Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Living the List"

Living the List NY Jewish Week, May 19, 2006 I only deserve the best,” a friend recently told me. “I’m not just taking the first guy who really likes me because I’m sick and tired of waiting. People who do that are making the biggest mistakes,” she said, noting three such couples in her life, who “got married, not sure that the love was there,” and are now divorcing. “If I have to wait longer, I will.” For those concerned with Jewish demography, women (and men) like my friend are dooming the Jewish people to slow, steady destruction. They’re marrying later, decreasing the number of children each couple is likely to have. And by the time we reach a certain age, even if wanting children is in the plan, we’ve been so single, for so long, that doing our national duty is less important than finding a soul mate, someone who has most of the qualities on their lists. Everyone has his or her deal breakers. But many have cited the mere literal or figurative existence of such lists as illustrations of the “pickiness” and “inflexibility” of singles. If reasonable, the list can function as an independent auditor, which theoretically helps singles to make smarter choices. If adhered to inflexibly, the list can be a single person’s undoing. At the recent “Michael Steinhardt Presents...” series at Manhattan Jewish Experience — named for the philanthropist/event emcee — dating coach Robin Gorman Newman suggested that singles “actually write down” their lists and, after looking inward to determine what they themselves have to offer, to assess whether they were really giving people a chance and “throw half of it out the window.” “Making the effort isn’t enough; the right attitude has to be there first,” the “How to Marry a Mensch” author told the audience of singles ranging in age from 20s to mid-40s. “Everyone wants to be ‘on Cloud 9,’ but Cloud 8 isn’t anything to sneeze at.” Co-panelist and Manhattan Jewish Experience Rabbi Mark Wildes noted that the list “sometimes grows as time goes on,” and suggested reducing the list to one item: “I believe we are incomplete without a partner, someone who understands you. Reduce the list to that one person who understands you.” But therein lies the problem, especially in high-density areas like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, where every night presents a crop of fresh new faces to assess for compatibility: Sometimes choice itself is the problem. Confronted with a veritable buffet of tasty options, even if they find an 80 percent match — by all accounts, a pretty good fit — singles experience the nagging feeling that there still might be someone out there who’s better. Still, singles complain that there’s “no one out there.” What they mean is that they had a certain set of expectations when it comes to dating, and that when those expectations were not met, they were disappointed. The fact that there may be hundreds or thousands of other compatible singles out there might as well not be true, because it feels hopelessly false. While most of the singles in the room at MJE or at Makor or the JCC or any other Jewish meeting place on any given night are looking for love — or answers — with the hope of a committed Jewish relationship, few of us are looking for “baby daddies.” Yes, even without reminders from doctors or demographers, we’re all aware of the biological challenges that face us as we (especially women) age. But we want partners. And we’ve waited this long — we’re willing to delay the procreative process until our lists have more checks than exes on them. My friend deserves happiness, to love and be loved in equal measure. She says she’s not willing to settle. But I like to think that she — and singles like her — are not married to their lists. They’re still open-minded enough to give the decent ones a chance; they’re willing to look at the big picture rather than judging on a sacrosanct list of must-haves and must-not-haves. They’re the ones who refused to date Republicans, until they met one they liked, who refused to date men their height or women they claimed were “not their type,” until they did and found they were. Although they often help us, our lists are not divine, nor even divinely inspired. They’re human, and superficial, and inherently flawed. Just like the singles who made them.


ALG said...

On the ball, as usual. I like the idea of reducing your list to one thing, someone "who understands you." I'm not sure it's "the one person" who understands you, since I think more than one single Jewish male in this world has the potential to understand me. But that really is the most important thing. And, anyway, someone who understands you is going to have other desireable qualities as well.

Tamara said...

I concur. I never thought I'd like a reform guy, till I met a great one ;)and discovered my preconceived notions and experiences were not the end all be all. :)

VJ said...

I'm with the Rabbi on this one. The shorter the list the better. It really should be things of paramount importance, and generally to be counted on the fingers of one hand.

