Friday, October 29, 2004


And the word "answer" is in quotes because I'm not sure this response constitutes an answer. JDate responded to my query. Dear Member, All profiles are active until a member decides to remove his or her profile from the site. As a member, you have the option to sort your search preferences by: New Members, Most Active, and Most Popular. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us any time at our toll free number: 1-877-453-3861. You can also reach us at: 1-323-836-3000. Customer Care I posted a longer version of my letter to them yesterday, but then had to send this shorter version to JDate, because they only allow 500 characters of feedback. You sent me, among my matches, a guy WHO HASN'T LOGGED INTO JDATE SINCE NOVEMBER OF 2002. Why send out a profile of a member who is not active? Are all the profiles that were ever put up still floating out there unless their owners specifically delete them? When you claim over 500,000 members, does that include all the people who have ever registered, most of whom may not log in regularly? Even if they do, they may not be paying members and therefore unable to view messages anyway? What do you think, my readers? Is this an acceptable response to the question I sent them?

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I just sent this letter to JDate. Well, an abbreviated form of the letter, anyway. They only allow 500 characters of feedback. So I had to be terser. I hate terse. So here's my "director's cut," with a paragraph of "extra footage." Enjoy... Dear JDate, You sent me matches. Never mind that most of the time these matches are people I already know and who are definitively NOT my matches. I understand that the nature of search engine-generated emails results in a personalized email that's not really personalized. This time, you sent me a terrific guy! Cute, sounded smart from his profile (which is harder to find than it should be), and WHO HASN’T LOGGED INTO JDATE SINCE NOVEMBER OF 2002. Suffice it to say, he’s probably not expecting to hear from me. He could be married with a kid and a half by now. Why send out a profile of a member who is decidedly not active? It's false advertising. Isn't there a certain time (say, two years) after which profiles need to be renewed or lost? Or are all the profiles that were ever put up still floating out there unless their owners specifically delete them? When you claim over 500,000 members, does that include all the people who have ever registered, most of whom may not log in regularly, or even if they do, may not be paying members and therefore unable to view messages anyway?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Me: "Hi, my name is Esther." Everyone else: "Hi, Esther." Me: "And I'm addicted to joining internet dating sites." OK, so I'm not addicted yet, but my rejoining of JDate this weekend (and a hot tip from P-Life) led me to check out Frumster, the "Orthodox" Jewish dating site. I even put up a profile, but so far, the profile I'm most impressed with is mine. It sounds conceited, I know. I didn't think finding an interesting profile that communicates something about a person was that difficult, but apparently I have very high standards. I'm compiling new items for my next list of "internet profile comments that irk me." For instance, someone who describes himself as a "gourmand," when he clearly meant "gourmet." Add to this the regular list of internet dating cliches, like "I love to laugh," and I'm hating this whole process anew. Still, I'm trying to be "out there," and open-minded. Even with the new category ("Traditional and growing"), I suspect most of the people on Frumster are too religious for me. Meantime, on JDate this week, a man who seemed very interesting and interested suddenly suspended his pursuit when he learned I wouldn't meet him for coffee on a Saturday afternoon--he's not even observing "the big holidays" these days, he said. Where's the middle ground?

Monday, October 25, 2004


Well, this isn't exactly "wild" (at least not in the sense that some Googlers may have been hoping), but it does show you how much P-Life's mother cares about his happiness. He recognizes in the post that, even if his approach to life's a little different than his mother's, that his mother's love is wonderful and meaningful, and that he's grateful for her efforts. Aww. It's often hard to integrate our parents into the informational loop when it comes to our dating lives. Especially in the early stages of relationships, where we ourselves are reluctant to get too excited about someone (and thereby incurring the infamous "jinx") we don't want to indicate to our parents that there's a hope only to dash it a few dates, or weeks, later. God knows, it's hard enough to admit it to ourselves. We love our parents, and know their intentions are good. But sometimes their concern for us feels like an added source of pressure that we just don't need. When my parents ask after my social life, I try to let them know that I haven't given up, that I'm putting myself out there, and that my social circles are expanding. It's all I can do, and I have to hope that they'll understand that. I think they do. But that doesn't mean they stop asking...


