Friday, January 25, 2013

Orthodoxy, Divorce, and Children

Yesterday over at Jewcy, my latest installment of my "Ballabuster" column discussed the possible religious fallout for Jewish kids who've gone through a divorce. I wrote this in response to a recently published study of Christian kids that suggested that after a divorce, they experienced decreased levels of religious engagement and church attendance.

I have given my parents own divorce and its impact on my own Judaism a lot of thought over the years. I wondered if my religious trajectory had any impact at all on my experience of Orthodoxy. The short answer--yes, it did.

This wouldn't surprise the countless teachers who talked about kids damaged by divorce and their resultant "rebellious" behavior. Though as I sat in class, listening to them to describe "me" (though I was by no means transgressive), I became progressively angrier. What I heard, between the lines, is that far from being a salve for hurt, Orthodoxy was only useful for people with undisturbed childhoods.

But as I got older, I saw it as the other way around. Divorce, broken relationships, hurt--they're all part of the human condition. They're not going to disappear anytime soon no matter how strenuously we tell people to behave. A religious tradition that can't withstand very human events and help people endure and thrive is the problem. Furthermore, I credit my parents divorce for being able to see the damage, not just within myself, but in the community in general:

I think of divorce as a storm that not only causes its own damage but also reveals other problems lurking beneath the surface. It’s sort of like what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (and before that, Katrina), when the existing poverty of the hardest hit, most underserved areas is exposed. The storms didn’t cause poverty; they simply highlighted the problem. In Judaism, divorce definitely isn’t the cause of gender inequality—but in my experience, it made its existence all the more glaring. 

You can read the rest here.

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