Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Jews Only!

Posted by lchaimlover on June 17, 2007

A few weeks ago I was tabling for the Jewish Student Union at SCU’s Gobal Village and I met a young Israeli student. He was inquiring about Hillel and I began to spout my usual monologue about what a great place it was and all of the resources available. Among our assets I mentioned “lots of cute Jewish girls.” People usually laugh or smile when I say this, but he looked excited, as did his friend. “Good, he only dates Jews! Do you know how hard it’s been for him here.” One of the people who was at the table with me said that dating only Jews was really limiting his options. Another person commented that dating only Jews was racist. Both of them, by the way, were Jewish. So where does this leave us? Is it wrong to have a Jews Only policy?


A brochure handed out by NCSY

So I decided to ask around. Dan S, 18, told me “You shouldn’t limit your options.” He said that of course people want to date people with similar backgrounds, but if there are only so many right people in the world, why close off other avenues.

A 24 year old Israeli saw no problem with dating only Jews. “I wouldn’t do it,” he said, but he didn’t see any difference between saying Jews Only or Short Women Only. People’s preference shouldn’t be seen as prejudiced. This Israeli also made a good point, “There is a difference between dating in college and after college.” In college, he said, people want to screw around and don’t feel limited, out of college, people get more serious and seek out like minded partners to settle down with. “So what’s wrong with saying, I am Jewish and I want my household to be Jewish?” He asked.

The National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NSCY), the youth movement for Orthodox teens, gives out flyers and holds lectures on why teens should date Jewish. They even sponsor a website. One of the strongest arguments is that, today when over half of all marriages end in divorce, many of the “irreconcilable differences” is arguments over money, how to raise kids, and religion. Most of these things, accrosing the brochure, can be solved by marrying Jewish. According to studies, parents from similar backgrounds are the most likely to succeed. My parents were married for fifteen years before they got a divorce, but their arguments were always over religion and money. Is it only the Orthodox attempting to promote this? Not at all!

Hillel’s motto over the last few years was “To get Jews to Do Jewish with Other Jews.” Hillels across the country promote dating Jews, and use that as a tool to get young Jews in the door. USY, the Conservative Youth movement, also has pamphlets about dating Jewish, not as strongly worded, but definitely trying to appeal to the teenagers. Birthright sponsors the honeymoons of couples who meet while on birthright. If it’s so wrong, why is everyone promoting it? Fear of assimilation? Or just trying to keep the Tribe going?

My father now says that if he had it to do over again, he would’ve looked for someone more like himself, with similar ideals. “When you don’t believe in the same things, how can you raise a family?” However, the idea that marrying a Jew will solve all your problems is not true either. According to the book “Two Jews can still be a mixed Marriage” it can still be difficult to resolve lifestyle issues, but not as difficult as say, a Baptist marrying an ex-Catholic/converted Jew (my own parental combination). I guess it all comes down to who you choose, and whether or not that person is right for you. Easy enough right, Ha! My father obviously still hasn’t figured it out exactly, as he is on his 4th marriage. But that’s why we had matchmakers in the old days…these things can’t be left for young people to decide…but that is for another post.


13 Responses to “Jews Only!”

  1. Oyster said

    “young people can’t decide these things for themselves…”

    Awww, a FotR reference! Khags & knishes, LchaimLover!

    It was the great Rav Tevye, in Sefer FotR, who said, “If I bend this far, I’ll break”. Tradition demands of us to date & marry Jewish.

    Judaism / the Jewish people / Israel is very important to me, and I want to marry someone who shares those values. And I want my kids (B”H) to value those things as well. So to me it makes it obvious that I should marry someone Jewish.

    As I told a travelling Israeli yesterday, who asked me if I date only Jewish girls, I told him this following expression of mine, “You marry who you date”. In other words, if you’re not looking just for Jewish girls, then the probability of dating one is low (especially outside of NY or LA in the US). And for most people, there’s a 100% probability that the person that you marry is someone that you were dating before you got married. ‘Tis mere arithmetic…

  2. jlifer said

    Look, I just think the Yid schnoz is hot.

