Category Archives: Jewish Dating

Navigating the wild and wacky world of Jewish Dating

Dating vs. Aliyah

After years of horrible dating experiences, you finally find The One. She's (or he's) pretty, funny, smart, a dynamo in the kitchen, and even with your impossibly high standards, she's (you get the idea) everything you're ever been looking for in a spouse.

Well ... almost.

As it turns out she doesn't want to make aliyah. Or vice versa, she does and you really don't. For some reason, this little detail got overlooked by both of you and/or the shadchan never bothered checking. While there are many factors one considers in dating, aliyah is unique. There are significant halakhic, hashkafic, and practical considerations, and there is little room for compromise. You're not choosing between city and suburban life, but living in Israel or not living in Israel.

At any rate, you've now got a choice to make. Do you marry the girl of your dreams and give up aliyah, or go ahead with your life and take a chance with the dating game for however long it might take?

Naturally, there's not going to be a definitive answer to the question. But for those who are facing this dilemma, perhaps we can help sort through some of the factors to consider.

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Posted in Jewish Dating, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava.

Frumstats

Introduction

Anyone part of a "single's scene" knows how difficult it is to find that special someone with whom you can spend the rest of your life. Bars and mixers might help put similar people in the same room, but such forums rarely result in successful relationships. To help narrow down the field of compatible singles, some entrepreneurs took advantage of the Internet, resulting in sites like Match.com or E-Harmony.

Jewish dating is perhaps even more difficult for a myriad of reasons which won't be discussed here. Still, there are some Internet dating sites created specifically for the Jewish community, such as JDate, Jewish Caf?, Future Simchas and Frumster.

Like many other on-line dating services, singles complete profiles which contain generic information as well as some space for the individuals to elaborate. When singles search for other singles, they do so on specialized fields - each depending on the particular site. For example, Frumster allows one to search based on such fields as education, height, body type, and religious observance. However, with Frumster one can be certain of a minimum degree of observance, as it is the only one which serves the Orthodox community exclusively.

During one of my random Frumster searches I noticed that there were more women in my results page who were divorced. I found this odd since the age range for which I was searching was up until 30 years old. What bothered me wasn't that divorce's were suggested. I don't believe that someone divorced should be any less of an option than anyone else. Furthermore, there are cases such as abuse where divorce would be the obviously preferable option - the sooner the better. However, there is an unfortunate stigma against being divorced, and for divorce's Frumster might be the only option. There are many questions which need to be asked to interpret the meaning of any phenomenon.

What occurred to me that Frumster could be a useful resource for obtaining Orthodox Jewish sociological data, necessary to at least begin to understand what is happening within our community.

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Posted in Jewish Dating.

Single Minded

I finally read the entire Kol Magazine over Sukkot.
"A wife is for eternity, a size 8 is not."
However, all major social changes need to start somewhere,

Posted in Jewish Dating.

YUTOPIA In Print...Sort Of

A little while ago, Rabbi Josh Joseph of the Orthodox Caucus contacted me about a publication they were putting out about dating. Someone tipped him off to this website,1 and they decided to publish the post called Mixed Blessings about the phrase "Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You." I had no idea it was going to be distributed in this past week's edition of the Jewish Week.
I haven't had time to look at all of the articles just yet, but some of them seem worth checking out. In addition to the website, you can download the PDF version.
It's an interesting development considering I never expected this blog to have any such effect and I'm curious to see how this might develop. Of course, I suppose I'll have to get more consistent about posting....

1. Apparently, I've written a few times about my take on dating.

Posted in Articles, Papers, and Publications, Jewish Dating.

Mixed Blessings

If you're Jewish and single, odds are you've been hit with one of the most annoying brachot ever invented:
"Im yirtzeh hashem (God willing) by you" (IYH)

Some go through comical measures to avoid this phrase. For her younger sister's wedding, Sarah made a T-Shirt saying, "No No, Im Yirtzeh Hashem by YOU!" From what I recall her telling me, it worked nicely.

When I was in Gruss, my havruta got engaged and I had to endure my share of IYH's. Noticing my apparent disapproval, one kollel wife said, "Oh, you should be happy! It's a bracha!" Not wanting to discuss the matter, I nodded, smiled, and went on my merry way.

Not long afterward, I was at a shabbat meal with the same kollel wife. Somehow in the context of the conversation, I said IYH regarding someone having children. 1

Instead of accepting this bracha, the incredulous kollel wife said, "You know, you really shouldn't say things like that."
"Why not? Isn't it a bracha?"
"Yes, but you don't know...maybe there's a reason why they don't have kids."
"Maybe there's a reason why I'm not married."
"Look, you just shouldn't."