I liked the piece, and there's plenty of the economics of choice theory that tells us a super abundance of possible choices does not make decision making any easier, and can indeed lead to longer lists of criteria that may not be very useful, needed, or even relevant to the people trying to sort through their options. Always something to think about. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

I agree, Esther! But shortening one's list is probably one of the most difficult things one will ever have to do. I'm not so sure I think one has to explicitly shorten their list, but I am sure that one must be willing to give more people a chance. If you give more people a chance for a date or two or three, you just might find that there is someone who can put you on "cloud 8" and in the process, you have shortened your list without even thinking about it. How many times have you heard of someone ending up with someone who was someone they never would have expected to? And if after a few dates ... you just can't get past something cause it's missing from your list? You have the wonderful option of moving on! Yes ... you have freedom and no man can force you to go out with him more times than you want to!

I'm not so sure that the list has to be shortened down to one item. But most of us can make our lists quite a bit shorter than they are.

I also don't know about your friends assertion that "People who do that are making the biggest mistakes,” she said, noting three such couples in her life, who “got married, not sure that the love was there,” and are now divorcing."

Let her not pretend that she fully understands the reasons for the divorces because it's not possible ... she wasn't in the relationships. In fact, I know of as many people who "settled" for being on "cloud 8" instead of cloud 9, and have been happily married for many years. The magic formula for successful marriage is not so objective that one can easily predict it beforehand by measuring what "cloud" you are on. Should you be in love with each other in order to move on to the next step? Absolutely! Do you have to be with Mr. or Mrs. Perfect ... or do you have to be on cloud 9 to be in love? Nope. And that's something that we all need to remember, cause we don't put that into practice often enough.

Blogger S.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't the singles themselves, and it isn't that we need dating coaching. All the seminars in the world won't make a difference. It is the pathetically irreligious, valueless Reform and Conservative cultural "Judaism" in which we were raised-- lox and bagels and extreme self-obsorbtion so that nobody is good enough for anyone of us. Look at the typical Jdate profile-- women write about their interests in Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, what lounge they like to have drinks at-- all a bunch of valueless nonsense. Then go to frumster and see what the orthodox women (and guys) write about. They don't write about their HBO shows. They write about finding a mate who keeps shabbos, who "learns" (this means studying something about Judaism at least a few minutes each day), who wants to raise children in a Torah observant home, and who has a connection with G*d. Since I became religious recently through, I see light at the end of the singledom tunnel. The pool of observant (orthodox) women is smaller, but they share my (new-found) values and beliefs, so I am extremely confident I will find someone.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't the singles themselves. It is the irreligious, valueless Reform and Conservative cultural "Judaism" in which we were raised-- lox and bagels and extreme self-obsorbtion so that nobody is good enough for anyone of us. Look at the typical Jdate profile-- women write about their interests in Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, what lounge they like to have drinks at-- all a bunch of valueless nonsense. Then go to frumster and see what the orthodox women (and guys) write about. They don't write about their HBO shows. They write about finding a mate who keeps shabbos, who "learns" (this means studying something about Judaism at least a few minutes each day), who wants to raise children in a Torah observant home, and who has a connection with G*d. Since I became religious recently through, I see light at the end of the singledom tunnel. The pool of observant (orthodox) women is smaller, but they share my (new-found) values and beliefs, so I am extremely confident I will find someone.

Chutzpah said...

My "date anything with a pulse" plan doesn't seem to be any more effective than my "I deserve the best" plan, but the since the common denominator in both plans is me, I must conclude that I am inherently unlovable for multiple reasons and should start collecting stray cats.

me said...

When I first dated I have to admit I was more picky. As time goes on I have realised there is just one thing that really matters is the girl/guy (depends what you are looking for :)) a nice person. I really have no shopping list, I wish there were more people like me out there, one can hope!

Chutzpah said...

I hope that yours was a false post by someone trying to make a point, or by someone with an agenda to promote Frumster, but just in case it wasn't, please remember that you can erase 20 plus years of upbringing just by seeing the light on the computer monitor.
Just make sure your bashert doesn't want a custom sheitel, a custom kitchen with 2 dishwashers and one for Passover, and the finest European shoes for your 6 children who will be in Yeshiva to the tune of over 8000 grand a year each if you can't provide that. If she does, you may have to go shnorring to your "pathetically irreligious, valueless" parents or in-laws to fund your lifestyle while you claim that it's helping them to get a share of your mitzvah points by contributing to your Torah observant home.
And, do go complaining that she got fat and dresses frumpy and is covered in baby-spit up and is uninteresting 5 years down the road when all she has to talk about is which stroller is the best and whether you can tape the dirty Pampers closed on Shabbos before throwing them in the garbage for fear of creating a permanent a vessel....
And, don't go complaining that you don't get enough sex because she's tired from nursing and making gourmet meals for all the guests you bring home and expect her to feed on no money. And there's NO sex two weeks out of the month ...did anyone tell you that yet?
And while you are on your self-righteous high, let me just tell you that plenty of your fellow newly religious friends are still watching HBO.
"Cholent" Judiasm involves just as much excluding people who aren't good enough to marry as any other kinds of Jews, except this time the list has "holy" and "meaningful" things on it like: does she cover her elbows? does he wear a black hat? Want proof, look how many single Orthodox women there are on that site...that is NOT a small pool by any means. It represents hundreds of women who are not marrying because they are judging off a list. It might be a different list, but it's still a list.

