The Jewish community wrings its hands over intermarriage and the melting away of America's Jewish population into the larger culture. Many analysts say the root of the problem is the unwillingness of many Jewish men to marry Jewish women, and ask "why is this happening?"
Perhaps I can help provide an answer.
Why didn't I marry a Jewish woman? The reason I lost interest in many Jewish women was the generally contemptuous, belittling, and bigoted attitude that so many of them have towards men.
My family and I spend the Jewish holidays and many other occasions with a large group of Jewish relatives, friends, and acquaintances.
During the dinner conversation one can be assured that, whatever couple just argued, broke up, separated, or divorced, it was all the man's fault. If we're discussing a woman who has chosen to be a full-time homemaker, the conversation will be about how poor (insert female name) suffers having to do the child care. No attention will be paid to the contributions of the husband, who's working a 50 hour week (or more) so his wife can have the time to love and care for the kids she chose to have.
Challenges women face will be discussed bitterly, and challenges men face will be ignored. Women in the news will be portrayed positively and their flaws excused or minimized. Men in the news will be portrayed negatively and their flaws exaggerated and focused upon.
While listening to the women at these gatherings I've often wondered: do they really believe that women are without faults? When they shake their heads about "husbands who refuse to change," doesn't it ever occur to them that sometimes they are the ones who need to change?
Jewish women could learn much from the story of Sarah, an attractive, accomplished, 30-something Jewish acquaintance of mine who usually attended these gatherings. She was engaged to be married to an intelligent, successful, good-looking gentleman who had a great rapport with kids. He spent many evenings with these relatives and bore the manbashing, including Sarah's, without complaint.
Eventually he broke up with her and later married a shiksa, for which (of course) he is vilified. The breakup could have happened for any number of reasons. However, I'm sure that at least once, as he listened to the women endlessly demeaning and belittling men, he stared into his glass of Manischevitz and said to himself, "Do I really want to spend the rest of my life listening to this?"
A Jewish acquaintance recently explained it best. When I asked him why he and his Jewish wife were splitting up after 20 years of marriage, he replied: "I got tired of being wrong all the time."
Once there was a discussion among the women about a conflict involving one of the women present, her secretary, her female boss, and her boss' secretary. The conversation seemed to go on and on with the participants unable to reach a conclusion. Finally my wife leaned over to me and said softly, "They can't resolve this because the conflict is only between women."
She's probably right. If there were a man anywhere in the picture--a boss, a co-worker, maybe even a delivery boy--the problem would have been conveniently blamed on him and the conversation could have moved on.
When challenged on their anti-male prejudices, Jewish women, rather than considering that they could be in the wrong, often say things like "Men are just afraid of assertive women."
Nonsense. Most of my Jewish friends have married Gentiles and I don't know of one wife who's a pushover, least of all mine. The issue is fairness, not assertiveness. While there are certainly many Gentile women who harbor anti-male prejudices, in general I found them to be less critical of men than Jewish women.
The misandry (prejudice against men) of the modern Jewish woman isn't all her fault. Just as those who are bigoted towards African-Africans, Latinos, Asians, or Jews aren't born bigoted, neither are Jewish females. Some of the anti-male hostility no doubt stems from the days before feminism, when women's opportunities were unfairly restricted.
Yet for men, who were sent to the army or to war right after high school, who did hazardous work in coal mines and steel mills, who had to support their families by themselves without ever having the chance to stay at home with their children, the gender restrictions were anything but one-sided. My father, who worked six days a week for 30 years to insure that my mother, sister and I had everything we needed, never had a choice about his gender role, either.
The other main cause of Jewish misandry is that Jewish females tend to be highly educated and thus have had much opportunity to imbibe the anti-male, politically correct myths and prejudices so prevalent on American college campuses. Most of these falsehoods about men have been debunked by serious scholars and dissident feminists, most prominently in Christina Hoff Sommers' "Who Stole Feminism?" The fact that many Jewish women (and many women of other ethnicities) still believe these myths is certainly not entirely their own fault.
Did I avoid all Jewish women because of Jewish women's misandrist tendencies? Of course not. I knew many wonderful Jewish women and I had a couple of near-misses at having an all-Jewish family. For example, I dated one very intelligent woman who was studying to be a rabbi. I was pretty head over heels for her, but I liked her more than she liked me and she ended it. There were others who didn't pan out for one reason or another.
Jewish relatives have asked me if I miss that heimish feeling, that sense of Jewish closeness that can come only with an observant and all-Jewish family. I think of my late Russian grandparents, of my aunts and uncles, and of the Jewish celebrations of my boyhood and yes, I do miss it. But for me, the true heimish feeling is little more than a distant memory, for one simple reason: how can I achieve closeness by sharing my Jewish identity when it usually means that I will be degraded and belittled for my masculine identity?
This column first appeared in the Intermountain Jewish News (Denver) (7/20/01).