Dear Rabbi Bernath,
I’ve had issues dating Jewish women in the past. I recently met a non-Jewish woman online and we have gotten along really well on our first few dates. My parents aren’t happy, but I’m really happy. What should I do? I want to date a Jewish woman, but this one seems like she is right for me.
Thank you so much for your question. To start, let’s go through some of the standard answers you might get to this question.
The standard Jewish mother answer: Guilt. The Holocaust. More guilt. Jewish grandchildren. Guilt. How could you do this? No son of mine … (A bit of a parody, but you get the idea).
The standard rabbi answer: Marriage is different than dating. Think about the children, the conflicts that will come up, what happens when her mother wants to bring your kids to church. With the divorce rate as high as it is, do you need extra stress on your relationship? Why reduce your chances for happiness long-term?
I could go with either of these. But there is a real struggle in the way you are asking your question: “What should I do? I want to date a Jewish woman,” but it just hasn’t worked out in the past.
In other words, I could try and motivate you, but in your eyes, it hasn’t worked out, despite your initial motivation to marry Jewish.
As a rabbi, I have my own question: Why has this happened to you?
You tried doing what you believed was the right thing, by following your parents’ wishes. Why would God make your life so difficult by presenting you with this dilemma?
Perhaps this is a test: do you want to marry Jewish because your parents and culture want it, or because you really want it?
You’re obviously conflicted. But who’s on which side? Was your desire to marry Jewish just a case of passively blowing with the wind?
You don’t need to be passive when it comes to relationships. My first piece of advice is not to take such a passive stance. Marriage is not always about taking the path of least resistance – i.e., I met someone I like, now I’m stuck.
Statistically, there are hundreds of women out there who you could be compatible with. (But, statistically speaking, the majority of them would be gentiles.) So do you just hop on with the first compatible girl you meet?
Compatibility – liking each other, getting along – is the only prerequisite for dating, but it’s just one of many prerequisites for a healthy marriage.
I would challenge you to compile a realistic shortlist of what you need in the long term. Ideally, you should write down three things that you can’t live without and three things you can’t live with. Then pursue it – vigorously. Don’t just wait around for whoever shows up. Otherwise, the right person could show up and you may have no idea. Instead, define your values, decide what is truly important to you and go after it.
And if Judaic participation – whatever that means, on so many levels – is important to you, then being Jewish deserves a place on that list. But don’t do it because I said so. And don’t do it for your parents.
If it’s important to you, do it for yourself, and stick to it. If it’s not important, why did you bother asking a rabbi?
Finally, I understand that you have had trouble dating Jewish women in the past. Luckily, we are not a monolithic community. There are some bad stereotypes out there – don’t get caught up in them. If you set up your own goals and values, and look for someone who shares them, you will find your soulmate sooner, rather than later.
We will all be rooting for you.
Have a question for Rabbi Bernath? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org