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

Dog pile on Jewish singles

Posted by FriarYid on July 21, 2007

Complaining about Jewish young people often seems to be in vogue [cue hand-wringing], but Shmuley Boteach’s latest article really tweaked me. First he bemoans the fact that more women today are choosing to live alone, and accuses Jewish youth in particular of not only being too discriminating, but downright superficial in their standards.

Of late, I have taken to asking the singles who come to hear me speak to raise their hands if they have dated more than 100 members of the opposite sex. About half the hands go up. Unbelievable! I then follow up with a question: “One hundred people and not one person was good enough?”

Huh? Did I miss something? Why does the number matter? Why does the attitude seem to be “just pick one?” Shouldn’t the emphasis be on determining individual compatibility, not just finding a mate for the sake of getting it over with?

Having determined that the current state of Jewish dating is a problem, Shmuley proceeds to offer an explanation: it’s all our fault.

Perhaps the problem lies not with our dates, but with us. After all, if a person is anorexic, do we blame the food? If someone is an insomniac, do we blame the pillow or the bed? And if someone continues to lose his job, do we blame the employer?

So… the fact that Jews are dating a lot and not finding people they like is indicative of some sort of disorder? Ooh, can we call it Woody Allen disease? (Maybe “Seinfeld Syndrome” is better…)

Apparently even Orthodox kids are dropping the ball.

When looking for a wife, religious Jewish men today often abandon Jewish values. They have become so obsessed with a woman’s looks that heart, mind, and character count for far less…I am often approached by religious Jewish men in their thirties and forties who tell me how desperate they are to get married. I now know that they often are lying through their teeth because what they really mean is that they want a woman who looks like a model. At my weekly Shabbos table, where I host many singles, I watch as the men immediately dismiss even the most interesting women with the warmest hearts if they lack a super-lean figure.

Not being Orthodox, I can’t attest to the accuracy of Shmuley’s analysis here. However, knowing Shmuley, I think it’s safe to say he may be blowing this Jewish shallowness thing out of proportion so he can make some kind of grandiose claim about how awful the world is these days. Just a hunch.

I’ll set up men with women whom I know to be attractive and charming, only to have the guy call me back the next day and complain of a lack of chemistry, by which he always means, She wasn’t pretty enough.

Or maybe they actually mean, “There was no chemistry! She has the personality of a dead fish. There was no common ground, no common interests- I don’t LIKE her!” What’s the alternative, Shmuley? Shall we start imposing shotgun weddings on yeshiva bochers?

Ultimately, Shmuley blames the problem on the inherent shallowness of men, even Jewish men, even, gasp, religious Jewish men.

I never believed I would witness a time when even marriage-minded, Orthodox Jewish men would become womanizers, giving themselves the latitude to date as many women as possible so that they can find “the best.” In yeshiva I was taught that one did not date a woman the way one shopped for a car. Rather, you focused on one woman completely and tried to develop a soulful connection with her without worrying about what else might be out there…Recently, I had a young rabbinical student of marriageable age at my home. He told me he had already dated 40 girls and had not found what he was looking for. I was stunned. “Forty nice, religious girls, and not one of them was good enough for you?”

Ironically, Shmuley’s pitch seems to be quite similar to buying a car: they’re all basically the same, they have the same functions, don’t be picky, just get one. Since, optimally, we’re talking about someone that the person in question wants to spend the rest of their lives with, I would think it would be a good thing for them to be sure that they’re compatible. No, that’s not the same as “playing the field,” particularly if that’s largely an excuse to have flings without commitment *cough teffilin date cough*, not that I personally care what these people do with their dating/sex lives. But the assumption that within a hundred people you should “be able to find at least one” seems to result in just as commodity-focused, and potentially superficial, as its “play the field” counterpart.

Shmuley concludes that, particularly among religious Jews, the problem is that singles have become “immunized” to real love. The last thing today’s singles need is another change of partner or a new date.”

