Minutes of Monthly Meeting
September 14, 1997
Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton
Meeting Topic: Changing Family Structure--"What has replaced our traditional family?"
Speakers: Arthur and Judith Auster
Hosts: Arthur and Judith Auster
PRESENT: Shirley Flacks, Acting Chair; Arthur Auster, Judith Auster Bert Buby, Phyllis Duckwall, Paul Flacks, Edith Holsinger, Bette Jasko, Robert Jasko, John (Jack) Kelley, John Magee, Jerry Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, Barbara Levine, John Magee, Eileen Moorman, Ruth Precker, Bill Rain, Ken Rosenzweig, Lou Ryterband, Lou Vera, Marianne Weisman, Murray Weisman, Bill Youngkin.
Shirley called the meeting to order at 7:50 PM. Barbara Levine was a new attendee; she was introduced and everyone else in attendance introduced themselves to her. Shirley thanked the Austers for hosting the meeting, and called on Judy Auster to deliver the prayer. Judy's prayer had two parts: the first part included thoughts and readings from Scripture in tribute to Mother Teresa; the second part concerned the importance of the home and of celebrating learning in it, in keeping with the theme of the evening's topic.
Shirley announced that the Koenigsbergs were honored Thursday for their long and devoted work for the Dayton community and for Israel Bonds. It was also announced that next Thursday the Federation will honor Lou Ryterband for his extensive service to the community. At that event, Walter Rice will deliver a speech.
Paul Flacks reported that in the August issue of Readers Digest, there was an article by Ralph Bennet, "The Global War on Christians." Never before have so many Christians around the world been persecuted. Unfortunately, there has been little attention by news media to this problem. Included among the most offending countries are Nigeria, Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. There will be an International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Churches. Paul noted that the American Christian community, although it was active in support of persecuted Soviet Jews, appears to be relatively inactive with respect to persecution of Christians around the world.
Jack Kelley pointed out that a recent article from the UD Quarterly1 reported on a University of Dayton student, Denise Schulman, who is serving as an intern at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Denise became interested in the Museum as a result of a course at the University of Dayton taught by Eric Friedland. Jack also asked that all those in attendance be mindful of all the victims of terror in Jerusalem. Jack knows a Christian woman who was injured in the first bombing. Jack also discussed an article from the New York Times honoring nuns in Poland who saved Jewish children during the Second World War.
Eileen announced the Mobile Holocaust Exhibit which will open on Sunday, September 21, at 7 PM at the Dayton Museum of Natural History. Renate Frydman, Director of the Dayton Holocaust Resource Center, and our November speaker, arranged for the Exhibit.
Ken had a few announcements. He reported on his checking into an event called Islamic Day of Ohio which is being held on October 11 (the same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar) at the Muslim Community Center. There had been some concern that one of the speakers at that event would discuss Israeli-Arab relationships in the Middle East and that, because of the scheduling on Yom Kippur, Jewish members of the Dayton community would not be able to be present and to have input into the discussion. After inquiring, Ken was still not able to determine whether this topic would be discussed. However, Father James Heft is one of the keynote speakers, and we may learn from him whether this topic was discussed at the event. Ken has learned that there will be a Jewish-Muslim dialogue event in Columbus, Ohio on November 8. If anyone in the Dialogue is interested in attending this event, contact Ken for the name and phone number of the program organizer. Ken also passed around the newsletter, Ma Nishma?, of the Christian-Jewish dialogue group in Augsburg, Germany, as well as newsletters for Seed House (a dialogue group from Cincinnati) and The Ecumenical Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies (located in Southfield, Michigan).
Bert and Ken discussed some possible problems with the use of Alumni Hall Room 101 for our meetings. There has been some damage to the room (probably as a result of usage by groups other than the Dialogue) and the furniture has sometimes not been returned to its original arrangement. There was general consensus that the Dialogue has been a responsible user of the room. Nevertheless, in the future, the Dialogue will need to reserve the room in advance with the University of Dayton's Center for Religious Telecomunications and to carefully clean up and restore the room after using it. Bert will take primary responsibility for reserving the room.
The Austers' Presentation on Changing Family Structure
At about 8:15, Shirley introduced Arthur and Judy Auster by saying they are very qualified to speak about this topic. The Austers epitomize a modern Jewish family with strong values.
Arthur began the presentation by referring to a reading from the Torah which is always done on Yom Kippur. The portion is from Chapter 18 of Leviticus and is read just before the end of the full day of religious services. The portion describes what sexual and family lifestyles are not permissible. This Torah reading is designed to impress upon young people Israel's high standards of chastity and morality. Paramount duties are of self control and purity. Jews are expected to be chaste in body, wholesome in mind, and pure in heart. These characteristics are the foundation for an enduring civilization. Arthur then stated that in modern society, an entirely different standard of family relationships persists. Arthur noted that both testaments (Hebrew and Christian) delineate high standards for personal and family lifestyles. Arthur used some literary license to state that today, there is a "third testament" which permits lifestyles that are considerably different than those permitted in the first two, and that a whole other world-view of personal and family relations persists. As a caveat, Arthur warned the group that he has no academic credentials in sociology or psychology. Nevertheless, Arthur has an abiding interest in this topic.
