April ’89 in the Exponent: His Family + Her Family = Double Challenge


Exponent Features Magazine-Style Cover

Back in December 1989, a cartoon called The Simpsons debuted in prime-time and the April 7, 1989 Jewish Exponent also went the animated route on its cover.

The Exponent then featured magazine-style covers, with teasers to articles within. One of those articles detailed the challenges faced by blended families — think The Brady Bunch with a Jewish slant. The main teaser included three puzzle pieces, complete with drawings of the family members profiled in the story.

Those who turned to Page 34 got to hear the stories of Joan and David Frieder, Sandie and Bob Buller, and Joan and Nick Weingarten, as well as an explanation as to why blending families can be difficult.

“Divorce and remarriage are still considered a shanda in some Jewish families,” said Miriam Galper Cohen, a private practice therapist who had written books on families in transition. “Even though the divorce rate is so high, people hope it won’t happen in their families.”

In addition, there wasn’t much help for blended families — something that was about to change.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom hosted a conference devoted to blended families, which was called the first of its kind in the area. There were six workshops in all, with titles such as “Tribal Warfare,” “My Identity as a Stepparent” and “The Blended Family and Significant Life-Cycle Events.”

Still, there was some community resistance. Rabbi Richard Address of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said he wrote to 20 local Reform congregations asking for volunteers to attend a planning session, but only six responded.

“It’s obvious that many congregations don’t see this as a need or a problem,” he said. “Too many synagogues, unfortunately, are rooted in an ideal that doesn’t exist anymore — the ideal of a traditional family.”


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