So what’s the solution? Lucky you asked. Shmuley wants us to become more internally-focused, more “spiritually deep,” to give people more of a chance before tossing them aside to move on to the next candidate. Young people should treat the dating scene less as a meat market and more like an old folk’s home. That’s right, because gently patronizing a person with dementia is clearly the best model for finding a potential marriage partner. Shmuley’s advice just gets weirder from there. Strategies include being nice to waiters, practice making decisions (apparently there’s a direct correlation between being able to choose cell phone plans and being able to “commit” to a mate). Also, singles need to spend time alone so they can realize just how potentially awful the alternatives to marriage are (oh, the joys of the scare tactic).

Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, Shmuley does make the occasional good point here. But as usual the rhetoric is totally out of control, and, not surprisingly, it ends with a plug. Guess who happens to have a new dating website? And, since Shmuley is the master of humility and understatement, guess what it’s called?

Good grief.

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8 Responses to “Dog pile on Jewish singles”

  1. Oyster said

    And if someone continues to lose his job, do we blame the employer?

    This one was really bad. Sometimes it *is* your boss/employer! And in reality, it’s a little bit of both.

    In an American community where unaffiliation rates (I avoid the term assimilation) are sky-high, its not a surprise that there’s slim-pickin’s. You shouldn’t sit down & marry the first girl that you see, yet you shouldn’t try to “sample” all the world’s available women just be sure that you’re soul-mate isn’t in Nepal or whatnot.

    While I might quibble with Boteach’s particular magic numbers of what is too high a number of women to date, I might agree with him that there might be a problem with (religious) Jewish men in terms of their attitudes towards marriage. Though it might seem that he doesn’t give an adequate argument to establish such a phenomenon.

  2. PW said

    Also, why is this post all about Male issues with dating? Are you really going to tell me, Shmuley, that women have no say in who they date? That if a guy would just look past HER flaws, everyone would be married? This strikes me as not only ridiculous, but incredibly sexist.

  3. FriarYid said

    Yeah, there’s a lot of male-focused stuff in his writing. His basic premise seems to be that men are highly superficial and raging sacks of hormones that need to be under constant discipline lest they go off and boink anything with legs. Predictably, this also results in some pretty strange pronouncements.

  4. Everyone likes to blame singles for their own “crisis.” And I’m tired of it too. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely untrue. Some of us are pickier than we should be, and usually have some sort of epiphany on the subject at some point, which leads to some other action.

    As a singles columnist, there’s hardly a week that goes by when someone doesn’t tell me that I’m single because I’m too picky, or overweight, or too much one of the guys, or because men like to be funnier than women, or that I expect perfection in the men I date, or that I’m too available and should play hard-to-get, or that I’m too closed-off emotionally, or that I’m not on the right dating services or at the right events, or that my flirtation technique isn’t honed enough, or that I’m not dressing right, or that I’m showing too much or not enough cleavage, or that my outspokenness on singles issues makes me undateable, or that I’m too Jewy or not Jewy enough. See? It’s all my fault–no matter what.

    Flip to the men’s side, and it’s all the same issues, and add the money thing–there’s apparently this conventional wisdom that men like their women skinny and women like their men rich. Obviously that’s not always the case, but believe me these charges get thrown about all over the place.

    I would say that there are generalities that are true, and nuances which make those generalities NOT across-the-board applicable.

    And sadly, “no chemistry” often means “not pretty enough, even if her personality’s awesome.” It’s not about having everything on your “list” checked off. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right combination of factors. At least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

  5. Oyster said

    [Bowing low] All hail Queen Esther!!

    If you but ask us to fast for you, ask it, and we shall do.

  6. Do not fast for me, but for my people.

  7. lchaimlover said

    I’m amused that the focus is on the Orthodox. I know for a fact that I’ve seen this phenomenon in all kinds of Jews, and non-Jews at that. I honestly believe that it’s the movies. We see something happen in such an easy way in the movies that we think everything should be as such. We don’t stop to consider that it’s kind of a lot of work to create a relationship. I think that makes us pickier and gives us more to judge by. And to be honest, chemistry only gets you so far.

  8. Oyster said

    chemistry only gets you so far.

    Exactly. After that point, you gotta get physical and get the biology goin’… :-p

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