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JDate and the pitfalls of Jewish, feminist online dating

Just last week, your grandmother was at Dr. Finklestein's office for her regular teeth cleaning and Sarah, the dental hygenist, told her all about her nephew who just met the nicest Jewish girl on JDate. Can you believe it? JDate! You know, you should really try JDate. You're not getting any younger, you know.

Enter the modern-day Jewish fairytale: Nice Jewish boy meets nice Jewish girl on JDate. They have a beautiful Jewish wedding, a couple beautiful Jewish babies and live happily ever after. And now that JDate is going mobile, we can carry the fable around in our pockets.

Well, take it from someone with more online dating experience than she is comfortable admitting, JDate is not the magical matchmaking entity it appears to be in these contemporary fables. In fact, there are quite a few pitfalls of JDating that your grandmother probably doesn't know about. I know this because I am a JDater and I feel like the time has come to add a more realistic voice to burgeoning myth.

One of the biggest draws to dating Jewish (besides the pressure to make your parents happy) is that Jewish people are thought to have similar values, which is generally thought to mean that dating, marriage and child-rearing will be easier. And while there is some truth to the idea that there are some commonly held Jewish values (Tikun Olam, education, etc), others are not always a given. Like feminism, for example.

As more and more of us are using dating websites, more and more of us are being honest about using dating websites, and that has led to some interesting conversation. In the feminist blogosphere, there has been lots of discussion about the challenges of dating as a feminist. Jaclyn Friedman's interview with Amanda Hess seemed to be the catalyst that got everyone talking. Most of the conversation centers around heterosexual dating (though I would love to hear some thoughts on the subject from a non-hetero perspective) and the general consensus seems to be that it can be difficult to bring the "f word" to the table.

A few weeks ago I was having a lovely instant message conversation about values with a guy I met on JDate. We were excited to find that we did share quite a few values and seemed to be on the same page about many things.

Then he asked me if I wanted children, to which I replied, "Eventually."

"Eventually? Like when?"

"Once I've established my career."

"Would you work once you have kids?"

"Yes. I might try to work part time when they are young, but I do plan to work."

"Oh."

I figured this would be the right time to say the four magic words and see if I could make him disappear. "I am a feminist."

It only took a minute or so of awkward cyber-silence for him to excuse himself and close the chat window. (How much sooner would he have left if I had said that I did not want kids?) I have learned that just because someone is on JDate does not mean they are going to share my values, especially as a Jewish feminist.

Another pitfall of JDate is the dirty truth that not all users are "nice Jewish girls and boys." First of all, just because someone is on JDate does not mean they are necessarily Jewish. But just like any other dating site, JDate has its fair share of weirdos and perverts, which speaks to a point I made earlier about the misconception that all Jews are good or trustworthy. Just because Jewish grandmas love JDate doesn't mean its users are on their best bubbe behavior. I've come across stalkers, flashers and fetishizers. (Even fairytales have trolls.) I'm not saying everyone on JDate is a creep, but it would be foolish to assume that JDate would be safer or more wholesome than any other dating site. 

Now, I don't mean to be too down on JDate. As your mother, grandmother, aunts, and dental hygenists have told you, there are quite a few success stories. At this point, many of us know a friend, or a friend of a friend, who met their bashert on JDate. I'm not trying to kill the dream, but perhaps remind everyone that JDate is not a magical matchmaker. It's an online dating site like any other, populated by regular people and all their flaws. You may very well meet your future wife or husband there, but you will probably have to wade through quite a few schmucks to get there.

As for me, I try to maintain a realistic optimism. After all, there ARE feminist Jewish men out there. Last week I met one on JDate.

16 Comments

I don't think JDate is the magic solution for Jewish singles. It's just one venue, along with Match and others. Anyone who thinks JDate versus Match or eHarmony are better - not so sure about that. I have creeps and pervs on all of those sites. Including Jewish ones. I feel that chatting, IMing or texting before meeting in person should be kept to a minimum. Often, people get incorrect impressions from it. If you live in the same city as the potential match, meet up with him ASAP. THEN discuss your innermost thoughts.

My Fantasy Date MFD: Hello, I'm your Fantasy Date tonight. Nice to meet you. LL: Hi. I must say, you are very attractive. In fact, you are considerably more attractive than anyone I have ever gone out with. MFD: Thanks for saying so. I am also well-groomed and I smell good. LL: Are you on a dating site? How did you find me? MFD: It's beshert! Nah, I read your terrific bio online. Your pictures are really cute and your fake age is easily believable. And, I'm a feminist. LL: Cool. What about you? What do you like to do in your free time? MFD: Hey, I am your Fantasy Date. Our interests, politics and outlook on life are absolutely compatible. Besides, I'd much rather pretend to be interested in what you have to say. LL:: Well, um, er . . . MFD: . . . don't worry at all about making a good impression. I like you a lot already. LL: This is turning out very well. Did you have anything in mind to do this evening? MFD: Dinner and theater? I'm thinking either sushi or Middle Eastern. Then, would you prefer a big downtown musical or a little off-loop storefront production? I have heard great things about both. If you prefer, we can stay home. I'll cook dinner, then we can make out.

Even JDate isn't magic, of course. Still, I know of no other place where I can more conveniently find more single Jewish women to meet or not meet.

What I really want to comment on are feminist Jewish men. I am one. To me, "feminist" is not a scary word. Frankly, I judge anyone who is not. I think we all should believe in equality for men and women.