This is an article from an issue of New York magazine from this summer. It’s the story of a mother who impersonated her daughter on JDate to try to get said daughter dates with nice Jewish boys. The mother’s name is Joyce, and her daughter is 24 years old: Joyce paid $28.50 for a one-month membership and started scoping out potential dates -- "I was looking for a doctor." The only time she felt weird was when someone asked about her interests, and she thought, How would a 24-year-old respond to that? Then she printed out and ranked some promising profiles, and gave them to her daughter, who'd been away on vacation. The response: "She started crying that I ruined her life," says Joyce. "It was over-the-top, scary." Joyce's daughter (who refuses to give any name at all) rolls her big brown eyes and says, "You're lucky I didn't sue you." Have I mentioned that I’m more grateful for my mother every day?

Sunday, October 24, 2004


I sensed it was coming, felt it in my joints like a coming storm. I know JDate's bad for me, but I decided to give him one more chance. I even paid his way back into my life. Why? Because of a tricky little hope that flickers within me, threatening to extinguish itself. Rather than smother the smallness of that entity bigger than an ember and less sturdy than a flame, I decided once more to nurture it, to really give it a go. Even after becoming violently ill after viewing one of the profiles, I decided to give it one more chance. It's an experiment of site and self, and if nothing else, fodder for my creativity. But primarily, I'm hoping for a couple of dates with guys who have a social clue and a sense of humor, and who aren't completely averse to Jewish practice in some form (I know it's JDate, but you'd be surprised). So you see, hope springs eternal. Or for at least another month.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Overheard at the box office when I was waiting to interview the writer-actors of Jewtopia... "Is this play still going to be funny if you're not Jewish?" I couldn't hear the answer. I assume they said yes. I think it's hard to say absolutely, but I think most New York area people, Jewish or non-, will find humor in this play's words, situations and performances...of course, there were a few people who didn't find anything redeeming about it at all, and the writer-actors addressed that in our interview. Anyway, my new article about Sam and Bryan and their opus Judaicus, is now available online: "Welcome to Jewtopia."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Forget the disappointments you might have had with Saw You at Sinai, JDate, Frumster or any other attempt at online matchmaking. JDaters Anonymous regular Passionate Life has taken on the job of shadchan (matchmaker), and has posted his list of shidduchim (matches) for some of his favorite bloggers. He matches my other blog, My Urban Kvetch, with His Suburban Kvell, a yet-unwritten blog: "Esther meets her match; story to follow in Jdaters Revealed!" P-Life says. Well, maybe. Forgive an SJF's cynicism. I like my City life. I'm hoping for "Our Urban Kvell" instead. My favorite one: P-Life matches my sometimes arch-blognemesis,, with "The place for those so fed up, anyone with a pulse will do!" I think we all hear that. And I'd like to further suggest that for Annabel Lee, we find The Raven. Then she shall be single Nevermore.

Monday, October 18, 2004


I knew it was only a matter of time. And now it's happened. I got an instant message from a JDatenik who literally made me sick. I thought I was going to vomit--that's how bad his picture was. He looked like an axe murderer/pedophile, and his profile was bizarre and creepy. His screen name? Oh, you know my house rules here...I don't name names. Even the bizarre and creepy deserve not to be the targets of slander. One woman's garbage is another's...never mind. But the point is that he had a screen name akin to "Your Meant to Be"...and I had to select "Ignore Your Meant To Be," which seemed so wrong on every level. I read the profile again just to be sure. I was sure. I tried to get my stomach to settle down, but my system couldn't recover from this one. I'm still nauseous. And the kicker? I'm still thinking of rejoining JDate. Why? Because the curiosity is killing me. I have 18 new messages. Given, most of them are probably either a) missed IMs, b) from female friends or c) from the creepy people who have added me to their favorites list and wrote me an email even though my profile tells them I'm not a member and can't read them. But hope remaining the thing with feathers, I may just cough up the dough for another month. Just to see if this abusive relationship's any better the third time around. And if it's not, I'm out of there. Probably.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