Arthur observed that within one week, two personages held the world's attention: Princess Di and Mother Teresa. There is high irony in the fact that both Prince Charles and Princess Di have publicly admitted their marital infidelity. This contrasts with the extremely moral and self-sacrificial life of Mother Teresa.
The Austers' interest in the changing family structure began in June, 1996, on a visit to their family in Toronto. Arthur read about changes in family lifestyles and structure in the Toronto Globe and Mail2. Arthur suspected that the changes in family structure in Canada are not much different from those in the United States.
At this point, Arthur marshaled a massive array of statistics, citing several sources, to demonstrate the extent of the changes in American family structure. Divorced persons are the fastest growing part of our population. There were 4 million divorces in 1970; in 1994, there were 17 million. In 1992, 12 million children lived with single parents. Only about ½ of these received full child support. Marital abuse is more common than many other crimes. There is pressure for legal recognition of Gay and Lesbian marriages. State of Hawaii law accepts these. Other states must honor these "marriages" with reciprocity. Arthur observed that a majority of all Americans oppose same sex marriage. However, homosexuals hold that marriage is a basic human right. Since 1960, America has undergone a massive change in family structure. This is partly the result of the destygmatization of divorce. America now has the highest divorce rate in the world and the highest number of fatherless families. As a result, we now have many new family designations that did not formerly exist: dual career couples, single parents, at home fathers, Gay and Lesbian families, domestic partnerships, families with children of post-menopausal mothers. There were, in 1994, 11.4 million single parents, mostly mothers. 25% of all White families are single parent families while 65% of Black families are single parent families. Never married families are the fastest growing part of our population. Teenage pregnancies are rampant. Arthur noted that two thirds of teenage mothers are impregnated by adult males, not other teenagers. Most of the children of teenage mothers face a life of poor health, neglect, abuse, etc. Adolescent pregnancies cost the country billions of dollars. Adolescent childbearing is a national calamity. Girls born to adolescent mothers are 83% more likely to themselves become teenage mothers. Children of adolescent mothers are more likely to be abused and to land in prison. Prisons for these people will cost billions of dollars.
Open Discussion by the Attendees of Changing Family Structure
Arthur stated that he had many more statistics. However, now that he had impressed upon the group the seriousness of the problem, he thought it was more important for the group to have time to discuss the topic. Eileen expressed the view that the mass media and new communication avenues, such as the Internet, have a lot to do with what happens today. She stated that she does not know what can be done about the problems, but she is sure that we must tell our children that we care for them. Sometimes adolescents are having children because no one else loves them, and they feel that at least the baby will love them. Lorraine said that not all the changes cited by Arthur are bad. Samesex marriages are good because they allow people who have no choice in their sexual identity to have the chance for a happy life. Our society is changing and change is not necessarily bad. The challenge is for the religious groups to learn to be tolerant. Lorraine said that it is wonderful that people can live in loving non-traditional family structures. We cannot rebuild civilization through condemnation and "clucking." Lou asked us to get Tachletic (to the bottom line). Are we asking our religious institutions to do the job that we ourselves should be doing? Eileen said that we must not rely on our institutions; we must rely on ourselves. Jerry asked whether anyone has broken these statistics down by religious orientation. Jerry has a suspicion that religious orientation is an important determinant of alternative lifestyles and changed family structure. If this is true, then we should be teaching religious values in order to reverse the trend toward altered family structures. Ken doubted that religious orientation is the most important factor in explaining the inclination toward changed family structure; he pointed out that rates of religious observance in the United States are the highest in the world while our rate of breakdown of traditional family structure is also the highest. Murray expressed the view that the whole society is becoming more corrupt in many ways. Ken respectfully disagreed; he stated that every generation in history has felt that the subsequent generation was "going to Hell." Jack reported about a long article in the New York Times about an orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Bloom, who was arrested for money laundering. Lorraine took exception to Jack's characterization. She stated that in every religious group there are corrupt individuals.