I could have countered that if IYH is indeed a bracha, then it should be welcomed in all cases. I was not nagging, "nu, when are we going to have some nachas," but "if God wills it, it should happen" - a perfectly "frum" theological blessing. However, by this point in the year I had learned not to engage in logical arguments with the typical YU kollel wife, so I dropped the subject.

Since then, I've asked several people if there is a difference between saying IYH to a single person looking to get married or a married person who is trying to have children. Both deal with highly personal and emotional struggles, yet IYH is socially acceptable in one context and apparently reviled in another.

In this highly unscientific study, I found that most women instinctively see a difference, but few could articulate what that would be. One person related to me stories of friends of hers who have struggled with miscarriages and fertility clinics, emphasizing the myriad of problems that couples face. Since one never knows what a couple goes through, even an IYH could prove to be traumatic.

I do not wish to minimize the struggles that people go through in either area. My problem, and one of my biggest pet peeves, is hypocrisy. If you truly believe that IYH is a bracha and will be accepted as such, fine. If you find it offensive in some cases, then that would indicate that you don't really believe it's a true bracha. I suspect the latter to be true in most cases.

For some reason, many are under the impression that singles have no feelings. We can mockingly throw out an IYH with little regard to what a person goes through. It's like a cultural hazing process that only ends when you get married. Apparently, it's only then where a person's private life is "off limits" from the teases of the community.

So before you throw out another IYH by you - even as a joke - first to think about how it's going to be received by the other person. It's possible they might not be offended, and it's possible that they might accept it wholeheartedly. But it's also possible that you could strike a sensitive nerve and add more to a person's anguish. If you're not sure yourself, think if you would personally say it to a married couple who is trying to have children.

The point is that maybe it's time to reevaluate commonly accepted phrases. Maybe we're actually hurting people with words which aren't as well intentioned as they sound. Maybe we should take the time to think about how our words affect other people, even when they're socially conditioned. Maybe if we can do this, we can try to reverse the mentalities of what caused the hurban in the first place.
Im yirtzeh hashem by us all.


1. I don't remember the details if it was to the specific person there, or about someone else not at the table.

Posted in Jewish Dating.

YUTOPIA's Guide To Jewish Dating

Introduction
For a prelude, first see the last post. For now, let's get right to it.
Jewish dating stinks.

Everyone has their reasons and explanations. I've heard people blame the men, the women, the shadchanim, the Rabbis, and the whole culture at large. Of course, none of these discussions are productive. Even assuming one could find fault with any element of society, it's unlikely that change will happen on an institutional level. More importantly, it doesn't help the singles with their current situation.

As a friend and Rabbi, I've spoken to many people about their struggles in the Jewish dating world. As a single myself, I've personally experienced my share of disappointments and frustrations. I am not a professional therapist, nor am I trained in psychology. I'm hardly an expert in relationships, and I don't have the greatest track record. However, I do think I have a decent understanding of the situation and of the many people affected. I also have a tendency to think too much.

I've started putting together my thoughts on dating and I've tried to offer some practical advice for singles. Unlike many comments I've seen and heard, I'm going to focus on what you, the individual, can do. Men, women, shadchanim, and rabbis are all out of your control. If you're having trouble finding someone, no one can simply create a person for you.1 If you've fallen for someone, you can't control if that person will respond favorably. However, you are in control of yourself, and only you are responsible for yourself.

My thoughts on dating are constantly evolving, and therefore are subject to change.

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Posted in Jewish Dating, YUTOPIA's Guides.

The Mind Of A Matchmaker

Everyone seems to have different opinions about the shidduch "system." Women blame men, men blame the women, everyone blames everyone. About the only thing people can agree on is that the situation stinks. Some of you may be familiar with Chananya Weissman's www.EndTheMadness.org which attributes the problems to misguided perceptions of dating and improper assumptions of Jewish law. Following his impression, Chananya provides general solutions and even formulated a covenant for singles to follow to break the cycle of "social insanity." While there is much truth in Chanaya's analysis and solution, I find that his construction of the problem does not offer practical alternatives for singles. It is an important first step in fixing many of the horrible misconceptions that Orthodox Jews have about dating, but it alone will not help. Furthermore, as this post will show, his assessment is limited to a certain type of stupidity when the problem is with how people view dating and relationships in general.

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Posted in Jewish Dating.

