arranged marriages #galicia


Irene Newhouse <einew@...>
 

I would dare say, based on my admittedly unsystematic reading, that arranged
marriages have historically been the rule. I would say that until recently,
the needs of the individual have been considered to be far less important
than the needs of the family or community. For this reason, marriages were
considered too important to be left up to the vagaries of individuals.

As far as I know, it was universally true in the 19th century that the
majority of Jewish marriages were arranged. Dowries were typical,
definitely. The idea was that the husband invest the dowry so that if he
should happen to pre-decease his wife, she could use this fund to live on.

This has been thoroughly researched for German Jews by Marion Kaplan, in the
book on the Jewish middle class in Germany: The Making of the Jewish Middle
Class Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany, ISBN 0195093968,
paper. The hardcover version of the book can be found in a great many
college & university libraries. In this book, she points out that even in
pre-WWI Germany, in which time the idea of marrying for love was adopted by
assimilated German Jews, what appeared to be love matches had actually been
arranged to a certain extent. This would have been done via parental
control of the young men young women were permitted to meet. Parents would
arrange social events, even dancing classes, at which the attendees were
selected with great care. For instance, as a young attorney, my grandfather
was working through one of the intern-like phases of his training, Assessor,
under an established attorney who was greatly impressed with his ability.
Therefore, he recommended that his wife include my grandfather in the
dancing class she was arranging for their daughter. In this class, he met
my grandmother. Their marriage repeated a tendency discernible in that line
of the family for much of the previous 100 years: daughter of the
established branch of the family marries up & coming newcomer to Breslau.
In general, the parental expectations for their sons-in-law were *not*
disappointed. My grandfather not only managed to find employment during the
mega-inflation following WWI, he had the foresight to emigrate in 1936,
thereby saving himself, his wife & family. He also managed to work his way
back into the upper middle class after emigration....

No, marriages were *NOT* always between cousins. There has long been a
recognition of the fact that if a family becomes too inbred, eventually the
children will not be healthy, in spite of the fact that understanding of the
reasons behind this observation is recent. However, if there were good
relations between a set of inlaws, other marriages would be arranged between
family members. Thus, I have a set of "honorary cousins", also >from
Breslau. We haven't found any shared ancestors yet, altough we do have
nearly all of them back to at least 1800 among us. BUT there have been
something like 6 instances in which mutual cousins have married.

Also, probably given the status of Jews as outsiders in gentile society,
there was a strong preference toward interacting with family socially & in
other ways. The same grandmother I mentioned above attended a private
girls' high school in Breslau, as did her sister. My researches have made
it apparent that the ladies who ran this school are probably distant
cousins, though I've not been able to determine how. Another cousin made me
the gift of a table cloth her normally unsentimental mother treasured. This
cousin knew that the woman who gave it to her mother was her mother's best
friend, never married. She asked me to research who this woman was, when
she gave me the table cloth. I learned to our mutual astonishment that her
mother's best friend was also her mother's 4th cousin. My cousin thinks it
entirely possible her mother actually knew this, and never bothered to tell
her.

Irene Newhouse


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
dowry.

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.

Suzan Wynne
Kensington, MD