Chutzpah said...


drumbumJ said...

i'm gonna pipe up with something that's relevant to me, but i feel is a major public service announcement. on the "list" - more importantly than what you ARE looking for, there should be things that you are looking OUT for, meaning red flags. i found a guy (my husband) who had the dealbreakers (values, not trivial things) on my list but he turned out to be an abusive bastard. i was only looking out for traits but was blind to the red flags b/c it didn't dawn on me that he can have the good AND also be a really rotten spouse...

the best piece of advice i ever heard/saw/read was rabbi a. twerski's in his book "the first year of marriage." (which, btw, is relevant to people who have been married fr 10 years or are still dating. the advice there is relevant to anyone in a relationship.) he writes there: "do you like the way he/she reacts to stressful situations, or how he/she deals with other people whp are upset or angry? do you make excuses for how he/she reacted to the situation? ("she was just very upset," or "he's been under a lot of stress.") if the answer to the first question is "yes" and to the second quesion "no" that's a favourable prognosticator. if it's the reverse, watch out!"

if only someone had pointed this out to me 9 years ago...

VJ said...

Chutzpah said it best when responding to the 'stuff' from 'Anon'. Pretty funny response too C, I liked it. The part about the fear of a 'permanent vessel' was worth the price of admission alone. You might be a pill in everyday life, but here, you're funny! And go with the pets. They've been preferable to humans for a couple thousand years or more. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Virtual Rabbi said...

No one "deserves happines." That's ridiculous. If so, then there are some who "deserve misery."

In any case, happiness in marriage is a process achieved over years. no one can possibly see that up-front.

Try "shared values" as a bellwether and then see if you are attracted. That's really all there is to it.

Oh, and you have to throw away all that bored, jaded, sophisticated, whining entitlement.

It really is about wanting to give, not wanting to get, so you must work out your personal neediness for yourself. It's not your partner's job.

Your pal,


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Chutzpah on the post by "Anonymous". To take this issue and make it into a religious issue is just arrogant. Anyone can see that it is not. We know this because non-religious people, atheists, and agnostics go on to have successful relationships and marriages. It is a behavioral/psychological issue. And frankly, there are many who could benefit from a dating coach.

The point that should be made though, is that jdate profiles tend to highlight more superficial likes and dislikes. This may just be a flaw of online dating. You just can't get a sense of the quality of the person ... of what that person's heart is like ... of the type of character of that person ... by reading their profile (in general). But this has nothing to do with being religious. One can make all the statements they want about deep values and Shabbos and raising children - it's still a jdate profile that doesn't have much meaning without meeting someone.

I will be the first person to agree that there is too much emphasis on "HBO-like" values. But these people are just trying to talk about their likes/dislikes ... that is the way that they feel they can best describe themselves in an internet dating profile.

This is not a religious issue.

Anonymous said...

I think the point being made by Anonymous was that for a marraige to work, the most important issue is that the couple has to be on the same exact page about what they want out of life. For most serious orthodox people, maintaining a Jewish family and home is paramount, and everything focuses on that one central goal. Therefore, those marraiges can be very stable. Obviously both can be focused on serious Judaism but have different goals - one may want a $2000 sheitel and a 5000 square foot home, and the other may not care about such material items. If so, that marraige won't work. Key, again is to be on the same page about major stuff. And that is the "one thing."

Ironically, my girlfriend and I had this exact discussion last night after visiting one her married friends, a couple where there is no apparant romantic "love". His life is his career and making dough, hers is their two kids. Without that there isnt much else. They got together because she was beautiful and very social, which was a good counter to his business drive and outlook. Their goals in life are similar - Upper East Side/Westchester/Private Schools/Country Club -- and so the marraige works even though they arent "in love."