The New Frum$ter In Action

As reported in the last post, Frumster has now become a paid subscription service. I concluded that "the bottom line is that much work went into creating and maintaining Frumster, and they deserve something back." While I still agree with that assessment, I question their choice of implementation.
Today I conducted a little experiment with the help of Shosh. Shosh is currently a paid member, although she suspended her profile, and I am not . To test the system, I sent Shosh a message (after she temporarily activated her account). Being a paid member, Shosh was able to read the message I sent her. However, I was not able to read her response unless I subscribed to the system.
So for those keeping score, paid member can send and read all messages. Basic members can still send messages, but not read ones sent to them. As implemented, this system provides little benefit to subscribing, and will serve only to annoy everyone involved.
Practically, if you're a paid member, you can only communicate with other paid members. If you've paid and the other person hasn't, that person can't read your message. Even if you can read the message of a non-member, you still can't respond unless the other person pays!
If anything, this system will encourage people to move conversations off of Frumster's system. To avoid paying, a basic member will simple write in the message to respond to an outside e-mail address.
In contrast, JDate seems to have a better system. Last time I checked, anyone can post for free and read messages, but only paid member can initiate contact. The paid members have the advantage, and they do not are not penalized for the other person not paying.
If Frumster doesn't take the JDate route, I have one possible suggestion for improvement. If a premium member contacts or responds to a basic member, then allow that conversation to continue. The advantage to being a premium member is then the ability to communicate with everyone. However, basic member would only be allowed to communicate with premium members.
I don't know if this will provide enough incentive to attract subscribers, it would make subscribing a much better value.

Posted in Jewish Dating.

The New Frum$ter

Last night I received an e-mail from the Frumster Team that effective April 23rd, the popular Jewish dating service will become a pay service.
To their credit, Frumster provides a list of reasons for the switch. For one, Frumster will be adding new features, such as an advice column and live tech support over AIM.
Of particular interest is the second reason given, "A Charge Will Actually Attract Many New and Sincere Members"

    Considerable research conducted by Frumster has revealed that a 'lack of a membership fee' causes many sincere Orthodox singles to hesitate in using the service. These individuals are unanimous in their critique that a free service is an indication of both an insincere service and potentially insincere members.

This is a tough call. Assuming insincere people will be scared off by the new pay system, many of the existent members only signed up because it was a free service - which is how Frumster became as popular as it is. My sense is that web communities such as this succeed when there is a large and diverse population. When the site is free, it encourages many different types of individuals to sign up - even for the simple "why not" factor. This new financial effort will probably dissuade some of these people from signing up.
Furthermore, if Frumster hasn't worked for existing members until now, what incentive would they have to pay for the service - especially when the odds of finding someone appropriate will diminish? I'm curious as to how many existing members would be willing to pay for a service which hasn't worked for them.
I'm not even sure how effective the new scheme will be as a filter. Some of you may remember my Frumster Rant some time ago. Of people that I've recently contacted, 7 have not responded - even with the automated rejection. (I'm too nice to directly link to their profiles). My point is that many people (men and women) are just clueless about basic social etiquette. Charging for use of the service isn't going to help.
The way Frumster presents this reason, it seems that they themselves might not even believe it to be true. Rather, they are just presenting the perception of potential or existing users.
However, regardless of their reasons, I think this new system is more than justified. The team has worked hard to make the site work, and as we know, there is no "free lunch." Whether or not any of their reasons are accurate, the bottom line is that much work went into creating and maintaining Frumster, and they deserve something back.

Posted in Jewish Dating.

Top 10 Dating Questions

About a week ago, someone sent me an e-mail of a "shidduch meeting" form. For those who don't know, a shidduch meeting is when a group of (usually) women get together and see who knows whom and if there could be any possible set ups from that group.1 Since everyone knows different people from their various circles, it's reasonable that two compatible people would never have met nor would they even have people in common who could get them together.

The organizer wrote up a form with "basic" information. I don't know how seriously the participants used the forms - it's possible they just used the names had the "sponsors" describe the singles - but disliked several of the questions asked. Independently, each question provides some information about a person and perhaps indicate if X would be shayachet for Y. As a unit, many of these questions are insufficient or inappropriate to describe the entirety of a person.
For example, here are the 10 questions from the form (in addition to personal background info like occupation, school, etc) with my comments. I copied the questions as they appeared on the form and as you will see, many are horribly phrased. Also, the questions are presented in the order in which they were received, but order should not be confused with importance.

1. Do you/are you looking for someone who intends to cover her hair?
Some may consider hair covering as merely a religious barometer, like a guy wearing a black hat (see below). The major difference is that there are actual halakhot of married women covering their hair. Consequently, if a woman does not plan to cover her hair, or she plans to cover her hair not in accordance with Jewish law,2 then she would not be appropriate for a significant population of the Orthodox dating pool.

