Common Ethnicity/Common Values

by Executive VP Bob Schwartz

It’s well known that parents and family members have a preference towards their children finding life partners of similar ethnicity. Certainly, many Jewish families fall into that view. There are several good reasons including cultural similarities, common traditions, and ease of maintaining traditions.

These are all important. But are they the most important? These days we are sadly seeing a very divided country as well as the world. Divisions are very apparent in our country’s discourse with regard to climate change, women’s health care, immigration, gun control, access to health care, and LGBTQ rights to name just a few. How someone feels about these issues represents their values.

What’s more important these days when thinking about one’s children’s choice of life partners, common ethnicity, or common values?

Both of my children have recently married. Neither married people of Jewish backgrounds. Both have married wonderful warm thoughtful partners, and both their spouses have terrific welcoming families. We recently spent two weeks with our daughter’s mother and father-in-law in Ecuador where her mother-in-law was born and lived until she was 18, and remains close to her eight siblings and their families. The extended family could not have embraced us with more love. They were very interested and asked questions about our Jewish traditions. We went to Ecuador because our son-in-law’s very large Ecuadorian family could not attend their Boston wedding last year due to Covid and other travel restrictions. So a second wedding was held in Ecuador. With no prompting from us the ceremony and party included the traditional breaking of the glass as well as a spirited hora.

It did not take long to realize how much we had in common with our machatunim; that they had very similar values and views on so many of the day’s issues including the divisive issues I mentioned previously. They introduced us to their country, their customs, foods, favorite music, and artists. We became not just a family by marriage, but also a very close family.

Bob Schwartz