  3. DK said

    NCSY is much less reasonable than your are presenting. With negiah.org, NCSY has not taken a stand for endogamy, but rather, for essentially what most of us would not consider dating at all. They even explicitly disapprove of shaking hands, even within a business setting. I don’t think they should be able to have it both ways. NCSY is no longer really an advocate of endogamy, but rather, a radical opponent of a physical relationship of any sort prior to marriage, and of hand shaking even in a business setting.

    To take them as a champion of in-dating is just not who they really are anymore.

  4. DK said

    NCSY also discourages condemn use under any conditions. Which is good. If people are having sex, they should face maximum risk both for pregnancy and STDs.

  5. lchaimlover said

    thanks for your input DK. I never attended any of the organizations so I don’t really know about the inside scoop. I appreciate the variety of opinions. But my main argument is dating Jewish, whether frum dates or not isn’t really a concern as we know they are marrying Jewish. My point was, is their argument valid?

  6. […] I can’t help you on that, lchaimlover, but if you let me, I’ll show you a sleight of hand. […]

  7. Fran said

    Despite Kvetchers biased accounts of NCSY, dating only jewish is of course right.
    THe fact is its not racist….anyone can become jewish! If it were racist we wouldnt let people convert! The point is it is very clear that the torah only allows for jew to jew marriage and to have anything else threatens the jewish people.
    A recent study (i will try and find a source for you) shows that within 2 generations of an intermarrage 80% of those people dont consider themselves jewish anymore.

  8. mishgolden said

    If it’s racist for me to date only Jews, is it also sexist of me to date only women? 😉

  9. Squeedle said

    Ok then, I have a question for you: since I’m about to become a convert, how does this sit with the argument in favor of dating only Jewish? How would this affect you if you met someone who was a convert or who was in the conversion process, and who you also thought was both attractive and compatible in other ways?

    A few months after I decided to convert, I realized that I wasn’t interested in dating non-Jews. But I also wasn’t intersted in dating *secular* Jews, who wished to remain secular. Does this really “limit” my options? I worried a great deal about this, but finally I realized, no, it doesn’t at all. It establishes a very effective filter against people with whom I simply will not share a common belief system which is very important to me, and hence will have a profound effect on our relationship. If my “options” are widened to include people of radically different religions, then I must not consider my own faith that important when it comes to creating a home and raising a family. One’s religion, or lack thereof, is in fact about one’s values. I’ve been single for a very long time. If there is one thing I have learned, common values trump common interests in the long run for a healthy relationship. This has nothing to do with “race.”

  10. Oyster said

    Ha! Right on, MG! I’m with you on that completely. I’m very sexist in regards to whom I date. 🙂

    On that note, did I tell you that I’m seeking a ‘Plutonic’ relationship? That’s where I date a girl and I only see her for six months each year… :-p

  11. Friar Yid said

    As a not particularly observant (but fairly cultural) Jew in a longterm relationship with a non-Jew, I’m admittedly biased, but I don’t think I buy NCSY’s claims here.

    One of the strongest arguments is that, today when over half of all marriages end in divorce, many of the “irreconcilable differences” is arguments over money, how to raise kids, and religion. Most of these things, [according to] the brochure, can be solved by marrying Jewish.

    This doesn’t really make sense. Both partners being Jewish is no guarantee over money matters or childbearing. Religion yes, to a degree (i.e, they probably won’t be celebrating Hanukkah and Ramadan). But as we all know, there are many different kinds and flavors of Jews AND Judaism. The not so subtle subtext from NCSY seems to be that marrying Jewish isn’t enough- the goal is to marry frum. (Exemplefied in this quip from their brochure- “The remedy: 52% of Jews intermarry. 98% of NCSY alumni marry Jewish.”)

    This would seem to distance their message from the vast majority of their supposed audience.