I think Jewish men are far more likely than the general male population to be feminists. I don't have stats, but it stands to reason. First, (most) Jewish men have much less of a certain barrier to contend with -- machismo. Not that there are no macho Jewish men (esp. in Israel). But machismo to a Jewish man comes from outside, not inside, his Jewish culture. Second, if we are at all in touch with our Judaism (and, frankly, even if we're not) we were raised with the Jewish notions that women have rights -- Jews got that idea way before others.

Oh, and you gotta know that Jewish men are far more likely to want (not just be comfortable with, but actually want) an intellectual woman!

After numerous girl friends - Jewish and not - have assured me that online dating is fine and dandy and not the end of the world, I succumbed to their convincing and joined Jdate. After less than 24 hours of using it I would like my money back. While my issue isn't, to me, outrightly a feminist concern, it does worry me that there seems to be a lot of mismanaged expectations. I hope my expectation of finding someone half-way "normal" isn't included...

A little-published aspect of the JDate situation is that JDate has the hardest time building up the critical mass to *work* in the very communities that seek it most-- places where it is hard to meet other Jews.

In my part of the country, JDate has had the same seven men for the past five years. Seriously. Which means the female JDaters in this city have all dated and given up on the same seven guys. Twice I've watched women newly introduced to one another sit down and start small talk over, "So, you JDate? Well, what did you think of so-and-so?"

J Date is a tool, nothing more. Not an end to itself.

And every good craftsman uses each tool, as needed, just so, and never expects more.

Thanks for the insight on JDate and your experiences. I know values are important and your chat with your date was interesting to see. I recently joined eHarmony, and I believe the people there are a bit more serious about finding a quality, long term relationship. I am looking for shared values as well. I hope my perseverance pays off.

Jewish boys are insecure by a strong woman. You need a Muslim man. Try MDate instead. WE know how to deal with feministis

Tikun olam may be a peculiar American Jewish perversion of the Aleinu prayer where G-d is asked to repair the world- but it is not a core Jewish value of following Mitzvot and behaving honorably. Nowadays, its the olam that wants to "tikun" us to the point of of our deconstruction. What is needed is for us to worry more about ourselves and less about being self righteous busybodies

Thanks for this post. As a fellow traveler, your post really resonated with me. I can no longer count the number of people who have told me -- a single woman approaching 30 -- that I *should* get on JDate because their friend, nephew, cousin, sister, etc just married someone she or he met on JDate. More often than not, however, I've found a paucity of men I want to date on that (and other) sites. Either too few options (JDate is not that amazing outside of a couple major metropolitan areas) or men who aren't for my feminist, intellectual, career-pursuing self (JDating men often seem to want smart but not intellectual women). Not to mention those whose sense of Jewishness comes nowhere near my own. JDate seems like a panacea to some and, for some, it works well. But not for everyone, all the time, everywhere. If there were a pool of feminist Jewish men on a website, now that's a dating site that seems more promising to me.

Fair enough. People sort into the partners they want--perhaps it's better for both of you to have a strong signal--if the signal is that strong (e.g. it is part of one's identity), then no sense in finding out later. I'll think more on the matching theory and signaling.

Best of luck!

I met my ex-wife on Jdate. Gorgeous woman, but she turned out to be a total nutbar. I guess I didn't do enough "due diligence", ha ha !

The problem is not that you are a feminist, it is that you were text messaging instead of talking on the phone. It's very hard to communicate nuance, levity, and emotion in email or text messaging. More importantly, it's very easy to infer signals through email and/or messaging that were not necessarily intended. And emoticons are really no help here at all. I bet your grandma prefers talking on the phone, and in this case, she's right.

Anon-

You know, it's funny. That's exactly what my brother warns me whenever we discuss dating.

One of the biggest challenges of this "third wave" (or whatever you want to call it) feminism is overcoming the assumption that saying "I am a feminist" means I am "rabble-rousing, man-hating, unable-to-talk-about-anything-else political type of feminist."

Although to be fair, I don't see any problem with being "rabble-rousing" or political. It's the "man-hating" and "unable-to-talk-about-anything-else" that is problematic, and generally not true.

While I am pragmatically cautious about saying the "f" word, I also feel it is my duty as a feminist try to bunk those assumptions. Only by using the word will we eventually break the stereotype. Right?

Elana - Thanks for the kind words! There certainly are great, feminist, Jewish dudes out there. I just wanted to remind folks that JDate has its flaws, as we all do.

Leah -- Thank you for this touching post. I just want to say, hang in there! There ARE feminist men out there, even if they might not be in great abundance (hopefully in greater abundance than the 'creeps', we hope...). But they ARE there. Even if they don't know that they are feminist yet.

When my husband and I met and married, neither one of us was a feminist, but we developed it together, and now we raise our daughters -- and SON -- to be great feminists. They are out there, and you will find the man who loves and appreciates you for exactly who you are, no apologies necessary.

And then, when you are ready to have children, hopefully you will be able to help raise the next generation of feminist MEN as well!!

B'vracha, Elana

For what it's worth, I fully support my wife's career--I do everything I can to help make her successful in her line of work as she does mine (we are both academicians). However, if she said "I am a feminist" on the first date, or when we were just meeting, I would assume she was not a feminist like I am, believing in equal rights for women, and equality in the household, but instead a rabble-rousing, man-hating, unable-to-talk-about-anything-else political type of feminist.It's women's right to be that, of course--but it's also my right to take such sudden talk as a signal that I should take a walk. Better for the both of us.So before you think that feminism or working after marriage and after children are dirty words, recognize their context! Get to know one another before throwing out such a strong signal.Just a suggestion, may not be true of most.

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "JDate and the pitfalls of Jewish, feminist online dating." 2 June 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 22, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/JDate-and-the-pitfalls-of-Jewish-feminist-online-dating>.

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