Re: Cousin marriages #general

Stan Goodman <safeqSPAM_FOILER@...>

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003 03:10:17 UTC, MBernet@... opined:

In a message dated 7/28/2003 1:55:22 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
marie@... writes:

==That is indeed so. Cousin marriages are not forbidden in Jewish law
(Lev. ch 18) and a man may even marry his brother/sister's daughter (but
not his aunt). I do not understand why Americans (and Christians in
general) view cousin marriages as incestuous. The practice was common
among Jews for many centuries. If it has decreased in recent years I
would assume that it reflects the greater opportunity to meet a
bride/groom thanks to greater mobility and better communications.

Naturally, village Jews would tend to marry someone >from a relatively
close village, and inevitably almost everybody was somehow related to
everyone else.
What is also common is multiple marriages between siblings: the brother
of my mother's mother married the sister of my mother's father. On my
father's side, three siblings in the Goldschmidt family married three
siblings in the Gutenstein family.

In part, marrying one's child off to a cousin meant that one knew
everything about the other family's social, moral, health and wealth
qualities. It also ensured descendants who would work in the family
business, inherit the business, and like Tzelafchad's daughter, keep
everything in the family.

This was especially important among the socially prominent, the wealthy,
and the Jewish community leaders. My Goldschmidt and Gutenstein
ancestors were all three--and it wouldn't surprise me if they themselves
were cousin.

A cousin of one of my cousins married her cousin in the 1950s. They
were afraid of possible genetic diseases and agreed beforehand never to
have children.
I understand (but I'm very willing to be corrected by someone more
knowledgable) that geneticists today hold the danger of genetic diseases
from a cousin marriage is not significantly higher than a marriage
outside the family, if proper genetic screening is conducted.


Michael Bernet, New York

To Michael's excellent summary, I would add only the following:

The cousin-marriage inclination he describes is certainly not a Jewish
peculiarity. In Norway, where until recently, valley villages were
effectively isolated by intervening mountains, village identity was
pretty much synonymous with family. Anyone who has travelled in the
Sinai Peninsula, which has a sparse Beduin population isolated >from
metropolitan Egypt is impressed by the identical visage shared by all
the locals -- unsurprising, given the size of the gene pool.

The argument against cousin marriage is that the partners, because
they share much of their genetic makeup, have an enhanced probability
of passing undesirable recessive genes to their offspring; with
partners less closely related, there is more likelihood that such a
gene in one partner would be 'overcome' by a dominant in the other.
Here in Israel, where cousin marriages are very routine among the Arab
population, with consequently enhanced genetic problems such as
albinism and mental retardation, this is well illustrated. The effect
is, in fact, what is behind the widely held taboo of marriages between
even more closely-related partners.

There is a counter argument: Given that undesirable genes are
expressed in marriages between cousins, they die out very quickly, and
do not remain latent, to propagate through many generations, since the
offspring that carry them tend not to live to reproduce. The long-term
effect on the population is therefore not as damaging as one might
otherwise think. Evolution is cruel.

Stan Goodman, Qiryat Tiv'on, Israel

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