Tag Archives: Jewish singles

Looking for Love on JDate

Rita Plush (New York, NY)

When my husband died after our 50-plus years of marriage, I tried to make a life for myself. But a year of lunch with the ladies, my book club and yoga could take me just so far down my road less traveled. 

I wanted a man in my life, that zing, that frisson I couldn’t can’t get from a broccoli-and-cheddar quiche, a best- seller or Down Dog. But where to find a kind, intelligent, caring male who would be interested in a creative, book-reading, arts-loving, 70s-something Jewish woman?

 I let my rabbi, lawyer and accountant know I was interested in meeting someone (people know people). When they failed to raise a posse, I took the reins. Shaving five years off my age, I downloaded a flattering photo, whipped up a profile and joined the other 750,000 Jewish singles looking for love on JDate. I worried in equal measure that no one would contact me, and that somebody actually would

After a lifetime with my husband, it seemed bizarre to have another man in my life. And how would my children react? Not that I needed their permission or their blessings but their opinion of me mattered. I wanted them to think well of me, to be proud of the independent life I’d carved out. Little did I know that along with their acceptance came an abundance of unsolicited parenting. Don’t meet him alone! Don’t give him money! Don’t let him in your apartment! Take your own car. CALL US IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE!!  

They needn’t have feared. I made quick work of a “kissy huggy type” who let me know right off what sexual positions he preferred. Actually, one was… never mind. Before we even meet, you’re giving me your faves? Thanks for sharing, fast boy! Buh-bye. And the big spender therapist who never married (not a good sign for a man his age), and sold his car for the winter so he wouldn’t have to pay for a garage. I saw myself as the designated driver in this twosome. I was looking for a partner, not some free-ride Freud. He never made it to a cup of joe at the local diner. 

And there were those who had:

Sixty-four, shorter than he’d claimed online; I said I was younger, considered it a wash. He liked older women (you came to the right place, junior), and had the habit of repeating the last words of almost all his remarks. And humming. “My Bar Mitzvah was in a hotel in the mountains, in the mountains. Humm….” was the first thing he said to me. That event was still uppermost in his mind? A small life had he. Always single, no siblings or relatives to speak of (including nothing interesting to speak of), few friends. Talking to him: 45 minutes of boring. He wanted to meet for dinner next time. I mumbled something that must have sounded like yes because he called the next day—oy vey.  Said I was busy with work and family. Mercifully, he got the hint and didn’t call again. 

There was a well-mannered Yiddish-accented gent in a handtied bowtie, jacket from one suit, pants from another, right out of an I. B Singer short story. He brought newspaper articles about his sons to show me how authentic he was and gifted me a framed picture of myself he had taken from the JDate site. A sweet man, he asked if he could call me now and then to see how I was doing. I thanked him, demurred and suggested a site for Yiddish speakers.

Things started looking up with Leonard. A well-dressed antiques dealer, active in synagogue life; an ardent reader, he enjoyed the theater and museums. He was me in a suit! We went to the Met. Another time he suggested the new Neue Galerie in NYC to see a Klimt exhibit (I thought I died and went to Art Nouveau heaven). But alas, it turned out he liked his armoires more than he liked me; breaking dates for business became a habit. Or was it monkey business; had he found another?

Would I date a married man? Separated and getting a divorce? No and no.

Would I date a non-Jewish man?

One found me on the site—You don’t have to be Jewish to be on JDate. It’s a known fact that Jewish men make the best husbands. But gentile men looking for Jewish women? Listen up madelas

He had the nicest dimpled smile. He was kind, I could tell. Here was my chance for a Christian boyfriend—a sheygets, a shander (a non-Jewish boy, a scandal), the bane of my early dating years, I dared not confess to my mother. My father? You’re kidding, right. I’d be out on the street with my crinolines and saddle shoes. But my parents were gone; it was up to me. I could date whomever I pleased. Could I though, having just about prohibited my children from dating outside the faith? I could hear them. How come it’s okay for you, but it wasn’t for us?! I could not date a gentile man no matter how gentle he was.

So, there it is and here I am. Lunching with the ladies, keeping up with my reading, and Down Dogging for all I’m worth. But wait! Social distancing is getting less distant. Who knows what eligible gents have signed on to JDate since my furlough? I’ll spiff up my profile and take another crack at this blood sport known as online dating. My age? That needs no update thank you very much; don’t confuse me with the facts. Spring is in the air, a season of new beginnings, and I’m optimistic that my new Ralph Lauren leopard print sheets from Home Goods won’t always be the most exciting thing in my bedroom.  

Rita Plush is the author of the novels Lily Steps Out and Feminine Products, and the short story collection Alterations. She is the book reviewer for Fire Island News and teaches memoir at Queensborough Community College and the Fire Island School, Continuing Ed. Her stories and essays have been published in The Alaska Quarterly Review, MacGuffin, The Iconoclast, Art Times, The Sun, The Jewish Writing Project, The Jewish Literary Journal, Down in the Dirt, Potato Soup Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine, Backchannels, LochRaven, Kveller, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Broadkill Review, Avalon Literary Review, Jewish Week, and The Best of Potato Soup 2020. 

