MIAMI BEACH, Fla (Feb. 10)
An expert on Jewish communal life has warned, in an assessment of forces affecting the modern Jewish family, that there has been “a great growth and acceptance” of “free marriage” on campuses among Jewish students to the point where “even parents are beginning to accept it.”
The assessment was made by Prof. Gerald R. Bubis, director of the Los Angeles school of Jewish communal service of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, during a visit here last week for an experimental effort to cope with the dwindling “togetherness” and dwindling Jewishness of the American Jewish home. The experiment involved five young couples and their children from each of the five Reform synagogues in the Miami area.
In his assessment, in which he contended that there had been a noticeable improvement in the Jewish family. Bubis catalogued the “good news” and the “bad news” he had found in his visits to various parts of the country in connection with the observance this year of the centennial of the HUC-HR, the Reform seminary-school.
In discussing the acceptance of “free marriage” on campuses, Bubis said the Jewish parents were accepting it, “however reluctantly,” and that the parents were even beginning “to talk openly about their children who are engaged in it.” He cited as another negative development a still small but growing number of Jewish women who declare “they don’t want to get married but still want to have children and go looking for a likely male to father them.”
Another group, he said, is made up of couples who “don’t believe in children. They are in the avant garde in the zero population of the Jewish community.” There are also, he said, Jews in communes, “some of whom want a Jewish life, others who don’t.” He asserted also that there was a growing number of Jewish widows and “single parent” families, “including homes from which the wife has walked away, leaving the kids for the father to raise.”
He argued that “the synagogue has to become sensitive to this, to help children and their parents in whatever family situation they find themselves.”
THERE IS ALSO ‘GOOD NEWS’
Bubis said that the “good news” is that “most people want to have families and, if the marriage doesn’t work the first time, they try, try again.” In the experimental effort, he met with the 25 couples and their children at a Sabbath eve dinner and innovative service, prepared largely by him at a Friday evening at Temple Israel. He followed this up with a discussion on the Jewish family with the same couples at Saturday morning services at Temple Beth Sholom.
He explained that the goal was to have the families take back what they had learned to other families in their synagogues in an effort to restore the warm Sabbath atmosphere to the home and family from which, he said, it has all but vanished; or to form small havurot–fellowships–an innovation which has been spreading in Reform congregations with stress on experimentation and intimacy in worship meetings.
He said his “workshop” with the 25 Reform families was for both educators and families and that he believed it could be successful. He said young Jewish parents remember their warm family ties when they were children and are concerned because it is “missing” for their children. He added, “so many young couples are looking for ways to a Jewish life and are crying for it.”
SEARCHING FOR IDENTITY
The children brought to the Friday evening workshop at Temple Israel ranged from five years old to the teens. After the regular Friday evening Reform service, including the Sabbath candle lighting, blessing over the wine and the Sabbath bread, and recitation of grace, the children and their parents went into a special room for the service, which Bubis has titled “A Search for Identity.”
The children and their parents sat in small circles with the “reader”–Bubis–whose role was to start activities and not officiate. The service consisted of readings by the parents and children from various sources. Biblical and modern, with a single theme–the search for identity–and traditional prayers, including the Sh’ma.
Bubis said the innovative service was sprinkled with melodies ranging from the Hasidic to familiar liturgical chants. At the end, the participants rose to recite the Kaddish in the original Aramaic and, for the final verse, the participants, arms on each other’s shoulders, swayed as they sang. Bubis said efforts would be made at each of the Reform congregations to continue the approach he had tested during his visit.