Friday, November 19, 2010

Shabbat Shalom! The Dating Convert Edition

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful Shabbat! I'm not feeling so well again, so my Shabbat is probably going to consist of a book and my bed!

But now to my weekly ramble... (since that's so different from what I normally post! Hah!)

On the Aish website, there is a running series called the Dating Maze. As you might guess, it's about dating! People can submit questions and get advice. This week, the letter came from a woman who converted about 2 years ago (Dating Maze #321: New Jew Blues). She's 34 and never married.

It's a pretty interesting article, but only partially because of what it says.

I especially like that the letter writer brought up how people talk about how, if you're an "older single" and looking for an orthodox Jew who hasn't been previously married, you're not going to find anyone "normal." To quote her, "The dates I’ve had are simply not suitable – either they haven't 'found' themselves yet in terms of life direction, or are not yet established in a career, or simply are not functioning well overall." Even from my secular past, I'd say that's still really true. I've had more than my share of "non-functioning" first dates!

What bothered me? This letter writer has been converted for 2 years. She's not really that "new" of a Jew. And heaven only knows how many years it took her to convert! Here is a quote from the beginning of the response: "We usually advise people in such situations to wait a while before starting to date. That's because they're only at the beginning of an amazing journey and are still acquiring basic Jewish knowledge, developing a worldview, and discovering the direction in which they'd like to grow spiritually. They need to know themselves a bit better before they can decide exactly what they're looking for in a marriage partner."

If you've been through an orthodox conversion 2 years before, you should have all of those questions answered as best as they can at this moment in time. And I can guarantee she's got more than "basic Jewish knowledge"! Orthodox conversion is HARD. Cross-reference this morning's post: Is There a Stigma Against Converts? This Aish article really helps illustrate those kinds of stereotypes, particularly the one pointed out in my post's comments by Sarah, who has problems with people assuming she is Jewishly "clueless." Two years of being an orthodox Jew should more than qualify you as having a Jewish worldview and a spiritual direction. And if she's like most orthodox converts I know, she probably had 3-5+ years in the orthodox Jewish community before her conversion. Basically, this answer is for a BT. Two years as a BT can be a very short time, and if they mark two years ago as the time they became observant, that usually means that's when they really began. A convert has not just begun his or her "Jewish life" at conversion. It begins years before that.

What did they get right? Don't hold out for a never-married person over 30 in the orthodox community. They exist, but it's rare. So many people get married young by secular standards, mainly because there is enormous pressure in the Jewish world (orthodox or not!) to get married and have 17 babies.

What's disturbing in all this? That I'm turning 27 in April, have at least 1-2 years until my conversion (if not more), and people are already making me feel like an old maid. If I had a nickle for every time someone said, "Well, I hope you're able to get married by 30! It's so difficult for a woman after that!" Even at 26, I'm considered an "older single."

In the end, none of this debate personally matters to me right now. I can't date until the conversion is over. And quite frankly, it's kinda nice. There'll be more about this later, but the gist is that I can be selfish and take care of my own needs rather than worrying about the needs of someone else. That makes for a saner law student/conversion candidate/person. If I added another responsibility to my plate, I might just implode.

 UPDATE: I went back and read the comments below the Aish article. I found a particularly disturbing one:
Rachel joined the Jewish people for spiritual reason not to find a Jewish man, we hope. The state God calls you is usually the state you remain in. Not in all cases, but it does put it in the right light why a person converts to begin with is to walk closer to God's will. God's will for Rachel may be strictly a spiritual one, given the amount of time spent in studies and contemplation for some time, will greatly benefit and can be used by God for his purposes for the help of the Jewish people.
You read constantly that Jewish men are marrying non Jews, so if that was her goal, she would of had a better chance as a non Jew. Not trying to be negative on this, it's just that I don't think it's right that the moment of conversion, her first thoughts is Now to look for the Jewish man she is to marry, and whining that there isn't anyone. There are tons of Jewish women waiting in line to marry Jewish men, for we had been told too since we were old enough to be thinking on the lines of dating and marrying, this is God's will. Having a Jewish Soul, you are complete. A Soul-Mate is someone to join together with to further God's plan on this earth, not to make us complete, we already are.
So...if you come into the Jewish people single, G-d wants you to remain single?? And waiting two years after conversion implies that she was in the mikvah and said, " I can go hunt down Jewish men!" How terrible to assume that she has converted specifically for the purpose of marrying Jewish men and that if that was her goal, she should have created an intermarriage! And on the practical level, converting at 32, yes, your first "task" is try to get married. The marriage/babies pressure is there just as much for converts as for born-Jews, except we get it from complete strangers (and rabbis!) instead of our mothers! And as a good Southern woman, "Not trying to be negative over this..." is the equivalent of "G-d love her/Bless her heart, but..."

Not to mention that this author implies that "Jewish women" (I suppose she means "born-Jewish women") have priority over convert women to get married to Jewish men.

Quite frankly, this kind of talk is offensive (not to mention cruel/heartless), against the Torah, and should be pointed out as such. Every. single. time. This is unacceptable.

Stereotypes in action. Oy vey!


  1. I rarely read that column anymore because of stuff like this. I don't think the advice is necessarily applicable to BTs either. I mean, two years is a long time. Also, someone who becomes frum in her thirties is probably more mature and has a better-developed worldview than someone who, say, got involved with NCSY two years ago in ninth grade.

    What really got to me about their answer was the comment tacked on about how Jewish cooking might not match her personality style. Huh? Do they really think her situation is so challenging because she's not used to Jewish food???

  2. You're completely right, Sarah. And the cooking comment cracked me up! Not to mention that they assume coverts can't do Jewish food! Stereotype alert!

  3. For anyone who's still reading this, someone posted a very eloquent response to this commenter. I think she summed it up well!

    "You write: "The state God calls you is usually the state you remain in." What is your source for this belief? You also write: "Having a Jewish Soul, you are complete. A Soul-Mate is someone to join together with to further God's plan on this earth, not to make us complete, we already are." Actually, this is NOT what Judaism teaches about marriage, at all! I strongly suggest you read articles about marriage on this site and other sites promoting Torah Judaism, and discover the truth about this matter. Reading between the lines, I think you're setting up a different standard for Rachel because she was not born Jewish. That is wrong, going against the teachings of Torah Judaism. "V'ahavta es ha ger." Furthermore, there is little doubt that her Beis Din would have *urged* her to try to get married, since she is still young enough to start a family."

  4. This, quite honestly, made me feel a bit sick! It's so saddening that some people think like this.

  5. All I can say about those insensitive, clueless commenters is ugh!

  6. I should hope that the Jewish mentors/support for converts take the job seriously including helping to find a spouse. My neighbors did that and are considered granparents to the couple's children. The convert is like a new baby, and the mentors treat her as their child, including finding her a husband, which they certainly did.

  7. Batya, I love hearing stories like that! Thank you for sharing it! Let's hope we are all as lucky as that person was to find wonderful mentors/supporters!