If you’d like to read more about Rita and her work, visit her website: https://ritaplush.com


Filed under Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism

Shabbat and the Single Girl

by Leah Jones (Chicago, IL)

I’m 28, single and Jewish in Chicago. Like most single Jewish women, that means JDate, JCC events, and being set up by well-meaning friends. What sets me apart is that I’m also a JBC—a Jew by Choice. I started studying with my rabbi when I was 27 (and single) and met with the beit din (legal body convened for conversion), went to the mikvah(ritual bath), and took my Hebrew name at 28 (and single).

I converted for the same reasons most people convert, so that my children will be Jewish. I am simply missing the one detail most people have before they make this choice—a Jewish partner. On the night that my synagogue publicly welcomed me into Jewish life, a good friend said, “I understand converting for children, but why these young, single people would convert is beyond me.”

She said that to me and my friend Brad, another single JBC in my congregation. Her own husband is a JBC and he converted when their son, who was raised as a Jew, was 18. He certainly didn’t convert for the sake of the family, but when it was right between him and God.

Getting to God

All right, fine, I’ll admit it. My conversion wasn’t “pure.” Along the way, there was a Jewish man. In my opinion, he was Jewish enough that he wouldn’t marry a non-Jew, but too secular to ask a non-Jew to convert. I had enough respect for him that before I made my move I wanted to decide if conversion was an option.

I went to a bookstore and got a copy of The Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism by Rabbi Benjamin Blech. I read the book and read it again. I got online and read conversion stories, learned about different movements within Judaism, ordered more books on Judaism. I decided, “Yes. This makes sense to me, if it came down to it, I would convert for him.”

By the time December rolled around I’d completely forgotten him, was dating somebody else, and had also read Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant. Add to the mix my twin sister starting her own family and my grandmother dying from a three week battle with pancreatic cancer. I was ready to admit there was something more to the world, that there had to be a higher power.

On December 24, Christmas Eve if you are keeping track, I met with my Rabbi for the first time and went to my first Shabbat service. Instead of agreeing that it was obvious I should convert, he gave me a list of books and asked me to “try it on and see if it fits.”

Trying it On

Over the course of the next year, I officially tried on Judaism. I joined a synagogue, went to services every week, tried to study Torah, and taught myself Hebrew. I also read more books on Judaism than anyone thought possible. The first couple months I was parched for knowledge and raced through books as if someone might take them away from me the next day.

I went to every special program at the synagogue and was invited into people’s homes for holidays and life events. It was fascinating to experience each holiday and moment of the calendar for the first time as an adult. I hope that I approached it with a child-like sense of wonder.

There were moments when I was certain that I would never feel Jewish or learn it all. Once, just before Passover, I was at a large Jewish bookstore and the number of books was so overwhelming that I started to cry. At Shavuot, I’d stayed up all night studying Torah with 50 other Jews. Nobody questioned my Jewishness, but at the morning minyan I didn’t know the prayers and couldn’t follow along.

But in September, I went to a havdalah service with the Jewish Community Center. I was outside of the safety of my synagogue and this time I didn’t just follow along mumbling, but I knew the songs and the prayers. I felt like a Jew, I knew it was starting to sink in.

The week before my conversion, I went to a bris (circumcision) and sat shiva with friends. With the exception of a wedding, I’d experienced the entire calendar and life cycle moments. I could safely tell my rabbi, “Yes, this fits. Judaism fits and I’m certain that this is the right choice.”

Organizing a Library

I’m a bibliophile and love books. I have books on every surface of my condo, bookshelves are two deep in places, and unread piles sit next to my bed and couch. Finding Judaism, for me, has been the same as coming home and finding my piles organized into a library. In Judaism, I found the words to describe how I’d always felt and the resources to make decisions in the future. Words like tzedaka and tikkun olam, sources like the Torah, Talmud, my rabbi and my community.

Many Jews by Choice find Judaism through a Jewish partner, which I didn’t. But in Judaism, we find the same things—a way to live in the world, a way to raise our children, a community, thousands of years of tradition, and a relationship with God.

Sometimes I worry that I should have waited, I should have found my Jewish husband before I converted. Let’s be honest, I’ve shrunk the dating pool considerably. I risk being a single, Jewish woman for years to come. In the end, I decided that I’d rather be a single Jewish woman, than just a single woman.

Leah Jones is the owner of Natiiv Arts & Media, where she is a social media coach for rabbis and rockers. She’s been writing her personal blog Accidentally Jewish since 2003 and chronicled her conversion to Judaism on the blog. While she’s based in Chicago, she finds excuses to travel the US and spends as much time as possible in Israel.

To read more of Leah’s work, visit her blog http://leahj.blog-city.com as well as her website Natiiv Arts & Media http://www.natiiv.com and Twitter http://twitter.com/leahjones

And if you’re considering Conversion, here are a few books, as well as web resources, that Leah recommends:

Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant
The Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism by Rabbi Blech
Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin
Search for God at Harvard by Ari Goldman
How To Handbook for Jewish Living by Kerry M. Olitzky and Ronald H. Isaacs

On the Web:

This essay was originally published on her blog, Shebrew, in January 2006 and is reprinted here with permission of the author. You can visit Shebrew at http://www.shebrew.com/

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity