Choosing to Get Off the Jewish Dating-Go Round'

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A Commentary by Shelomo Alfassa

August 12, 2008

Members of mainstream Torah-observant orthodox Jewish communities often talk about a "shiddiuch crisis" because of the fact that an increasing number of religious Jews are not getting married. However, New York City is the Mecca of the Jewish singles world; all year long it's possible to find many Jewish parties, singles weekends, a Saturday night singles concert or BBQ, a Shabbat get together, a cruise, or other occasion in which Jewish singles can mingle. So this begs the question, in a city where the number of Jewish singles far exceeds that of anywhere else outside of Israel, how can it be so difficult to get married?

Tens if not hundreds of thousands of single Jews go to different events over and over on the dating-go-round week after week, month after month and soon it adds up. Pretty soon you realize you have been going round and round, year after year. There is a certain 'madness' to it all which few often talk about. The fact is that Jews in their 20s and 30s are holding off making a commitment because they very often feel they can get the 'next best thing' or something 'a bit better.' Everyone desires love and attention, but when they find it, they often don't latch on to it. As Jews, our first commandment is to multiply, and while we say we want to, for a large majority, the plain truth is we don't. In the old countries, the Jews would never have made it into their late 20s and certainly never into their 30s without getting married. Yet, today, there exists an enormous population of Jews in New York City that are in their 40s and even their 50s who have never been married! It's a shame that people-lots-of people have been dating for 20 and 30 years and still have not found a partner to settle down with.

The scenario is typical.... A man or woman is dating. After a short while he/she evaluates the date(s) and are not necessarily convinced that he or she is "the one," but they often think there could be a possibility that he or she might be. Then, after a few more dates, they get tired of him or her, perceive (amplify?) flaws (real or imaginable) and end it. Afterward, the person who broke off the budding relationship wonders if they ever will find that 'special someone,' and loneliness sets in, while at the same time the person who was dumped feels quite similar. The erroneous decision to hold back from making a commitment into a new relationship and to hold back because you think you can find the next best thing is foreign to Judaism. This modern trend is causing unneeded grief at a high level. As women grow older they are waiting to the last minute to have children, and sometimes finding themselves being not able to conceive at all. Men too suffer, because the later in life they have children the less time they will have to watch them grow and less time they will be around in their lives. This has the added affect of stealing grandparents from potential grandchildren, because when 40 year-olds have children, the odds that they will see their grandchildren grow up are greatly lessened. The delay in marriages, often because people are excessively choosy or think they can always get someone better, has made the luxury of children ever knowing their great-grandparents all but extinct.

This is where loneliness takes control. Jewish singles, like all human beings, may have a difficult time dealing with loneliness. Whatever the reason for loneliness, often it can feel as if one's whole existence has become an empty and meaningless experience, one devoid of purpose. Rejection and loneliness often produce feelings of frustration and disappointment and over time may fester into feelings of disillusionment and eventually failure. These feelings, and especially the later, can help produce a self-fulfilling prophecy that a person is never going to get married and that there just "aren't any normal people out there." This may result in going out on less frequent dates, as you may be less motivated to "try again" or "start over," thus further decreasing or at least slowing the chance to meet someone and get married.

Additionally, it's a subject never spoken about, but many of these Jewish singles are getting together as "cuddle buddies." What does this mean you ask? This means they get together for physical contact with members of the opposite sex, not necessarily to have sex, but to find reassurance, physical comfort and affection to alleviate the existent loneliness of their lives. Horrified are you-maybe? But it's a true occurrence, one that goes on from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn, Queens and reaches into New Jersey-actually it occurs anywhere a Jewish community exists. No community is invulnerable to the loneliness factor, and no single Jew with a self-describing label ending in liberal, machmir, or something else, is immune to the vulnerability or the desire to be held by a fellow human. This is especially true of those which never assertively touched during their younger years being shomer negiah, and who watched their friends get happily married (and their friends never were shomer negiah).

Many Jews in their 20s become absorbed in their own agendas and projects. They lock themselves up in their own priorities to the point that they have become passive in regard to finding a mate. That is the initial delay in finding a partner. Then, they find themselves in their 30s, but many become too choosy and/or are scared to commit, often with an attitude that "maybe if I will wait someone a bit better will appear."

While lots of dating and relationship experience can help you grow and has the capability of bringing about clarity on what one should look for in a future and potential healthy relationship, excessive dating and excessive time delays can have a different sort of negative result. Ben Sira said, "There is a time to cry and a time to laugh" and it's true that there is a time to date. The rabbis tell us that we must search until we find our bashert, our pre-destined chosen person, yet, without active intervention, which includes accepting and committing to a potential mate, we may not ever find that proper person. If we continue to go on dates and find that we like someone, but we never choose to make a commitment to them, we may pass up that special person, never having had a chance to make a life together.

Single Jews, like any other group, date many people. This is because we need to find the right person we feel we can spend the rest of our lives with. Yes, people need to be attracted to potential spouses and they should know that he or she is emotionally healthy and is free from (at least most) hang ups, but at the same time, people must choose. Lots of dates-but never choosing-means never getting married and never having a family. We all must choose in order to get off the dating-go-round.


Link to original essay here: http://www.alfassa.com/choosing.html


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This page contains a single entry by Shelomo Alfassa published on August 12, 2008 7:47 PM.

The MTA Newkirk Station is '100 Years Old' today July 1, 2008 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Myth: All Sephardic Men Beat Their Wives is the next entry in this blog.

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