From The Jewish Week, October 6, 2004 DANCES WITH TORAHS by Esther D. Kustanowitz After the seriousness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Sukkot’s put-all-the-food-on-a-tray-and-take-it-outside-to-a-hut balancing act, Simchat Torah, with its spirited dancing and unabashed celebration, is a welcome cap to autumn’s Jewish holiday season. On the Upper West Side, where Jewish singles look for each other at every available opportunity, Simchat Torah also is a holiday of hope. Aside from the seemingly endless number of synagogue services, there is an equal, if not greater, number of food-and drink-related opportunities for determined minglers. Indigenous Upper West Siders know that someone’s always having an open house luncheon where there’s so much food that two (or six) more guests don’t make a significant difference, and there’s always a shul kiddush that can slake your thirst for both whiskey- and wit-soaked conversation. Then there are the apartment parties, in high-rises and brownstones and everywhere in between, where three roommates buy equal parts vodka and babka, invite everyone they know, add ice and shake vigorously: the result is a nice, frosty glass of Jewish Geography, straight up with a twist of Torah. Back in the day, West End Avenue was the undisputed apex of the Simchat Torah scene. Hundreds of people from West Side synagogues of all denominations gathered on an officially closed-off stretch of street, organizing joyful jigs with fellow Jews. From the sea of horas, emerged the hordes of the Jewish and single, who formed phalanxes and marched up and down the street, ducking people from their past and looking for people who could become part of their future. Between my yeshiva days and my summers at Camp Ramah, I seemed to know, or be one degree away from knowing, every street-striding member of the tribe. I declared my apartment an official stop for friends and friends-of-friends, inviting them for a sip of schnapps or morsel of cake either before or after their West End Experience. Over the years, hundreds of people have flowed in and out of my apartment. For that one night, the bar was open, and there was food on the table: crudités for the weight-conscious, chocolate chip meringues for the sweet-toothed, and chips for the Corona-drinkers. But post-9/11, things got a little complicated for West End Avenue. In a year when revelry already seemed inappropriate, the prospect of Jews frolicking in the streets also became a substantial security issue. There were murmurings that tenants in buildings along the parade route had also complained about the noise. The dancing and mingling continued, but commemorations were localized and more subdued. Now three years later, the monstrous street-centered celebration has not resumed, and single Jews looking to maximize their exposure to other MOTs will have to wait for May’s Salute to Israel Parade. West End scene or no West End scene, the essence of the holiday retains its resonance. To begin the Torah again for the umpteenth time does not necessarily mean it’s the same old story; a fresh look at the familiar texts provides new opportunities to see ourselves in biblical characters, conversations, situations and relationships. It has been said that the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By making small changes, to our behavior, to the way we speak, to the way we look for friends and lovers, we can help to ward off the insanity that singles sometimes feel is inevitable. An annual commitment to the ongoing process of self-assessment and self-improvement teaches us that we can modify our behavior, and that altered behavior can lead to changed outcomes. As we finish a year’s reading of the Torah, together we proclaim, “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek.” Strictly speaking, the phrase means “strong, strong, and we will be strengthened.” But I find a looser translation to be more meaningful: “we are strong, let us be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves and each other.” The message is an affirmation, a prayer and an invitation, and reminds us of our recent recommitment to our neighbors and to ourselves. We are strong. We pray that we will remain strong. With the help of our community, our strength will continue. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are about introspection, rooting out our weaknesses and areas for improvement, and committing to meaningful change. But on Simchat Torah, we put our Jewish New Year’s resolutions into effect. Hundreds of people have wandered through my door on Simchat Torah; thus far (unless a CIA-level conspiracy is keeping his identity a secret so that these columns can continue), none of them has been my bashert. But keeping the doors open, both literally and figuratively, signifies a willingness to believe that plumbing the depths of the familiar may yield the strength and deeper meaning we seek. For some of us, open doors might even lead to dancing. With Torahs, of course. Esther D. Kustanowitz, a freelance writer, is a twelve-year veteran of the Upper West Side Simchat Torah experience. She can be reached at