My G thought this was a bit tragic and wondered if her desire for romantic love was realistic, which preceded us having a "talk". I told her that realistically, honeymoon periods end for the large percentage of couples, sometimes rather quickly, if they even existed in the first place. I knew, that for me, despite the desire to have that "ga-ga" heart pounding whenever I see my sig. other, I came to understand that my marriage wont likely have that - what is important, I came to realize, is that I am with a good partner, who understands me, complements me (and compliments me at times..), looks at the world as I do and wants the same things out of life as I do.

It was a hard realization for me. Very hard. I had a list, like most. And there were plenty of options. I was a very attractive guy, quite funny and nice and started a career that had much lucrative potential; as a result I never wanted for really smart and beautiful women. My relationships were based on my heart, and things never lasted because the heart-pounding attraction always died after a while. I hit my 30s and while still very attractive, funny and nice, my career didnt grow as much as did those of many of my peers (though my salary is still alot more than most people in this country). And while I continued to pursue a beautiful woman who would make my heart pound, like those I had dated in my 20s, I realized that my own "value" dropped and most smart, accompished beautiful women over 30 (and there arent that many still available) would expect to be with a much more financially successful guy.

And so, I realized that having that heart-pounding attraction and love never got me anywhere in my 20s, maybe its something I should give up now that I am a bit older. And so I did. My current G is someone I met online. We totally connected, and I love talking and being with her. She is way smart and cool, and we get eachother. But she isnt someone who I would have ever approached if I met her in person - I am not ga ga attracted to, and crazy in-love with, her. But I love being around her, and feel comfortable with her and am starting to love her. And while I dont have the desire to touch her all the time and rip her clothes off (as I would if I were "ga ga" like in the beginnings of past futile relationships), the sex is quite good.

But she isn't happy, cause she wants the "ga-ga". She wants touching all the time. She wants the romantic staring in the eyes. And I told her I may not be able to give that to her. Maybe its something she wont give up on, and in which case we'll have to move on.

A real live case study.


Anonymous said...

I am Anonymous and I stand by my entire post. I don't work for frumster. Thanks for printing it. Much of your response is based on ignorance, presumably from growing up in a non-observant home and not being around and really knowing observant Jews. You seem to think all orthodox (shomer shabbos, kosher) Jews live in Williamsburg, have 11 kids and are on welfare. Well I'm a lawyer (not on welfare!), and the many families I know from the local branch of Aish Ha Torah (, and from Young Israel, and from Cong. Beth Jacob, and elsewhere, are mostly clean shaven mortgage brokers, real estate agents, doctors, lawyers, teachers, homemakers, and other professionals. And they take their kids to little league baseball-- on Sunday not Saturday. And many of the men wear dockers (with yarmulkas on top.) They're really just like the average conservative reform unaffiliated Jews, except they keep shabbos for 25 hours, they keep kosher everywhere, 97% of the kids marry Jews, they study Torah a few minutes at least a day (unlike Conservative and Reform, they believe G*d wrote the Torah-- that's why they follow and study it), they have their kids give "dvar torah" -- a speech for a few minutes-- on shabbos, they study the torah portion each week, travel to Israel, etc. (Did you know the marryout rate is 37% for Conservative and 52% for Reform, versus 3% for Orthodox). It's called COMMITMENT to being JEWISH. And yes, some do watch TV and even HBO-- but it's not how they define themselves. They don't put that in the first sentence of their dating profiles. Face it-- over half your friends are either unmarried or married to goyim-- and it's only getting worse by the day. Maybe the orthodox "product" is worth taking a look at. At least go to aish or Manhattan Jewish Experience and learn a bit, and meet some modern orthodox people, before you jump to this ignorance-based conclusion.

annabel lee said...

I really like this column, Esther. If you use a "list" as more of a guideline, it can be as long as you like, because the act of coming up with a list forces you to figure out what you're looking for. Every individual is different, and you can't (yet) custom-build a mate/date, so of course nobody is going to hit every single item you want. But if you spend some serious time thinking about what you want, what's important to you, you'll waste less time on guys who are clearly wrong for you.

And "Ben" / "Virtual Rabbi" -- pretty much everyone deserves happiness. Y'know, except the Osama types.

Anonymous said...

