Narrowing it down

Last month, I received a JDate letter from a guy in Cleveland; a long, detailed letter stating how much we had in common and how he would like to meet during a future visit to Phoenix.

He ended the letter by saying that since he took the time to read through my profile and write, he’d appreciate some kind of response.

That evening I was out with friends and found that three of them received the same exact letter.

Sure, I appreciate his effort, but in a community this size, it’s equivalent to being at a party and using the same pick-up line on every woman in the room.

But then again, I guess every effort should count.

I’m not sure whether it’s the age or the geography, but it seems more of my friends are growing frustrated with the search for a Jewish mate.

Yes, they want to marry somebody Jewish and yes, they’ve tried singles events, Internet dating and blind dates, but with no success. Meanwhile, their friends are planning weddings, but with non-Jewish partners.

At what point do you simply give up?

How many years should you spend searching for a Jewish mate before you expand your options to non-Jews who would be willing to have a Jewish home, or even those who would support you practicing your religion while they practice theirs?

Unfortunately, as intermarriage increases, the availability of Jewish singles decreases. This doesn’t bode well for our future.

One of the most ironic relationship stories I know deals with a friend of mine who is completely apathetic to being Jewish. She knew her now-husband for months before even knowing he was Jewish. He too feels the same way about Judaism and looking to marry Jewish wasn’t in either of their dating vocabularies. And yet, there they are.

Meanwhile, there are others who hit the Jewish happy hours, attend Jewish events, participate in Jewish programming and never meet anyone Jewish they’re interested in.

Even JDate can be unreliable. I recently received a JDate letter from somebody who is not Jewish but signed up on JDate because he is “very attracted to women with dark hair. Oftentimes they tend to be of Jewish persuasion,” hence his reason for joining. Two friends received the same letter from him that day.

Another irony is that once you find somebody Jewish, other issues often emerge, expanding the struggle to include finding a mate that’s “Jewish enough” or not “too Jewish.”

I once dated a guy who said he would consider having a kosher kitchen, but with the allowance of eating a ham and cheese sandwich in the house if the craving arose and serving shrimp cocktails when hosting a party.

He also wanted it written in a prenuptial agreement that if I chose to become more religiously observant after marriage, it could be grounds for divorce.

That relationship didn’t last too long.

But at what point do you start compromising? Interfaith couples do that all the time – lighting candles for eight nights in one room with a Christmas tree in the other. The non-Jewish spouse attending church alone while being part of synagogue life with his or her family.

Could similar compromises be done in households with two Jewish partners? Attending an Orthodox synagogue while sending children to a Reform preschool? Celebrating Shabbat on Friday nights but not on Saturdays? Having a kosher home but eating out in non-kosher restaurants? Attending at least one High Holiday service?

Is it unrealistic to expect two people in a community this size to have the same ideological beliefs and want to live the same Jewish lifestyle, as well as be compatible, both ready for marriage and physically attracted to each other?

I once did a very specific local-zip code search on JDate, listing my ideal characteristics for a mate. Ten choices came up. I’ve already met six.

This article first appeared in the Oct. 4, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

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