. Mahoney, A. 2010. Religion in families, 1999–2009: A relational spirituality framework. Journal of Marriage and Family 72: 805–827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. McGinity, K.R. 2009. Still Jewish: A history of women and intermarriage in America. New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. McGinity, K.R. 2014. Marrying out: Jewish men, intermarriage and fatherhood. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  71. McGinity, K.R. 2015. Jewish on their own terms: How intermarried couples are changing American Judaism by Jennifer A. Thompson (review). American Jewish History 99(1): 113–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. McGuire, M. 2002. Religion: The social context. Belmont: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.Google Scholar
  73. Mizrahi, J.L., and M. Buren. 2014. Serving Jewish children with disabilities and their families. Journal of Jewish Communal Service 89(1): 83–92.Google Scholar
  74. Monte, L.M., and R.R. Ellis. 2014. Fertility of women in the United States 2012: Population characteristics, 20–575. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  75. Nock, S.L. 2000. The divorce of marriage and parenthood. Journal of Family Therapy 22: 245–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Nock, S.L. 2001. The marriages of equally dependent spouses. Journal of Family Issues 22: 756–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Obler, L. 2005, May. Me and my special Jewish family. In The New Jewish family: Reproductive choices and opportunities in contemporary US Society, ed. D.S. Einhorn, S.B. Fishman, L. Obler and S. Reinharz, 62–70. Working Paper Series no. 12. The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  78. Oppenheimer, M. 2013, September 27. Navigating battlefield of Orthodox marriage and divorce: Why it’s so hard to get a “get.” Jewish Daily Forward.Google Scholar
  79. Parmer, D. 2015. What’s love got to do with it? Marriage and non-marriage among younger American Jews. In Love, marriage, and Jewish families: Paradoxes of the gender revolution, ed. S.B. Fishman, 33–54. Waltham: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Petts, R. 2011. Is urban fathers’ religion important for their children’s behavior? Review of Religious Research 53(2): 183–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Pew Research Center. 2013. A portrait of Jewish Americans: Findings from a Pew Research Center survey of US Jews. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  82. Pew Survey Study Group. 2015. Strategic directions for Jewish life: A call to action.
  83. Pirutinsky, S., D.H. Rosmarin, C.L. Holt, R.H. Feldman, L.S. Caplan, E. Midlarsky, and K.I. Pargament. 2011a. Does social support mediate the moderating effect of intrinsic religiosity on the relationship between physical health and depressive symptoms among Jews? Journal of Behavioral Medicine 34: 489–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Pirutinsky, S., D.H. Rosmarin, K.I. Pargament, and E. Midlarsky. 2011b. Does negative religious coping accompany, precede, or follow depression among Orthodox Jews? Journal of Affective Disorders 132: 401–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Pirutinsky, S., D.H. Rosmarin, and C.L. Holt. 2012. Religious coping moderates the relationship between emotional functioning and obesity. Health Psychology 31: 394–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Pomson, A., and R. Schnoor. 2008. Back to school: Jewish day school in the lives of adult Jews. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Prell, R.E. 2007. Family formation, educational choice, and American Jewish identity. In Family matters: Jewish education in an age of choice, ed. Jack Wertheimer, 3–33. Lebanon: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  88. Putnam, R.D., and D.E. Campbell. 2012. American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  89. Riley, N.S. 2013. Til faith do us part: How interfaith marriage is transforming America. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  90. Rosmarin, D.H., E.J. Krumrei, and G. Andersson. 2009a. Religion as a predictor of psychological distress in two religious communities. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 38: 54–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Rosmarin, D.H., K.I. Pargament, and K.J. Flannelly. 2009b. Do spiritual struggles predict poorer physical/ mental health among Jews? International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 19: 244–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Rosmarin, D.H., K.I. Pargament, and A. Mahoney. 2009c. The role of religiousness in anxiety, depression, and happiness in a Jewish community sample: A preliminary investigation. Mental Health, Religion and Culture 12: 97–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Rosmarin, D.H., S. Pirutinsky, K.I. Pargament, and E.J. Krumrei. 2009d. Are religious beliefs relevant to mental health among Jews? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 1: 180–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Rosmarin, D.H., E.J. Krumrei, and K.I. Pargament. 2010. Are gratitude and spirituality protective factors against psychopathology? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy 3: 1–5.Google Scholar
  95. Sands, R., D. Roer-Strier, and S. Strier. 2013. From family research to practice: Argentine families. Coping with the Challenges of Religious Intensification Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 94(1): 53–60.Google Scholar
  96. Sarna, J. 2005. American Judaism: A history. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Sarna, J. 2012. Toward a comprehensive policy planning for Russian-speaking Jews in North America. Jerusalem: Jewish People Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  98. Sartori, J., and J.K. Guberman. 2014. Boundaries of identity: Jewish families in an era of transnational, transracial and open adoption. Journal of Jewish Communal Service 89(1): 46–54.Google Scholar
  99. Scheckner, J. 2003, June. Challenges in outreach to GLBT Interfaith Couples. Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI).