    Regarding the rectitude of only dating Jews: as I see it, it’s a personal choice and preference. Plenty of other ethnic groups have ethnocentric focuses in regards to marriage, for better or worse, and unless the decision is connected to a pejorative conception of non-Jews, I don’t see how there’s anything particularly wrong with it. (And for the record, looking down on non-Jews, while not my cup of tea, would not automatically disqualify one’s decision to only date/marry Jews.)

    As far as your comment, Oyster,

    Judaism / the Jewish people / Israel is very important to me, and I want to marry someone who shares those values. And I want my kids (B”H) to value those things as well. So to me it makes it obvious that I should marry someone Jewish.

    I’m not sure I’d agree. While limiting your “search field” to only the Jewish population of say, the USA, or the West Coast, is likely to help you find someone that has the characteristics you’re looking for, I’m sure you’re quite familiar with Jews who don’t have some or all of the things you mentioned as priorities. By the same token, there are some non-Jews (admittedly, not a lot) who do share those values, if necessarily in a modified form. My partner and I have been attending Friday night services semi-regularly for several years and do various Shabbat home observances. She’s a former Christian and at present has no desire to convert, but she likes and is enthusiastic about “the Jewish stuff” (on Israel she’s fairly ambivalent, but then again so is much of my own family).

    Obviously it would be ridiculous to advise Jews to focus on seeking out non-Jewish philo-semites to the exclusion of the far larger Jewish population (especially if they want their children to be halachically Jewish), but they are out there. So while I’m not telling you or anyone else to change your dating practices, I do have yet another reason to dismiss NCSY’s “advice” as so much fear-mongering.

    Yes, Tradition demands of us to date & marry Jewish., at least the marrying part (I’m not so sure what the rabbis’ view on dating was). But the appeal to tradition (guilt?) is really only so useful in appealing to young nominally religious Jews these days. I had a great-uncle who came from an MO family and as he got older observed very few mitzvot. One of the ones he still kept was kashrut. When I asked him why he kept it, he said, “this connects me to a chain going back 3,000 years. No way I would break it!” I was happy he got something out of his observance but felt no need to take up the chain simply because my ancestors had done so. I get my Jewish connection through other practices and mitzvot, and will in all likelihood pass on this approach to my children, if I am lucky enough to have some.

    The other issue is that I don’t need to be freaked out by NCSY’s gloomy statistics. My own family is a fairly representative model of assimilated American Jews. My father is one of four children, my mother one of two. They are the only ones who married another Jew, which was, frankly, more of an accident than anything else. However, rather than having their Jewishness be a source of tradition and identity for my brother and I, their “common spirituality” was practically nonexistent. Furthermore, unlike all of their siblings, who had to actually discuss and decide how to raise their children, my parents got to avoid the issue entirely, raising us essentially as atheists with a scintilla of Jewish identity. By contrast, out of my four groups of aunts & uncles, one uncle has no children but attends services semi-regularly with his Christian wife, one aunt raised her children as nominal Lutherans, and the other two raised their kids as Reform Jews, with regular synagogue and home observance. Their Jewish identities and education, from a religious perspective at least, are far superior to my own.

    So the issue is not marrying Jewish per se. The issue is determining exactly what your values are and which ones you want present in your home and passed on to your children, and then finding a partner that shares those goals. MAYBE them being an MoT will help. But it’s not a requirement, or a guarantee.

  12. DK said

    NCSY uses its dated record of endogamy to justify every and any policy. They are incapable of considering criticism on anything seriously. They are perfect! They’re 1998 Lily foundation study — paid for by a far-Right Christian fellowship, and administered by an Orthodox Jewish woman — says they have a 98% inbreeding record!

    Probably anyone who married out was deemed not a real NCSYer anyway.

  13. Friar Yid said

    I had a friend in college whose high school (in a fairly Conservative state) had a similar policy. Their school boasted a similar record when it came to pregnant students- a whopping zero. The reason? Any girl that started showing was “transfered” to an “appropriate facility” far out of the sight of the rest of the students- and their parents. Hooray for that moral hygiene.

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