How Jewish Are You?

Go on enough dates and you often feel like all the questions have been asked.

Until this one.  I have to admit it took me by surprise a bit.  I think because I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer it.  I mean I am Jewish.  Was raised Jewish.  Mother is Jewish.  Father converted to Judaism.  Sunday School, Hebrew School, Bat Mitzvah, BBYO, etc.  I identify as a Jew.  I was raised as a Conservative Jew. I go to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  I try to spend Passover seders with my family and pass on the flour that week.   I light the menorah on every night of Chanukah and am proud that I make some pretty decent potato latkes.

But what does it mean to me in my dating life? On every online dating profile I’ve ever filled out, I always select “Jewish” under religion.  I’ve taken a few (unsuccessful) turns at JDate; both in Boston and in London.  And I am always asked the question by friends when it comes to my dating life: “Does he need to be Jewish?”

It’s an interesting question.  And I’m curious if it comes up for those of other religions.  Does he need to be Catholic?  Or Muslim? How much importance does that have in what you look for in a mate?  Does it change over the years?  Does it become more or less important?  A deal breaker?  Are these questions that mean little when they are posed about a hypothetical partner?  Are they any different than questions like – would you date someone with a child?  Someone who is divorced?  Do the answers get thrown out the door once there is a real live potential partner in the picture?

When I was in my early 20s my mom would ask if the guys I was dating were Jewish.  When I lived in London in my mid-20s she would ask if the guy was British or American.  Now she just asks if I’m dating.  I think she was more concerned about a recent suitor’s sport team affiliations than that he was Catholic.

But every time I am asked about the importance of someone that I date being Jewish this is usually my response.  No.  But then I follow it up with the somewhat hypocritical addition that while he doesn’t need to be Jewish, I’d really like to raise my children Jewish and I can’t really imagine having a Christmas tree in my house or going to church.  Maybe that’s not very open or accepting but it’s honest and I know how I really feel.

But that’s not necessarily something I’m comfortable putting in my online profile.  It’s probably not something I’m comfortable bringing up on a first or second date.  But should it be?  Should I be as open about my religious expectations as I am about my politics? Does it matter?

In answer to the question that began this post, I just told the suitor the lines about the holidays I celebrate with my family, how I was raised, and especially how I really can’t imagine separating religion in my life from the food that it brought to my life.  Because at the end of the day, if they’re not going to appreciate a good kugel, then we probably have no future together.

3 responses to “How Jewish Are You?

  1. It’s funny to read this now, having just revisited an old conversation with a friend. I’d recounted to him (perhaps a year ago?) a conversation I had with Ba.D. when Li’l D was maybe six months old in which I said that I really wanted to have another child, and that he should thinking about whether that was something he saw in his future. My friend was horrified that I would put such a thing out there. I said that it wasn’t an ultimatum in the sense that I expected him to conform with my expectation, but rather a chance for us to determine whether our hopes for the future were aligned. If something is important to you, it’s good to be up front about that. It’s not to say that your feelings will never change, but that forthrightness will go a long way, I think, to making sure there’s a good fit between “what is” and “what’s wished.”

    • Thank you! You’re so right about the difference between an ultimatum and plain old honesty about what we want. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve started to discover in my dating over the last year or two, I’m understanding what is important to me, not just in my dating life, but in my life as a whole. And I’m learning to be more comfortable with that.

  2. Pingback: How Jewish Are You? Part II | Living the Dream

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