From stories of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs and their children, through the Gospel’s Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and to modern Jewish families in fiction, film, and everyday life, the family has been considered key to transmitting Jewish identity. Current discussions about the Jewish family’s supposed traditional character and its alleged contemporary crisis tend to assume that the dynamics of Jewish family life have remained constant from the days of Abraham and Sarah to those of Tevye and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and on to Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.
Jonathan Boyarin explores a wide range of scholarship in Jewish studies to argue instead that Jewish family forms and ideologies have varied greatly throughout the times and places where Jewish families have found themselves. He considers a range of family configurations from biblical times to the twenty-first century, including strictly Orthodox communities and new forms of family, including same-sex parents. The book shows the vast canvas of history and culture as well as the social pressures and strategies that have helped shape Jewish families, and suggests productive ways to think about possible futures for Jewish family forms.