2. Do you/are you comfortable with (a girl) wearing pants?
Awkwardly phrased. The gist is if you're a girl, do you wear pants, if you're a guy, do you care? This infers from the culture religious issues of modesty, but the halakha is not as clear cut as the hair covering. As phrased, this promotes stereotypes of what modesty is halakhic or socially acceptable. Some context would help, as there are many times when pants would actually be more modest than a skirt. At any rate, whether or not one agrees with the implications of women wearing pants, it's a practical question for determining if two people from the vast modern orthodox community would be appropriate.

3. Do you/are you comfortable with (a boy) wearing jeans?
I don't understand this one at all. Maybe on some level wearing jeans has some religious implications and indicate where someone is "holding" religiously. It might be a factor for some people, but in my opinion, not enough to make a top 10.

4. Do you/are you looking for (a boy) who intends to wear a hat?
Like #3 this one is directed to the right end of modern orthodoxy. Depending on the people involved, this may or may not make a top 10.

5. Do you plan on having a television in your home?
Interesting idea, but horrible presentation. It's a religious indicator, but I don't think television should be reduced to a simple yes/no, good/bad dichotomy. Instead, I suggest the following scale (work in progress):

  1. I tape the weather channel to see what I missed.
  2. I talk about Rachel, Ross, and Joey like they're real people.
  3. Just give me Law and Order and the Simpson's.
  4. Nothing but PBS and the History Channel.
  5. I need it for the VCR...and the news.
  6. Box of Satan.

This way you find out not only religious beliefs, but some degree of personality (or lack thereof)

6. Do you plan on attending movies with your spouse?
This one is even more vague than the TV question. What type of movies are we talking about? Finding Nemo? Yentl? Sallah? School of Rock? Blazing Saddles? Lord of the Rings? The Big Lebowski? Dogma? Sound of Music? Rocky Horror Picture Show?3 Furthermore, you could plan on sneaking out to see the movies by yourself without your spouse, or even rent them.

7. Do you/are you looking for someone who will be learning or engaged in a profession?
Is this a choice? My spouse can either be learning or engaged in a profession? Do I want a stay at home wife? Kollel husband? Applicable to a small percentage of modern orthodoxy, this question might be more of a personality indicator than a religious one.

8. Do you/are you looking for someone who will learn on a regular basis?
Regularly setting aside for learning establishes Torah as an important part of Jewish life. Children who see their parents learning may come to value Torah more themselves, or minimally not get as cynical at a society which asserts the importance of Torah and then promptly neglects it.
I just wonder if this applies to women learning too.

9. Do you/are you looking for someone who will attend minyan on a daily basis?
Yet another religious indicator (noticing a pattern?), but practically useless for a marriage, especially once kids come.

10. Are you a Kohen?
According to halakha, a Kohen cannot marry a divorce or a convert and the convention is not to set up kohanim with people who have questionable Jewish lineage. Very important question.
Most of these questions attempted get a religious sense of a person. While society is obviously important in a modern orthodox society, many of the questions are irrelevant to having a successful marriage. Several questions merely reinforce harmful stereotypes of what is and what isn't religious. On the other hand, if people think in these stereotypes then these questions may be useful. So my question is, for men and women, what are the top 10 questions you think would be most applicable to the most people in the modern orthodox community? What questions would best define you as a man or woman?

The goal here is not to tell everything about a person, but to have a sense if two people would be compatible. Also, the questions have to be phrased in such a way that they will be useful. People don't always like thinking about themselves, or would just lose patience with a long survey. More questions would help, and so would asking how important an issue is to someone. For example, I may not want a TV, but I won't care if my spouse does.

Grayson Levy does a great job of this with Frumster. He asks a nice mix of religious and personal questions, and he forces members to express themselves beyond simple multiple choice questions.

I also acknowledge that most of the forms tell more about the person who constructs them than it does about the singles.
Anyone else have suggestions?

1. Not to be confused with kiddush or shabbat lunch. This at least has no pretense of being anything else but a shmooze fest.
2. Or at least the "Jewish law" as understood by the guy, or more realistically the guy's rabbi. I'm not going to discuss here the laws of hair covering and what is "real" halakha and what is custom. My point is that if a guy thinks that what a woman plans to do is forbidden, don't set up those two people.
3. My personal opinion is that some of these movies are assur to see, others are mehuyav on everyone. No, I will not say which is which. My father likes to tell following story from R. Faur's shiur. One day R. Faur said the only movies which are mutar are cartoons and westerns. After naively seeing Fritz the Cat (or part of it at least), he then told his shiur that cartoons are also assur.

Posted in Jewish Dating, Personal.