Um, anonymous, I think many on this board are quite familiar with the orthodox world, went to Yeshivas, etc. I think our sponsor Esther may even fall into this category. In any event, I do. The reason orthodox Jews (not talking about chasidim or black hat) have a lower divorce rate is many-fold: (a) because we are expected to, and do, get married and have children at a younger age; and (b) because we live within a fairly insular community focused around day-school yeshivas, synagogues, summer camps, Israel, where there is no more than one degree of separation; (c) such community has similar life outlooks - i.e. living a life that can permit acceptance in this community (sending kids to yeshiva and camp and synagogue, visiting Israel, making shabbat and holidays; all which is expensive and require certain career choices), (d) divorce is a social stigma.

As a result, we are all fairly similar, know many of the same people, have similar lifestyles, do similar things, belong to same groups, and so our lives are pretty uniform. Find someone who you find attractive and bright, who is in a similar social circle, and the rest is easy. We get married early to someone we like and connect with, cause that is what everyone does. Our routines are familiar and there is little divergance and room for conflict.

But, hate to break it to you, most will not marry a Baal Tshuvah who went to Aish because "BTs" come from such dissimilar backgrounds which is a bit stigmatic (e.g. "how do I deal with his or her nonkosher parents..?" or "He is going to be crazy frum"..etc) Just so you know, in the modern ortho world, people still have a laundry list of items. Its not all about Torah and Hashem. You still want someone who finds the same things funny. Or who dresses well. Or who likes Israeli culture. Or whatever. But, again, torah and hashem is only the backdrop of the society.

Is this a good thing - sure. Of course. Living an ideal life in Leave it to Teneck or Little House in the Upper West Side is great. I grew up there and my kids will. Hell, most BTs come a-runnin for this life because it is so antiseptically nice and easy.

But not everyone can do it. Those that dont get married by 25 or 26 or 27, dont, not because they dont want to, but mainly because there is something within them - the singles themselves - that serves as an obstacle. Commitment issues, self-esteem issues, rejection issues are the problem. Not sex in the city and HBO for god sakes.

I'm glad you find solace in orthodoxy. It is very very comforting to someone who needs that coccoonish security. Thats why people stay. But dont delude yourslef that its all about torah and hashem.

- Billy the Realistic Yid

Anonymous said...

Billy: Thanks for your well-thought out post. I think I agree with all of it (although my point about Sex and the City and Six Feet Under is not that they are the root cause of all problems, but rather, that people who highlight that in their jdate profiles have misplaced priorities.) And I'm gonna "come a runnin" for your life because what you've described is what I want: "a fairly insular community focused around day-school yeshivas, synagogues, summer camps, and Israel." I agree that for various reasons, it's not best (could be OK, but it's not optimal) for newly religious people (BTs) to match up with frum from birth-ers (FFBs) -- the cultural gap and the knowledge gap are great. 95% of the BTs I know are married to BTs. (And the other 5% are unmarried.) So I'll find a BT woman (there's many out there), or outside chance, an FFB who can relate to me. I've seen MANY people become modern frum and get married within a couple years thereafter, to good people (also BTs). On the other hand, the number of non-orthodox Jewish marriages isn't so high. Go to and you will see. And when I have kids they will live the Teaneck or Passaic or comparable town lifestyle that you rightfully note is so ideal. My point in writing my initial post is that it is to point out that it is so tragic and pathetic that people are suffering when there is a path to getting married and having a better, Jewish, way of live. I mean you've got one way of life that you say is "nice and ideal," where women have Jewish husbands, Jewish kids, live in Jewish neighborhoods and have Jewish lives, and there's the other way, where women go on and put that they will date "Jewish; [or] spiritual but not-religious" -- in other words, they'd prefer a Jewish guy, but a nice goy guy who doesn't wear a cross and isn't overtly Christian will suffice. I am overstating things a bit I know, but the contrast is still striking. Anyway, time to get back to work.

VJ said...

Hopefully the shorter regular response.

1.) For Rabbi Ben, Yes there are plenty of people deserving of happiness, just as there are plenty of people fully deserving of misery. If we wanted to be generous like AL, we'd want to include almost everyone in the happy category, but there would still be some truly deserving of misery, not that we'd wish it on them. At least not right away. Like within minutes... And we all have our favorite candidates too!

2.) We really need to stop the civil wars within the Jews. It helps no one. You're right. They're right. They've got a right to be wrong too. Deal with it. Like adults. Like fellow members of the tribe.