  100. Shafer, K., and Z. Qian. 2010. Marriage timing and assortative mating. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 41(5): 661–691.Google Scholar
  101. Shain, M. 2015. Dreams and realities: American Jews young adults’ decisions about fertility. In Love, marriage, and Jewish families: Paradoxes of the gender revolution, ed. S.B. Fishman, 151–167. Waltham: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  102. Sheskin, I.M. 2004, October. Geographic differences among American Jews. United Jewish Communities (UJC).
  103. Sheskin, I.M. 2015. 2015 Comparisons of Jewish communities: A compendium of tables and bar charts. North American Jewish Data Bank.
  104. Sheskin, I.M., and H. Hartman. 2015. The facts about intermarriage. Journal of Jewish Identities 8(1): 149–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Sheskin, I.M., and M. Liben. 2015. The people of the nook: Jewish use of the Internet. In The changing world religion map: Sacred places, identities, practices and politics, ed. Stanley D. Brunn, 3831–3856. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  106. Silberman, C.E. 1985. A certain people: American Jews and their lives today. New York: Summit Books.Google Scholar
  107. Silk, M., and A. Walsh. 2008. One nation divisible: How regional religious differences shape American politics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  108. Silver, B. 2013, September. Where are the matchmakers? Jewish life—and love—on campus. Mosaic.Google Scholar
  109. Siminoff, D. 2006. JDate: Using the power of the Internet to build community. Contact 8(3): 15. Scholar
  110. Sklare, M. 1971. America’s Jews. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  111. Smith, T. 2005. Jewish distinctiveness in America: A statistical portrait. New York: American Jewish Committee.Google Scholar
  112. Spokoiny, A. 2014. The changing Jewish family: In need of a user manual. Journal of Jewish Communal Service 89(1): 20–23.Google Scholar
  113. Steinberg, S. 1974. The academic melting pot. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  114. Sweet, J.A., and L.L. Bumpass. 1987. American families and households. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  115. Thompson, J. 2014. Jewish on their own terms: How intermarried couples are changing American Judaism. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  116. Tobin, D. 2012, June 20. 1 in 4 New York households identify as non-white or Sephardic. Huffington Post.
  117. Tobin, D., and A. Weinberg. 2014. Racial diversity and the American Jewish community. Journal of Jewish Communal Service 89(1): 68–82.Google Scholar
  118. Tolts, M. 2011. Demography of the contemporary Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora. Paper presented at the Conference on the Contemporary Russian-Speaking Jewish Diaspora, Harvard University, November 13–15.Google Scholar
  119. Traister, R. 2016, February 22. The single American woman. New York Times Magazine.Google Scholar
  120. Ukeles, J., S.M. Cohen and R. Miller. 2013. Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 special report on poverty (revised edition). New York: UJA-Federation of New York in Consultation with Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.Google Scholar
  121. Ungar-Sargon, B. 2015. The connubial abyss. New Republic 246(1): 10–11.Google Scholar
  122. Vespa, J., J.M. Lewis, and R.M. Kreider. 2013. America’s families and living arrangements 2012: Population characteristics, 20–570. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  123. Weiss, S.M., and N.C. Gross-Horowitz. 2013. Marriage and divorce in the Jewish state: Israel’s civil war. Waltham: Brandeis University Press.Google Scholar
  124. Wen, M. 2014. Parental participation in religious services and parent and child well-being: Findings from the National Survey of America’s Families. Journal of Religion and Health 53(5): 1539–1561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  125. Wertheimer, J. 2005, October. Jews and the Jewish birthrate. Commentary, 39–44.Google Scholar
  126. Wertheimer, J. 2010, September. Generation of change: How leaders in their twenties and thirties are reshaping Jewish life. New York: AVI CHAI.Google Scholar
  127. Wertheimer, J., and S.M. Cohen. 2014. The Pew Survey reanalyzed: More bad news, but a glimmer of hope. Mosaic.
  128. Wilcox, W.B., and N. Wolfinger. 2008. Living and loving “decent”: Religion and relationship quality among urban parents. Social Science Research 37(3): 828–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  129. Wilson, M.R., and E.E. Filsinger. 1986. Religiosity and marital adjustment: Multidimensional interrelationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family 48(1): 147–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  130. Wolfinger, N., and W.B. Wilcox. 2008. Happily ever after? Religion, marital status, gender and relationship quality in urban families. Social Forces 86(3): 1311–1337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  131. Wuthnow, R. (ed.). 1979. The religious dimension: New directions in quantitative research. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  132. Yeary, K., et al. 2012. Religion, social capital, and health. Review of Religious Research 54: 331–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  133. Zellman, R. 2004, January 1. Making your community more transgender-friendly: Guidelines for individuals and congregations. TransTorah.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyRowan UniversityGlassboroUSA

Personalised recommendations