Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am a 32-year-old single Jewish male. For about five years now, I have tried and tried to marry someone Jewish, but I just can't seem to find the right person.
One big problem is that my Jewish community is small and I know just about everyone in it -- and none of the women are right for me.
I've tried traveling to some cities with larger Jewish populations, but even there the Jewish community doesn't have that many resources for singles. Their "singles events" are either lame, or very expensive, when they are held at all.
It's hard enough to meet someone Jewish, but to top it all off, when I do go out on a date it is often a negative experience. I don't want to generalize, but I find that Jewish women are "jappy" -- they want someone who earns a lot of money, and they are critical, ironically complaining that I'm self-centered and spoiled.
Beyond all this, I don't feel welcome at regular synagogue functions, because they all seem geared to people in a family structure. On the other hand, churches in the community offer interesting programs for singles and seem a lot more welcoming.
So as you see, I'm just about ready to give up. But I thought I'd write you first.
A few times a year, we receive a letter just like yours. A Jewish man or woman who wants to get married and build a Jewish home expresses their pain and frustration because they can't seem to find Jewish dating partners, much less spouses. The letters often come from someone who, like you, lives in a city with a small Jewish population and who feels that the Jewish community as a whole doesn't offer enough resources for marriage-minded daters.
This certainly is frustrating and painful, more for letter-writers like you, but to a lesser degree to us and others who devote much time and energy to helping Jewish singles meet and marry. One of the unfortunate realizations we've come to through our work is that Jewish communities and institutions are overwhelmed responding to a multitude of needs, and as a result have been slow to respond to the difficulty faced by so many Jewish men and women who are finding it difficult to achieve their goals of building a Jewish home. That's not to say that there aren't resources, including many very effective ones that have developed on a grass-roots level. However, because some of these are small and many are spread out geographically, it may take an effort to find them.
There's a Hebrew word, hishtadlut, which means making an effort to achieve a goal, and this is a big part of what we encourage marriage-minded men and women to do. We live in a generation in which certain aspects of life that used to be easier now require a bigger effort to achieve. Finding the right person to date and marry is a greater challenge for many people than it was for their parents, who struggled with different challenges. The Jewish approach to dealing with a challenge is to ask God for help, while at the same time making a reasonable efforts to help ourselves.
What is the "hishtadlut" you can do to help accomplish this life goal of marrying another Jew and building a Jewish home? We suggest making this effort a priority in your life, the way you would make finding a new job a priority. In fact, job hunting is a good analogy to use when thinking about the best ways to meet the type of woman you'd like to marry.
In looking for the perfect job, you'd consider changing fields and relocating.
If your company was about to close and had given you a pink slip, the first thing you might do is reassess your background and skills, list what you liked and disliked about your past jobs, and think of different job descriptions you're well-suited for. You'll consider the possibility of changing fields, relocating, taking a course to make yourself more marketable, meeting with a career consultant, and updating your appearance to look your best for interviews. You'll probably be open to making some changes in your career goals, expectations, and strategies if this will help you find a job you can enjoy and grow with over time.
Eventually, you'll prepare a resume and begin the networking that will help you land the right job. You'll contact a wide range of people, including headhunters and casual acquaintances who may have beneficial connections. You'll present a well-prepared "elevator pitch" that puts a positive spin on who you are and what you're looking for. You'll expect that many of your efforts won't yield results, and that it will take a while to get interviews. Some of them will be for unsuitable jobs, and only a few will sound appealing. The interview process will probably involve a few call-backs, and you may turn to friends for advice. Sometimes you'll feel frustrated, other times hopeful, but you won't give up because you need a good job and this is the way to get it.
How can you translate this to the dating arena? The first step is to reassess yourself and your goals:
- Where do you see your life heading -- career, education, social life, involvement in the community, and Jewish spiritual growth?
- Can you be realistic about your career and financial situation? (Can you significantly contribute to a married lifestyle and a growing family? If you only minimally meet your own needs, you'll need to improve your career and income level in order to do so.)
- What would you like your marriage to be like? How do you see yourself as a husband?
- What personal qualities do you value in yourself? What personal qualities would you like to woman you marry to possess?
