I read your books on love and marriage and listened to the audio CD. I hear a common theme on your show and with various pastors saying that a woman should respect her husband or husband to be, and marriage is the ideal situation. My question is what should one make of the marriage statistics of black women versus others (I don’t have the exact numbers- but I hope you are familiar) considering the high incarceration rates of black males.
I would genuinely like to know if your advice applies to black women. Is it possible for most accomplished black women to find a mate they can look up to, respect, and marry?
Finally, I heard you say on your show that any studies ending in the word studies is not worth studying… (such as any cultural studies). My question then is, is it a waste of time to do personal study on Judaic studies or receive a degree in Biblical Studies?
Thank you very much! I value your perspective, and am anxiously awaiting a response. God Bless!
We usually discourage those using our “Ask the Rabbi” feature from sneaking in two questions in one letter, but in your case, we’re happy to make an exception!
Your second question is quicker to answer than your first. In general, we do not recommend Judaic studies or Biblical studies. Instead, we do recommend studying Jewish history, the Bible, and especially, the Bible through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom. Sometimes the label ‘studies’ is being used innocuously or as a marketing ploy, but we start out suspicious and would want to make sure we know who is doing the teaching and what their qualifications are. The word, ‘Studies’ often suggests that there is an agenda that is not conducive to an honest learning environment.
Now, on to your harder question. We are indeed knowledgeable of the sad statistics to which you refer. At the same time, we are not locked into the notion that people must marry spouses of similar skin color. Similar values are crucial and indeed we have known and been friendly with many so-called interracial (not a term we like) couples that we have met through the many churches at which we have appeared.
There have been many times and places in the past when women of marriageable age vastly outnumbered the available men. One such time was post-Civil War in the New England area of the United States and another was post-World War I in England. Young men had been killed and seriously wounded in tragic numbers and many women realized that not all of them would be able to marry and build the traditional families they always expected.
You may be surprised to hear that currently the religious Jewish community also has a demographic problem. For a variety of reasons, there are more high quality young women than young men ready for marriage. We have also heard from friends in other religious traditions that they are facing similar challenges.
Let us tell you about one adventurous solution to the problem that a number of these post-Civil War New England women adopted. They accepted an invitation to travel to the Seattle area. That territory, not yet a state, was populated by many lumbermen but had very few women. Most of these men were not the educated and cultured gentlemen that those New England ladies would have hoped to marry in normal times. Yet, acknowledging their circumstances, they married decent, hard-working men and many of these couples established the beginnings of Seattle society. Some of their names are still found on streets and neighborhoods in the Emerald City.
After World War I, many women in England embarked on career paths, acknowledging that the path they had hoped for was not available. Like in the post-Civil War era, some women recognized that they needed to change their definition of which men were “marriageable.” Reality has a way of sharpening focus.
We often coach young women and while we don’t encourage anyone to marry someone they don’t respect, we do encourage these ladies to think outside the box. Maybe they need to travel and think of living in a city that hadn’t crossed their mind; maybe they need to distinguish more carefully between educated vs. intelligent. Maybe they need to look at men who physically look quite different from the picture they always had of a husband.
We don’t know you, but we urge you to expand your vision. We personally know a number of outstanding black men who, sadly, have spent time in prison. During that time, often through the excellent services of Prison Fellowship, they became Christians and the men they now are have very little in common with the men they were back when they were doing drugs or committing the crimes for which they were incarcerated. There are churches and ministries who welcome and guide them. Perhaps you can make connections with pastors from these groups.
Perhaps, you too, need to relocate to an area (maybe even a new country) with a larger population of suitable men. Maybe you need to let go of the physical picture of the man of your dreams. (Are you committed to not marrying someone who might have a different skin color but with the same values and convictions as you have?)
Although we would never claim that a woman can ‘change’ a man’s nature by marrying him, and she would be foolish to marry on that basis, she can certainly impact his destiny. A solid man of good character sometimes gains traction by marrying a good wife.
In a situation where it is harder to find quality men, women do have to work harder. That includes recognizing that what deserves our respect may not always be what society respects. It means really taking stock of what is most important and being able to abandon ideas of perfection. It means being flexible and creative and, of course, keeping those prayers coming. With six daughters of our own and their numerous friends, your plea strikes a chord with us.
Wishing you a bright future,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin