Public Release: 

Worlds apart: Daughters immigrate to Israel and leave their mothers behind

University of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA -- Roberta Sands rarely sees her daughter and five grandchildren. Almost 10 years ago, her daughter, having growing up with a variety of Jewish influences, became Orthodox and moved to Israel.

Sands, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, has recently completed a study based on others who have had similar experiences, "Divided Families: The Impact of Religious Difference and Geographic Distance on Intergenerational Family Continuity."

Teshuvah, the process of repenting and intensifying one's observance of Judaism, has been studied by other scholars, but few have focused on the effects this has on the relationship between mothers and daughters.

By examining in-depth interviews with 14 pairs of mothers and daughters across the country, Sands found that initially the mothers were generally negative about their daughter's religiosity but positive about their move to Israel. With time, however, these feelings changed.

Later, the mothers became more positive or ambivalent about their daughters' religiosity but more negative or ambivalent about their emigration. Sands believes this is because long-term separation wears away at the mothers, especially if grandchildren are involved. In order to strengthen ties between them, the mothers became more knowledgeable about Judaism and Israel and made visits there.

"American mothers became more Zionistic but they felt bitter about seeing their grandchildren infrequently," Sands said. The relationships between the mothers and daughters, however, were perceived as improved. Separation seemed to help the daughters mature and establish themselves as different from their mothers.

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