3.) If we can argue that everyone is 'deserving of happiness', we can not argue that everyone needs love. Even Osama, which is why he has so many wives & kids. How this love is manifested within the lives we share together is slightly different almost everywhere.

4.) I agree with Rabbi Ben that happiness is a process of discovery. We can be happy with very little indeed, or we can be unhappy with that large 5K sq ft home filled with children. It's a question of values, needs, desires, and trying to marry all these inside of a life within the structure of a family. Many, many people fail miserably at this. Many people in the past making far less than our average 27K per capita managed to make do with what they had and were content. For many contentment IS a kind of happiness that is longer lasting than all the pyrotechnics & 'ga-ga's'. So yeah Anon, many people who'd look in on your married friend would naturally conclude that they were 'happy enough'. Perhaps that is sad to younger folks. It's reality for many working marriages of long duration. We can all hope for better, but smetimes reality is unkind to such dreams. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Jennifer R said...

I have to say that I liked Chutzpah's quote about dating. I've done the same and god knows, nothing worked.

I've tried and tried to settle. I was raised to settle. My mom settled (and it was obvious to me from an early age that she did). 90% of the men I dated I wasn't remotely attracted to or interested in, but I gave them a chance. And hated every second of it. Nauseous and wanting to run away on dates, even with the least objectionable ones.

So reading things like this depresses me. It's not that I'm holding out and only dating people of the highest standards here.

Chutzpah said...

Actually Anon, 99% of my friends have been BT's for the past 15 years. The women are tired and bored and the men are stressed about money. Most would kill to be able to go to a rock concert, lay on the beach in a bathing suit, or drive through Micky D's for some fries. I'm a ivy-educated lawyer and lapsed ba'las tshuva. I can tell you from living on the inside, it's not all cute little children saying sweet d'var Torahs. People have PLENTY of money and sex problems. Many people are overwhelmed with too many little ones to close together. Many women have expressed to me that they would "get out" too if they didn't have a family. Just because you "learn" doesn't make you a better Jew or a better person, although theoretically, it should. It doesn't make you more honest in business; it doesn't make you kinder and more thoughtful. You think you are better than the "goyim" because now you learned a few blots of gemara? What does it make you? A little more self-righteous and alot more judgemental of others. Be careful which bridges you burn right now because you may need them someday.
It's too bad nobody will have the guts to tell you about the pressure involved in keeping up with the Rothenbergs; how they miss being able to take an affordable vacation; or, eat in a decent restaurant when traveling. Everybody's so busy collecting mitzvah points for their kiruv work that they will never tell you how much they miss their mother's home-cooking because now she's not glatt enough, and how tiresome it gets to always have to pack separate food and be excluded from fully participating in family functions. Yes, there are many beautiful benefits in the frum world, but if you listen closely to Shabbos conversation at a BT's table, most of it consists of "remember when we used to____" fill -in the blank, it could be smoke pot, eat lobster, make love when the mood struck or just have an extra day to take care of errands. Think about some of the benefits you had in life that your children many not have because of the insular way you plan on raising them. Oh, and don't accuse Chutzpah of making ignorance-based conclusions.

Anonymous said...

VJ ... you're usually right on target, but I think your remarks about this lively debate are inappropriate.

People disagree. Yes ... even Jews disagree amongst themselves. Take a look at the public opinion in Israel as to whether or not we should be vacating Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Let's not get carried away by comparing this to civil war. And let's not be so self-rightious to pretend that it's unhealthy, sacreligious, or sinful for us to disagree.

In this case, I think the point that the poster was making was that there is more substance to a human being than what is usually described in an internet dating profile. And he is absolutely right. However, to make the claim that only Orthodox people lead a life that gives them the ability to "see above this" is ludicrous. Might there be more Orthodox people that are able to see past the "superficialness" of life? Perhaps. But to make a blind categoric conclusion that "Orthodox=knows meaning of life" and "non-Orthodox=doesn't know meaning of life" amounts to nothing more than prejudice. And prejudice is not something that anyone wants to encourage. To want to speak out against this is natural and I encourage it ... whether it's between Jews, between whites and blacks, or between Jews and Muslims.

I'm all for single people looking for deeper meaning ... and for trying to find ways to communicate what they are about on a deeper level in internet dating profiles. But this is a behavioral issue, not a religious one ... and you will find those who are able and not able to do this across all walks of life.

