Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

16
Family Problems

New Families

Of course there are unhappy as well as happy Hasidic families. While the shidukh (arranged marriage) is the accepted way of uniting the sexes in marriage, not even the most experienced matchmaker can foresee all the difficulties that marriage may bring. Little thought is given to the innocence arising from the lifelong separation of the sexes, the scant time that the couple know each other before marriage, and their limited sexual knowledge and understanding. Nor is it often considered that an ostensible strength--the close familial, religious, and communal ties--can also create intrafamily conflicts.

From the outset, a new marriage is tightly integrated into the larger family unit. In the first years of marriage the young Hasidic couple are heavily dependent on social and economic support from the extended family. Every Shabbes will likely find the newlyweds eating dinner with one set of parents or the other, and this may be repeated often during the week as well. It sometimes appears that marriage is but a half-step away from one's family and still a half-step distant from an independent life. The young couple have to cope with the intensity of Jewish family relations at the same time as they are establishing their own household and exploring a new relationship. They are often no match for a persistent mother or father at his or her accustomed station in the kitchen or the dining room, and they frequently find themselves at odds with their families, or with their spouses, over questions of custom, conduct, and privacy. Ruben, a husband in his late twenties, complains:

One of the basic disputes between me and my in-laws was that I give too much freedom to my wife. Basically [they said] a husband has to be strict in the house. You have to have control of where she goes and where she comes from, what she wears and what she doesn't wear. I told them at the beginning, "You told me to check her stockings, but I'm not familiar with women's stockings, and I don't know how to check it." 1 That was the basic dis-

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