When Orit Avishai, Ph.D., heard that one of her friends was attending a faith-based “Marriage Boot Camp,” she was not all that surprised.

The assistant professor of sociology, who had already studied marriage in the Orthodox Israeli community, was aware of an enormous increase in faith-based marriage education programs in the United States. In fact, the trend was something Avishai thought bore more scrutiny.

“The thinking is that we have a crisis in marriage and high divorce rates that prove people don’t know how to be married,” she said, “and that they need to be trained to do so.”

Through her research project, “Holy Unions: Faith-Based Marriage Education and the Remaking of American Religions Traditions,” Avishai will examine marriage education programs in two congregations in the New York metropolitan area—one evangelical and one non-immigrant Catholic. It will include interviews with program developers and participants, observations of the programs and analysis of the materials.

The move among congregations to offer marriage education, Avishai said, is rooted in the desire to preserve religious traditions that are constantly bumping up against the pressures of modern culture.

“Our view of marriage is based on our authentic traditions, and yet the language and rationales in the narratives draw much from popular culture, like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” she said. “My interest is in what authentic tradition means to today’s institution of marriage.”


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]