Dating Profile or Religious Check-In?


Filling out the JDate questionnaire made me evaluate how religious I could picture myself becoming.

by Michelle Cove

The reason I joined JDate eight years ago was that I needed a new strategy. I had dated and even lived with intense, moody, creative men of various ethnicities, but it always resulted in torrential break-ups. After yet one more disastrous blowout with the last guy (a handsome filmmaker from Dublin), I decided that I was going to have to retrain myself when it came to “my type.” Maybe I’d have to try the opposite, the type of guy I’d never really considered. So I thought about what that might be, and was surprised when I realized that—for whatever complicated reasons—I’d never dated guys from my own tribe. It seemed like a good place to start, and since JDate was becoming a mega–social force, I knew where to find them.

Making this decision was also, I now see, a way of dipping my toe back into Jewish waters. I had experienced the all-too-familiar infuriating Hebrew school experience, which left me cynical and turned off by religion. Sure, I continued to celebrate all the major holidays and identified as a Jew, but I turned my back on learning about the religion and discussing key aspects of it with friends and family. So in addition to finding a new type of guy, this was a way of easing back in.

How far would I go?

The first step was to fill out the profile. Should be easy enough, I figured. I’d just have to type in what crucial qualities I was looking for, what I brought to the table, and the various films, books, and food I gravitated to. But then a new category of questions popped up: Would I date somebody kosher or who went to synagogue once or more a week? Did I care about a man’s affiliation or whether he was engaged with the Jewish community? Huh. Would I be willing to separate my milk from my meat forever if it meant being with a partner that I loved? Would I consider going to synagogue several times a month if it meant finding someone to raise a family with?

Each time a question arose regarding my religious preferences, I felt stymied. Making compromises is something you sort through when you meet the right person, not before you meet him. If you asked me what I thought of meeting a diehard Red Sox fan (like the rest of the city I live in), I would say no thanks. I could care less about sports and would rather be with someone who would view game night as the perfect opportunity to make reservations at a hard-to-get-into restaurant. But that’s different than meeting a guy, connecting, dating, and then falling in love—in the process learning that he was a diehard Sox fan. By that point, I’d be thinking “who cares?” Meeting someone you can imagine spending a lifetime with is a pretty rare occurrence, and who would cast that aside over an unmatched lifestyle choice? At some point, I might even sit and watch games with him; maybe I’d even learn to like it?

So while I wasn’t looking for someone highly observant, it struck me as ridiculous to shut out men who might be more observant than me, limiting my pool of potentials. I knew I couldn’t go from totally secular to Orthodox, but clearly I could make some compromises. Isn’t that a huge part of being in a relationship anyway: accepting the other person as they are and also finding middle ground where you can? So I checked off that I would be open to a man who wanted a kosher kitchen and went to synagogue every week. And I left room open for the possibility that maybe my religious feelings would shift as a result.

Finding a cut-off point

I dated about 10 different men from JDate, some multiple times. What I found is that there are moody jerks within every sphere, and it’s up to us to avoid picking them (or at least dumping them early in the game). And it is true that there are a lot of Jewish men who are being less than honest about height and hair amount (stop wearing baseball caps in your photo if you’re bald; it’s not that big of a deal and we’re going to find out). That said, I had no horror stories, and it was really lovely dating guys who came with a built-in set of Jewish references, whether it was discussing the merits of John Stewart’s Jewish jokes or favorite “Jewish soul food” recipes or liberal leanings. It was educational to see how different Jews thought about their religious identity and what it meant to them. I liked that if things kept progressing with a guy I liked, I wouldn’t have to worry about going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve or about trying to balance Passover and Easter egg hunts in our future child’s life.

In regard to the religious angle, I did date men who kept kosher and were more involved in Jewish life than I was. In the end, however, I married a JDater who was pretty much on the same wavelength regarding our beliefs. He was the one I fell in love with. Had he been more observant, I would have made adjustments in my life. It’s still hard to answer how many adjustments I would have made or how dramatic those adjustments would have been; surely there would have been a cut-off point, I just don’t know where it would have been.

I find now that we have a “JBaby” together, it is actually me who often pushes for more religion in our lives. I am the one who arranges for Shabbat dinners with our close friends and who brings up the idea of our little girl going to Hebrew school some day (if we can find a kinder and gentler learning experience for her) and making sure she understands that our family is Jewish. And my admittedly apathetic husband makes room for this because these are the kind of compromises one makes room for in the name of keeping an intimate relationship.

About the Author

Michelle Cove
Michelle Cove is the Editor of 614.

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