Blogger S.

Anonymous said...

I'm not attempting to stick up for Mr. Anonymous here, but perhaps explain where he is coming from. He is a BT in the Aish system on the Upper West Side. That community is representative of Manhattan in general. As he said it - Lawyers, Bankers, Real Estate guys. Its a crew that isn't going to be living a life of "we have 7 kids under the age of 10, and no money to pay for a fancy shabbos dress for Raizy." He will be living with more affluent [mostly modern] orthodox Js like himself who are professionals and will lead a nice pleasant upper middle class life. Its not going to be about learning all day or anything. They will still take the kids to the beach, watch television and movies, go to little league, etc - but also keep kosher and shabbat, and have Judaism as the central part of their life. I think, Chutzpah, you lived in the world of the typical BT, which I have seen, where they get all caught up in the extremeties of Hashem and Torah, and are told that there life has to be 100% holy, all the time - with 10 kids and no fun. That is where the BT movement fails. Anonymous, who is on the UWS, may have bought in to extreme rhetoric that a non-orth. lifestyle has no value, but he is living in an ideallic version of J where faily affluent modern orthodox Js live comfortable [often very comfortable] lives. Where you can live in a bubble of 1950s pleasantness - kids arent having unprotected premarital sex or abusing drugs (for the most part), a strong sense of community that is centered around the synagogue, families join eachother for shabbat lunch or dinner, the kids read and play in the backyard on saturdays - it is all [kosher] hot dogs and apple pie (er, strudel..). True, even within that community there are divisions - rich ones families on the UWS, Westchester, Long Island. Less affluent in Queens, Baltimore, etc. And there are difficulties for some - often hidden below the surface - but its a nice picture for someone who was less than thrilled with the problems they faced or experienced in the secular world (which is why many BTs become BTs in the first place).

Anonymous said...

As Mr. Anonymous taking all this heat, let me explain something. In no way am I looking down on others, and if I gave that impression I am truly sorry. My point is as follows (and I realize I am exagerating A LITTLE, but there is some truth to what I am saying): A majority of the Jewish guys I knew growing up (all non-Orthodox) are either married to or dating shiksas (mostly Asians, although this is not relevant), including: my college roomate, my law school buddy, and a number of others. My own friggin' cousin married out and has little Christian kids. I don't have single Jewish relative in my family under the age of 28. (Do you all have similar stories? Probably.) I know scores of Jewish people in their 30s who are not married. Unmarried Jewish womens' ovaries are drying up like raisins. The Conservative Movement, the supposed "conservers" of Judaism, with a 37% marryout rate (Ortho is 3%), just announced it is actively trying to do "kiruv" (outreach) to the shiksa spouses of its members. I mean hello!?! Earth to Jewish (non-orthodox) Americans. From a Jewish perspective, do you want the Titanic or do you want Teaneck? Read (google) "Will Your Grandchildren Be Jews" by Horowitz and Gordon. As for the "lapsed BT" poster above, yeah, I long for lobster. I also long to live in Hawaii and sit on the beach all day long 365 a year. But one cannot eat lobster and treif french fries and then teach his kid a 5 minute portion on the Torah to read at the shabbos table. Kids are smart and can see through hypocrisy. So the question is, what do you want and where are your priorities? Do you want a modern, observant Jewish home, with Jewish books on the shelves and Jewish kids who give a dvar Torah on Saturday and play baseball on Sundays, and whom you know will marry a Jew and give you Jewish grandchildren because 97% of them do) (sure, this will not be idyllic, and there could be money or other problems, but there's problems like that all over) -- or -- do you want to hopefully find a Jewish guy (but if you can find a decent looking, nice, non-overtly Christian guy with an advanced degree that'd be OK, since you have to find SOMEBODY), and send your kids to a Hebrew school 2 hours a week until he's 13 and his studies end, where half or 3/4 of the kids don't have two Jewish parents, and where Judaism plays only a nominal role in your life? (I am speaking from personal experience.) Every Jewish population study in the US shows the same thing. Every year, 10 or 20 or 30,000 Jews just "disappear" from the study. First there were 5.5 million, then 5.3 million, now 5.1 million as of a few years ago. Meanwhile new "Teanecks" are springing up all over the place. Maybe it's worth taking a step back and looking at things from a macro level before jumping to the (in my opinion, erroneous) conclusion that the system ain't broke.

