Suzan & Ron Wynne <srwynne@...>
The vast majority of marriages among Jews were arranged until about the time
of World War I when the upheaval of war altered many social relationships.
Marriage was not perceived as a romantic relationship between a man and a
woman but, rather, a union of families within the Jewish tradition that the
families shared and a financial arrangement. Thus, marriage between cousins
was common, both to ensure that money and property stayed within the family
and to ensure that the family knew what they were agreeing to in terms of
Jewish practice. Marriages were typically arranged within the various
Hasidic communities. Non-Hasidic but Orthodox Jews generally opted for
arranged marriages within their circle. The goal was to find a union that
was compatible with the family and the values that they upheld.
As young people moved toward secularization after WWI, they joined youth
groups where, for the first time, boys and girls had contact with one
another and romantic relationships arose >from those encounters. The
expansion of higher educational opportunities, too, encouraged young people
to resist pressures for accepting arranged marriages without their consent.
But, arranged marriages continued to be the norm until the Holocaust.
In short, it would not have been uncommon for a couple to have met at the
time of their formal engagement. Engagement, by the way, was a much more
serious matter than we think of it today. A broken engagement was virtually
tantamount to a divorce since the engagement came after agreement about a
By the way, I will be doing a workshop about the topic of marriage and other
matters of daily life at the summer conference in Las Vegas in July.