No, I'm not back on JDate yet. But since I have 18 messages from unknown parties, curiosity will probably win over economic pragmatism in the next few days. This post is about a new online dating "game," invented by artist Theo Kisch (madd props to me for resisting puns relating to the similarity between "Kisch" and "Kiss" and "Knish"). His games ($4.95 each) involve between 2 and 10 players (split evenly between the sexes), and basically players talk to players of the opposite sex for 15 minutes about one of 12 paintings on the site. At the end of the game, players trade e-mail addresses with any two singles that piqued their interest. From The Jewish Week: Kisch said the idea is to use the painting to talk to each other, so all the conversation revolves around it. “You learn details that you wouldn’t necessarily learn otherwise,” he said, “ and those details help you to see the other person in a deep way.” This opens up interesting possibilities. Perhaps I could assemble groups of people online to talk about my work, the nuances and annoyances, the good, the bad, and the gorgeous. Or maybe that's too self-indulgent. But if it brings people together... Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm realizing that the JCC of Manhattan already approached me to do a mixer program based on topics of interest to Jewish I'm already in the business of mixing singles and self-promotion...stay tuned for details on that event.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


If you've seen Jewtopia (either in L.A. or in its new run in New York), I need your opinion for an article I'm writing about the show, which I'm seeing tonight. Please send your comments to: Many thanks!

Monday, October 11, 2004


“New York women are way too hard on men,” author Amy Sohn says as we sip coffee at a caffeine stop on Smith Street in Brooklyn. “We’re too picky,” she continues. “As we get older, we begin mocking every guy. Women engage in checklist dating, looking for a man who will line up on every issue, whereas men just want women to be very attractive.” I’ve come “all the way” to an “outer borough” to interview Amy about her new book, My Old Man (available now in bookstores and online). Although the café itself is on a main drag, we both agree that its post-modern décor seems to indicate that after the sun goes down, the java makes way for more sultry and nocturnal beverages. And maybe strippers, which is kind of appropriate, given the title of Amy’s New York magazine column, Naked City. During the course of our discussion, Amy reveals that she’s gotten many letters from men and women about her column in New York and her previous column, Female Trouble, which ran in the New York Press and was the experiential basis for her first novel, Run Catch Kiss. During the dating process, she says, a lot of frustration builds for both men and women; but while men develop resentment toward the women, women, who are equally frustrated romantically, tend to turn that resentment inward and feel sad. Amy Sohn would be one of the first to admit that it is precisely this frustrating dance of dating and sex that has paid her rent ever since Female Trouble. Amy’s current column allows her to continue to plumb the very nature of human sexuality and create a context for the trends that shape the real life of sex in this city. Her first novel was wildly successful, garnering praise from the New York Times, among others. Perhaps because of the pressure that success engenders for first-time novelists, it took Amy three-and-a-half years to write My Old Man. On one level, the book’s about a rabbinical school dropout, Rachel Block, who becomes a bartender in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood and takes a romantic interest in Hank Powell, a misanthropic older filmmaker. The two spar verbally in a rapport that’s somewhere between banter and abuse, between sex and existentialism. (OK, I’ll say it: Sexistentialism.) Their relationship is as complicated and problematic as the one between Rachel and her Judaism. Jewish themes and references pepper the narrative and impact the protagonist’s outer and inner world, reflecting the intensity of her feelings about Judaism. Rachel’s distrust of institutional Judaism comes after an emotional trauma during an intense pastoral counseling session with a patient at Sloan-Kettering, in which she seems to say all the wrong things. Her inability to bring comfort to a man in dire life-and-death straits weighs on her so heavily that she is derailed from her professional rabbinical track and takes a job at a local tavern, where she advises imbibers from behind an oaken bar. One of the guys who walks into her bar invites her to a party, where she meets the curmudgeonly Powell. In my favorite jacket quote, Gary Shteyngart, author of the acclaimed The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, said that in this book, Amy “gets to the bottom of sex at its most appalling and arousing. This smart, funny work is recommended for anyone with a set of genitals and a brain.” And though, presumably, most parents possess both brains and genitals, most children of said parents don’t like to think about that too much. Rachel Block is no different—she doesn’t think of her parents as sexual beings, until she is confronted, most uncomfortably, with the flaws in her parents’ marriage. As that relationship hits the skids, Rachel begins to become more enmeshed with her lover, a relationship that occasionally results in sexual cruelty that both frightens and excites the former rabbinical student. Even the title indicates that as central as Rachel’s involvement in a May-December romance is to the book, the protagonist’s relationship with her parents, especially with her father, is also of considerable importance to both the author and her fictional creation. Although My Old Man isn’t the kind of Jewish literature you’d recommend to your mother or grandmother, The Jewish Book Council has seized on the elements that are inextricably Jewish and at the end of October is sending Amy on a tour of JCCs and Jewish book fairs all over the country (see for details). “I’m very curious to see the demographic of the audience,” she muses. “Because the protagonist takes a negative view of institutional Judaism, I’m curious to see if they’re going to be offended. A few of them have expressed concern about the subject matter of my presentation,” she explains, but notes that she always considers the demographics of her audience when selecting sections for her readings. I ask Amy what it’s like to write such explicit material knowing that her parents will read everything. “It’s a constant struggle,” she admits. “Sometimes I wish it were written in a kind of invisible ink, so everyone could read it except my parents. But you can’t select your audience. And you can’t seek out your parents’ approval in everything and still make your own decisions.” Now that she’s been married for nearly a year to a man she met through a mutual friend (“not a setup,” she clarifies) she’s really making her own decisions. Thrilled with her marriage, she still cautions the single to appreciate the finer points of being unattached. “When you’re single, you take your independence and autonomy for granted.” She also notes that in her mid-twenties, she went through an “extended period of adolescence” in the eyes of her parents. "Many kids who grew up in New York choose to stay near their parents, in a neighborhood they have affection for,” Amy says, explaining that this was the case with her, as well as with her character. “When they’re feeling beaten up by the world, it can be very nurturing to ‘date’ your parents. But then it’s harder to make the separation when you want privacy.” Amy’s scheduled to appear at Book Soup in Los Angeles on October 12, and Books Inc. (Chestnut) in San Francisco on October 13 before beginning her tour of Jewish book fairs. (Locations and times subject to change, so be sure to check Amy’s website for the latest information.) She continues to write her column for New York, and after the promotional tour is over, there are several other projects on her agenda: she’s working on a screenplay and has two books she’d like to option for film. TV, in some form, is also in the plan. (She had previously co-created, written and starred in the animated series Avenue Amy, which was produced by Curious Pictures and aired on Oxygen for two seasons.) At her recent reading at Barnes and Noble Astor Place in Manhattan, Amy proclaimed, "Being a writer is like a fusion of being a rabbi and an actress." And I think she’s right. Writing has a spirituality all its own. Add a healthy sprinkling of dramatic pathos and effective presentation, and you’ve got a pulpit rabbinate of literary sorts. As writer, you educate the human spirit through words, sometimes sparingly, sometimes in abundance, always rendered through emotion and reflecting a resonant truth.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