Chutzpah said...

It's just the attitude that non-Orthodox Jews are responsible for the demise of Judaism and live meaningless lives and never contributed anything of value to our people as a whole that I abhor. For some strange reason, that is the first attitude many BT's adopt and are very vocal about, like Anon. It's funny because the Rabbi's don't actually ever say that, but unfortunately their students seem to interpret it.

I was just trying to say that there are plenty of singles who live committed jewish lives are who are not shallow waste products, just as there are some who are Orthodox who are.

Online profiles can't really describe a person's middos, no matter what site they are on. I liked the quote mentioned by drumbumj from R. Twerski about deciding if you like how the person reacts to stressful situations.

Anonymous said...

My last comment on this I promise. You state: "It's just the attitude that non-Orthodox Jews are responsible for the demise of Judaism." Well what do you mean "demise"? If you mean that thousands of members disappearing every year constitutes "demise" (which it does), then you can't blame that on the orthodox, because their numbers are growing rapidly each year. (Although maybe it's orthodoxy's fault that there aren't more groups than Chabad, Aish, Isralight, Helkeinu, MJE, JLE, and others doing kiruv.) But I don't blame it on the Jewish non-frum either. I mean if you never had shabbos with a frum family then how are you going to know that such a thing and lifestyle even exists? Certainly I was in the dark. And as for your comment that non-orthodox "live meaningless lives and never contributed anything of value to our people as a whole," well I sure never said that. Einstein and David Ben-Gurion weren't orthodox, were they? And I don't consider my own life before I was orthodox to have been a waste either-- Jewishly or otherwise. I'm sure yours isn't a waste either. Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to get my 2 shekels (and more) in. Good luck to all.

Chutzpah said...

Jewish guys like to marry Asian chicks because they are used to eating Chinese on Sundays. (bada bum)

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Chutzpah, I went ahead and published your comment because I don't generally censor comments. But that joke is in questionable taste.

Especially since everyone knows that sort of cuisine leaves you hungry a half hour later.

Chutzpah said...

Good one!

But you're right, we should tone it down least men find us to funny to be desirable!

Anonymous said...

JN -
A couple of months into dating the woman who would become my wife, I heard a speech by a rabbi that had a kind of epiphonous effect on me, and allowed me to open up to the relationship. He showed how, in Jewish sources, the human longing for eternal clinging to G-d is considered un-achievable and even dangerous; the healthy approach is a "ratzo va-shov", coming close and then retreating. The rabbi went on to analogize that to spousal relations, and to how a longing for a constant feeling of head-over-heels love is both unrealistic and unhealthy for the relationship. As I said, that drasha stuck with me; it allowed me to let go of some fantasy notion of ideal relationships, and to embrace a more realistic and healthy model, which I'm glad to say has persisted for the years we've been married.
(Excuse my english, I'm not American...)

Dori said...

Very provocative discussion. If I hadn't personally known couples (close friends of mine) who are blissfully connected AND attracted to one another, then maybe I would concede that, as some rabbis/some of you have pointed out, there is no such thing as a perfect match. While of course my friends have issues just like all couples, they really are soulmates, and I'm not willing to give up on the possibility of having a similarly wonderful relationship.

Anonymous said...

I thought the ideal, soulmate relationship did not exist... after all- most marriages I see are not anything I'd wanna be a part of. I come from a long line of orthodox - even chassidish- divorced couples. My older sister- my mother- my grandmother, my GREAT grandmother!! I assumed it was in the stars for me too. I decided early on I would stay single rather than marry and divorce. At 29, I have dated a lot of men- (I am in that minority of people who actually likes jdate and has met some interesting / attractive / normal / amazing people on the site. Also many kooks... but...) Some of my relationships are long term, some short term and I always think about marriage, but simply won't walk down the aisle just because there is some guy at the other end of it. I'm pretty cynical about marriage- almost all married people I know are miserable but would rather live that way than be lonely. I just don't believe in that. I recently ended a 4 year relationship because it was no longer working for me. Three weeks later I met my soul mate on jdate. 6 months later we got a place together and are planning on getting engaged. Like they say- when you know- you know- and if you *are* the right person - then you can find the right person. That's just my 2 cents. .. and to directly address the point- I think if you can make a list of who YOU want to be- you will find yourself looking at a pretty accurate list of who you might want to be with.