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Rabbi Says Jewish Family Breakdown Reaches Catastrophic Proportions

February 1, 1978
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The head of the Rabbinical Council of America expressed grave concern over the wider spread breakdown of the Jewish family which, he said, has reached catastrophic proportions. “This is the most formidable threat to Jewish survival facing us today,” declared Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger, president of the Orthodox rabbinical organization.

Wurzburger made his remarks at the Council’s special three-day Torah convocation which opened yesterday at the Sheraton Heights Inn here. He cited statistics of a recently-concluded national survey of the Rabbinical Court of America (Beth Din) which indicated that alarming numbers of Jewish marriages are being dissolved and in some areas of the country is approaching the “shocking” rate of four out of 10 marriages.

“This weakening of marital bonds,” he said, “is also surprisingly manifest among young Orthodox couples, though admittedly in lesser numbers.” What is “particularly alarming,” Wurzburger emphasized, “is the complacency and lack of response among Orthodox Jewish leaders to this demoralizing danger. A conspiracy of silence envelops the issue with the illusory hope that it will dissipate by itself. It behooves us to confront the problem boldly and to acknowledge it as a threat to the vibrancy and durability which has always characterized Jewish family life.”


Wurzburger noted that “until a decade ago divorce was such an unusual occurence among Orthodox Jews that it was considered something of a scandal.” But now, he noted, the general rising tide of divorce in this country has also affected the Orthodox Jewish community. “Dissolution of marriages, with accompanying rancor and pain are not infrequent experiences. This is a shocking development,” he declared.

Wurzburger pointed out that the “relative isolation in the past of the Orthodox Jewish community has been considerably weakened in recent years. With Orthodox Jews assuming important roles to an ever larger extent in the economic and industrial life of the secular community they are exposed to values alien to traditional ways.”

The pattern in some Orthodox circles during the early years of marriage of young wives taking jobs away from home while their husbands continue their Talmudic studies is also acknowledged as a contributory factor, he said. “Those developments have weakened the fabric of the traditional Jewish family and have contributed to the alarming increase of divorce among Orthodox Jewish couples.”

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