The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project

Posted on June 7, 2010

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Three years ago in a moment of introspection I realized that the two things in my life that are most meaningful and contribute most to my emotional well-being are my marriage and myJewish identity. At the time I was looking for work in journalism and my wife asked me “If you could write about any topic what would it be?” I replied without thinking twice, “I’d interview Jewish-American couples about the their Jewish identities and their marriages.”

That concept initially took the form of a book project, I Am My Beloved’s: Jewish-American Couples Talk About Their Marriages. Over the next couple of years I interviewed and photographed about a dozen couples and my co-author interviewed another three. Of these fifteen couples twelve were living in the Boston to Washington, DC megalopolis, half of that dozen in the greater New York metropolitan area.

After having our book proposal and sample chapters turned down by about a dozen publishing houses the project is now morphing into The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project, an on-line archive of interviews of Jewish-American couples. These interviews and photographs show the diversity of the Jewish-American community. In future examiner.com articles I plan to publish some of these interviews.

There has been much discussion in the Jewish-American community about continuity, much of which has focused on education. But if parents work long hours to earn day school tuitions and have little time to spend with their children how does that help? My hunch is that the quality of Jewish marriages is an under-explored factor in Jewish continuity. As we say on the The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project’s home page:

Tribal membership and conjugal partnerships both offer emotionally salutary feelings of belonging. Are there any synergies when both life partners belong to the same tribe? Maybe, maybe not, but show us someone who is alienated and estranged from his or her tribe and odds are that his or her parents had an unhealthy and dysfunctional marriage. More specifically, children of Jewish parents who have strong, healthy marriages are more likely to develop positive Jewish identities.

What do healthy Jewish marriages look like? They are demographically diverse: religious and secular, gay and straight, urban/suburban and rural, monogamous and polyamorous, first marriages and second marriages, passionate couples and companionate couples, able bodied and disabled, teachers and techies, artists and professionals, Jews from birth and Jews by choice, native born and foreign born, parents and child-free by choice, parents of able-bodied children and parents of disabled children.

The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project will be a repository of interviews and photographs of Jewish-American couples; a selection of these will be published as “I Am My Beloved’s: Jewish-American Couples Talk About their Marriages” in the form of either a book, an e-book, and/or a website. “I Am My Beloved’s,” a work in progress, is a collection of interviews and photographs of Jewish-American couples that explores the intersection of each couple’s identities as a couple and as Jews. “I Am My Beloved’s” will include the voices and images of a wide range of couples reflecting the diversity of the Jewish-American community.

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