Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am 23 and in graduate school. For years, my family has rightfully expected that I date Jews and that I marry a "nice Jewish woman." I have the same goals in mind, but in order to find someone who understands my lifestyle, I need someone who is a classical musician, like myself. Unfortunately in all my years of experience in orchestras and music schools (mostly since I was 16), I have met few Jewish women and the ones I have met were almost always not interested in Judaism. This is clearly frustrating because while they were often quite wonderful musicians, they lacked the spiritual side of things and many even rebelled against the religion by only dating non-Jews (or so it seemed).
Meanwhile, my parents have always hoped that I would find "the one" every time I have gone to a new school or a new summer music festival. The problem is that this has made me very lonely because I have rarely been able to invest my emotions in one person. The very few times I have had girlfriends (the only Jewish one was not a musician), I have perhaps gone overboard, already thinking of marriage.
Because of all this, today I find myself in a logical position that upsets my family. I have just started a relationship with a wonderful non-Jewish woman who has some interest in Judaism. I am even more upset now because my family won't even consider the possibility that she can convert and they are convinced that the children would be confused in terms of their identity. As you can see, I am in a position where nothing can work, and while I realize that I do not in any way need to find my soul mate right now, I feel that dating a "genetic Jew" who has little Jewish feeling is worse than dating a "potential Jew" who might enhance the life of my children Jewishly.
What's your take on all this?
Our perspective is influenced by the fact that we each have been happily married for close to 30 years to husbands who have avocations that are very different than our own. And we have the perspective of having worked for many years with married couples and with marriage-oriented singles. Finally, one of us is the sister of a classically-trained musician.
We can see that music is a vital part of your life, and it heavily influences your decisions about the future. We can understand why you feel compelled to date someone who shares your passion for music and will be able to understand you and the lifestyle you expect to lead. In fact, we've sometimes heard similar sentiments from people engaged in other fields of study, such as medicine and art, who strongly believe that only someone who shares their passion can truly understand them. We can understand why you feel as if your passion for music will be the central focus of your life and your marriage.
Right now, you expect that your shared passion for music will be a significant factor in your relationship with the woman you marry. It may be the factor that you expect will initially draw you together. However, marriage is based on an emotional connection between people and not on their shared passion for something -- be it art, music, politics, medicine, or even serving the Jewish community. Each of us is a very complex being, and we operate on many levels. You will connect on many levels with the person you will someday marry, most of which will not be related to your music, and it is on these levels that she will truly "understand" you.
It has been our observation that most artists are married to someone whose talents lie in a completely different realm, and that their spouses are not necessarily as driven as they are. This highlights one fact you may not be aware of, simply because you aren't married -- that married life is much more multi-dimensional than you can currently envision.
What we are saying is that despite your belief that you should seek a classical musician as a spouse, there are other qualities which you would be better off focusing on. High on the list should be someone who respects your love of music -- even though she does not share your "passion." Anyone who has a passion should be married to someone who respects, even admires, what is so important to them.
There are many Jewish women who meet these criteria, including women with musical training, or who work in a music-related field, or who simply love to listen to classical and other kinds of music. In fact, we personally know of a number of Jewish women who are classically trained musicians (sorry, they're married!) and who are working as music therapists, music teachers, or who continue to play and/or perform even though they are engaged in non-musical careers.
Music alone cannot guide your choice of dating partners. We suggest that you set aside a few hours one evening to write down your thoughts about the future -- the direction you would like to see your life take and the type of home and family you would like to have. Give some thought to the lifestyle you will have as a classical musician -- the constant travel to different performance venues and the resulting time away from your family, performance hours that may cut into quality family time, the less-than-ideal salary.
An ideal marriage partner for you would be a woman whose own career and lifestyle choices can be compatible with yours, not someone whose choices will be identical. In fact, a marriage with two musicians in different orchestras would probably be very difficult to sustain.
A significant part of your thinking during this exercise should also be on the personal qualities you would like your lifetime partner to possess. Remember that you are not looking for a carbon copy of yourself. Life would be so boring if each of us married an opposite-gender version of ourselves!
Come back to what you have written a few days later, refine your thoughts, and narrow down your list of personal qualities to only four.
Now focus on finding a dating partner who seems to have these qualities. Even though you have developed an attraction for a non-Jewish woman, your letter tells us that your family always expected you to find a Jewish spouse, but it seems to us that this has also been your expectation. You appear to be a spiritual person and Judaism will probably play a greater role in you life as you get older, and when you raise a family. We've observed that people's spirituality often grows as they mature. As important as you feel it is to have as shared love of music with your spouse, we believe it is even more important to have someone whose ideas of a Jewish home and raising children are similar to yours.
Since you obviously have an interest in Judaism, we encourage you to look for dating partners in places where you can meet or be introduced to Jewish women. You can explore Jewish Internet dating sites, take an adult education or outreach course on a Jewish topic, volunteer for a Jewish community service project, and get involved in your local synagogue. Many of these activities will help you strengthen your connection to and appreciation of Judaism, while at the same time helping you meet the Jewish woman who is really right for you. You might meet someone yourself, or, as you develop friendships with other Jews, it may be that one of these friends will know someone who is right for you.
We believe that you will have an easier time finding a Jewish woman whose spirituality and personality are compatible to your own, and who shares or appreciates you commitment to music, by following the approaches we have suggested, rather than by using classical music training as your primary criterion for a potential dating partner. All the best,
Rosie & Sherry