You should consider making yourself more "marketable," and at the same time enhancing your ability to have the kind of marriage you hope for -- such as creating new life goals, enhancing the way you look and dress, or bettering a character trait? This might be a good time to think about the criticism you mentioned in your letter and how you can work embodying and projecting personal qualities that will enhance, rather than hinder, your appeal to women and your ability to become the kind of husband you would like to be.
Your "elevator pitch" includes your basic info and life goals.
The clarity you gain when you perform this reassessment is invaluable. You can use it to develop an "elevator pitch" that briefly describes who you are and the type of person you'd like to meet. It includes basic facts like age, Jewish orientation, and life goals. It also features four qualities that describe you in a positive light, and lists four important qualities that you'd like your future spouse to possess. Although it may feel awkward at first, you'll get the hang of telling someone, "At this point in my life, my biggest priority is finding the right woman to marry. I wonder if you may know a Jewish woman whom I could meet -- someone who is XYZ. You can tell her that I'm XYZ." If your friend asks for more information, you'll also have an unwritten "resume" that contains another brief description of yourself.
Also, make sure you can offer "references" -- contact information for two reliable people who know you well and are willing to be contacted for more information.
Building a Network
Now it's time to network. It's a time-consuming process, but it's the way many people eventually meet the. Right One. Your network should include friends, relatives, long lost college roommates, co-workers, buddies from the gym... anyone who may know of a Jewish woman who is right for you. Your letter suggests that you'd benefit from expanding your network, and to do that you can consider joining a synagogue, getting involved in Jewish community projects, taking Jewish enrichment classes, and joining clubs or activities in areas that pique your interest.
It's also a good idea to participate in some of these programs in Jewish communities that are located a reasonable driving distance from your own. There may not be many single women in attendance, and many of the people you'll meet and befriend may be married couples, other guys your age, or men and women outside of your age range, but each of them can be a valuable part of your network. In addition, the connections you forge with these people and with Jewish organizations will help increase your sense of belonging to the Jewish community.
Change the way you look for dates at a social event.
When you attend a social event geared to singles, think about how you describe the woman you are looking for to people in your network. Focus on finding someone who is close to this description, rather than what you previously would look for at a social event. It may be helpful to talk to the facilitators of the event, either during or after the program. One of them may have a great idea for you.
Another suggestion is to try attending small events rather than blockbusters -- members of the group often develop social bonds, decide to date someone they wouldn't have been able to meet at a larger event, and even set each other up when the event is over.
In addition, consider using the Internet as a resource. There are a number of well-run Jewish dating sites that can connect you to someone who may live a distance from you but may turn out to have good potential. Our article, "Maximizing Dot.com Dating," can help you make your Internet dating experience safe and effective.
The Internet is also a resource for many of the grass-roots efforts that we mentioned earlier in our letter. This, too, will take some time, but the website of Sasson V'Simcha, the non-profit organization we founded to help Jewish men and women achieve their marriage goals, offers some useful links to get you started (www.jewishdatingandmarriage.com).
We believe that if you take some of the suggestions we've made to heart, you'll be able to find Jewish dating partners who are "in the ballpark" for the type of woman you would like to meet and marry. In fact, one of the reasons you may have felt uncomfortable with some of your dating partners was that they weren't in the ballpark for you at all. Their values or life expectations may have been significantly different than yours, or they may not have possessed the personal qualities you believe are important, and that's why you couldn't relate to them. You'll see a big improvement when you center the focus of your search on the values and character traits that mean the most to you.
If you give into frustration, you'll always feel like it was a cop-out.
And just like the job-seeker who, in spite of feeling pain and frustration, keeps up his search because he needs to find a good job, we encourage you to continue your search for a Jewish wife because she is what you need to find. As much as you want to be married, building a Jewish home and family has been an integral part of that goal, and you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you separate the two. Think of a job hunter who succumbs to his frustration and accepts a job that doesn't match his abilities or goals because he's tired of searching. He'll view that job as a cop-out, and dream of the day he can go back to his real calling. It's likely that you'll feel the same way if you give into your frustration and ignore the values and goals that are truly important to you. What kind of marriage would that be -- for you, or for your wife?
If you're still feeling burnt-out and frustrated, you may need to take a break from dating for a month or two and engage in some activities you really enjoy. This will help you return the dating scene with a more positive outlook. We hope that you then use our suggestions, and that you'll soon be standing under the chuppah with a wonderful Jewish woman.
Rosie & Sherry