Edith stated that the younger generation has a lot more information than ever before upon which to base their decisions on family structure. She emphasized that we need to communicate with our children. Eileen said there are more opportunities to get into trouble today. Our kids have cars, etc. Someone expressed the view that the removal of religion from the schools has resulted in denying to kids the opportunity to talk about values. There followed some discussion of the issue of religion in the public schools. Shirley said that in earlier years she had to teach her 7-year old about separation of church and state because students at that time were being given released time from public school for religious instruction. When she was employed as a teacher, Edith surveyed the students in her class; she found that the students were from many different religions. Therefore, she felt that covering religion in public schools is very problematic. Eileen said that many kids are growing up with no sense of what is right and wrong. Edith said that we as teachers and adults have got to set a good example for kids. Lou said that he wanted to turn the discussion to politics: we have been allowing poverty to increase massively in this country. This is putting a strain on our community that may be leading to changes in family structure. In response to this comment, Bill said that government has in some cases actually caused poverty. He cited the large government housing project, Cabrini Green, in Chicago which, rather than alleviating poverty, merely concentrated it. He expressed the view that government is not the solution. Lou Vera stated that real wages have not increased in the United States since 1973. Lou stated that Europeans think about these issues more than Americans. Arthur asked to hear from Bill Youngkin, a Protestant minister, who was in attendance. Bill replied that dominance of one group over another is one of the biggest causes of grief in our society. He expressed the view that Jewish people have fought legitimately against the incorporation of religion in the public schools. . Based on his prior experience as a social worker, John stated that dividing up the jobs in this country (for example to a maximum of 30 hours per week) would reduce the unemployment that may often lead to family breakup. This would reduce the level of poverty. Ruth said she has a friend who works for Head Start. Her friend goes into homes where the kids do not have any experience with the pattern of a traditional family. Ruth does not think that religion is the primary parameter in preventing family breakup. Bob Jasko said that parents want to send their kids to schools that will teach some morality. Many parents see the public schools as not doing the job in this respect. Arthur asked for Father Bert's view. Bert said that the Marianists are searching as a congregation for the way they can contribute the most to resolution of this problem. They have decided to focus on education and youth. Bert complimented Arthur on stimulating us to discuss this important topic. Eileen added to what Ruth had said. In former years, she was involved with the Dakota Street Center, where she met a woman who had been a prostitute. With help from the Center, the woman went to Sinclair Community College for education and was able to give up prostitution. Judy pointed out that Jewish education for both parents and children can play a role in contributing to a solution to the problems of changing family structure. Jack stated that our group is based on the principle of social justice. Father William Free's book, Introduction to Social Justice, has just been republished. Jack said that when there is a problem, people should organize to work toward a solution. Paul mentioned that people around the world have acclaimed Princess Di in spite of marital indiscretions. Shirley stated that Princess Di's acclaim came from the fact that she did a lot of good. Eileen pointed out that sex and family structure are not the only aspect of morality. Following up, Jerry pointed out that people have to be looked at in their totality, and stated that Princess Di was a great person. Murray stated that men must take responsibility for illegitimate births that they cause. Phyllis complimented Arthur by saying that he has astounded us with statistics. However, she feels that the comparison of our country to other countries is not appropriate since America is so much larger. Murray said that children no longer respect their parents. Lou said that Princess Di courageously confronted some sick patterns in British society-- primarily involving class. People admired her because she made mistakes and grew from them. Arthur said the Monarchy will change as a result.
Shirley concluded the program by encouraging people to find some young person to mentor. Arthur said that in 2 weeks he and Judy will leave for the Far East. They will be back in December. Shirley wished everyone a "Lashana Tovah" (happy New Year).
The meeting was adjourned at 9:40 PM, after which everyone enjoyed the refreshments and socialized.
Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary
REPORT ON ANNUAL DIALOGUE PICNIC, AUGUST 10
PRESENT: Connie Breen, Phyllis Duckwall, Lisa Federle, Tom Federle, Paul Flacks, Shirley Flacks, Edith Holsinger, Bette Jasko, Robert Jasko, John (Jack) Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, Jerry Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, Eileen Moorman, Bill Patterson, Jane Patterson, Ruth Precker, Ken Rosenzweig, Harold Rubenstein, Sophie Rubenstein, Lou Ryterband, Dieter Walk, Suzie Walk.
Dialogue members and guests had a wonderful time at the Annual Dialogue Picnic on August 10 at 4 PM at Hills and Dales Park--Twin Oaks Camp. The weather was cool and comfortable. There was a wonderful assortment of delicious food contributed by the various attendees. There was also lively discussion as people shared their summer experiences.
Jerry told the group about his recent trip to Europe with Lorraine. The tour started from Basel, Switzerland. Jerry and Lorraine visited many cathedrals on their tour. One thing that was particularly memorable was seeing the history of medieval Christian anti-Semitism incorporated in the carved images in the cathedrals. For example, in the Strasbourg cathedral, there is an image of Solomon overlooking the angels, Ecclesia and Synagoga. Solomon clearly favors Ecclesia. Ecclesia represents Christianity and Synagoga represents the superseded Judaism. Ecclesia is presented as confident and uplooking. Synagoga is presented as blindfolded with her sword broken.
Jack told the group that his friend, Petra Held, was injured in the Jerusalem market bombing. Petra is a member of the Christian Scholars Group which is working toward a reconciliation with Judaism.
1 "Holocaust Museum intern: bearing witness and teaching tolerance," University of Dayton Quarterly, Volume 7, Number 1, Autumn, 1997, page 10.