From Esquire Magazine, via Funnya: These brutally honest personal ads remind me of a combination of Liar, Liar (The Jim Carrey movie that was just playing at the gym) and MAD-TV's brutal and hilarious Lowered Expectations dating service. The mission statement: The singles below are real people with real issues. Some are overweight. Others are crippled by debt. Quite a few live with their parents. But they all have one thing in common: They are available. And they've put themselves out there with the hope of finding someone willing to accept them at face value. So, please, scan their profiles. You may not get exactly what you want, but at least you know exactly what you're getting.


Also through NoBlog (Lyss), I wanted to share the following site, Way Too Personal. With categories like "Just Plain Ick," "Wha Dah Fuh" and "Yawn," there's bound to be something on this site any online dater can relate to. Plus dating advice forums. What I don't see on the site are any responses/reactions/experiences/complaints by men about women's profiles and conduct online. Maybe it's there and I don't see it. But food for thought for all of my male readers. (Yes, all three of you.)


Check out NoBlog for an online dating story that we can all relate to. Why do I approve? Her observations are spot on, and she has changed the relevant names and details to protect the innocent. Or not-so-innocent. But to avoid slander, in any case.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


In the comments section on a previous post, Bronco Buddha asked: If we are all focused on how to "deal with" Singles and the "Singles issue" are we exacerbating the problem? To me, it's a little like large companies who have seminars for executives on "Women in the Workplace" and "Diversity". If you are singling out a specific group, and clarifying that you should treat them with respect and the same way you treat other people that are not part of that group, then by definition, aren't you treating them differently? Is identifying a Singles Crisis and telling people how to act (or not act) on dates making things less natural and more stilted? Well, readers? What are your thoughts?