Tuesday, July 20, 2010

is he J?

When you are a nice Jewish girl, at some point in your life, someone (and, probably, a great many someones) is going to ask whether you are dating a tribesman. “Is he J?” my ex-sister-in-law’s mother used to ask avidly before every first date. (To no avail, it turns out, although my ex-husband’s brother is the one who wept at their son’s bar mitzvah.) So you should not be surprised, on your re-entry into dating, that those same someones (and some others, as well) inevitably will ask, “Have you tried J-date?” Never mind that you already have four children – the youngest of whom is already 11 – and, although you do really love babies you need a baby like an extra lochenkopf (hole in the head, to the gentle gentiles out there), so that the categorical imperative for mating with a fellow traveler is somewhat obviated. Never mind, too, that, in your hierarchy of needs and desires for the new man in your life (must be kind, must like children, must be self-supporting and industrious, must not admire Meir Kahane), yiddishkeit is a low priority. And, finally, never mind, that, given that you did list yourself as Jewish on your match profile, cyber-Jews from as far as Boca and Miami are virtually winking at you already, because every Jewish girl, by definition, must want to meet them.

But you are always curious about new things, and up for an adventure, and it is nice to think about spending the holidays with someone who will probably not be eating a tuna sandwich in front of you right before neela (closing services) as you are fasting for Yom Kippur. And you are, in fact, Jewish, so there you are, making a profile for Shaina Professoressa, and joining the line before the ark to be paired with your beshairt (cosmically intended).

J-date seeks to cater to the full spectrum of the Jewish world, so it is not surprising, perhaps, that you can select from a full range of options to describe the particular “ish” of your Jewishness. Orthodox, conservative, or reform? Those are not enough! Are you Hasidic? Modern orthodox? Traditional? A ba’al tschuvah? Or perhaps you are a convert (or on your way there), or reconstructionist, or “culturally jewish but not religious,” or “some other stream” or even (brace yourself), a GOY? (Okay, so they don’t actually label that option “goy,” but we all know what they mean.) You also are asked to select your level of kashrut (kosherness) from at least five options, ranging from glatt to “only at home” to “not at all.” (There is not, alas, a category, “technically not at all, but I think about it every single time I cook bacon, and I also think that how the animals were treated in their lifetimes is more important than the over-salting part of the ritual.)

But it’s when you move away from religious observance to activities that the distinctiveness of Jewish culture is thrown into relief. For example, in the goyische world of match.com, everyone, it seems, wants to be outside. "I'm happiest sailing my boat!" "Just slather on the sunblock, drink plenty of water, and spend the day outside, from sunrise to sunset." (Wait! Sunrise? Sunset? That's our song! But this tune is a little different.) Whereas match provides you with a plethora of athletic activities -- from aerobics to weight-lifting to inline skating, hunting and fishing and whatever, J-date’s choices in that realm are somewhat limited. (They do, however, list "gambling" as an option, something missing from the gentile site.) On the other hand, the world of culture on J-date is far more diverse: not just "music and concerts" (the match checkbox) but a variety of choices, including, but not limited to reggae, ska, hiphop, opera, symphony, top forty, country and easy listening. There's not merely dancing but tango, ballroom and line. And music theater is definitely an option.

But the real smorgasbord (or early bird buffet, to remain in our people’s lexicon) is when it comes to food. Knowing that the universal Jewish response to match’s diffident, “do you enjoy dining?” is a resounding “Is the pope catholic?”, J-date requires you to provide your opinion regarding approximately forty different types of cuisine, including Korean, barbecue and soul food. Finally! A yenta website that gets to the essential issues!

Unfortunately, though, when you finally look at the matches, it’s the same old same old. I don’t mean literally (although probably that, too), but, like their gentile counterparts they like sailing or their Harley (what is it with men of a certain age and their motorcycles?) or they like to cook; they know they are supposed to like holding hands and watching "Casablanca" (remember about the lilypads?) and they want to find – that special someone.

So Shaina's going to hang up her tsitsits (no, this has nothing to do with bras!) and stick with ecumenicism. After all, what's more jewish than a buffet?

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