Archive for the ‘JBloggers’ Category

Ease of Life

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism

M’shana makom, m’shana mazel — this is the phrase people kept repeating to me as I decided between Dallas and New York. The phrase means change your place and change your fortunes. I was doing fine in Dallas, but I can tell you New York is a different world entirely, and I love it. There are more Jews to date here, more things to do on Shabbat (the Great Lawn in Central Park and touring the Upper West Side’s Kiddushes with my roommate have become my favorite activities each week), and best of all, more places to enjoy Kosher dining.

Jewish life in New York, to put it simply, is really easy. I tell my company it’s Shabbat on Friday nights and I get to be out in time every week. People on my block in Harlem know how to properly get a mezuzah affixed on a doorway. There’s a kosher section in my grocery store in an area where there are few Jews. And even in this (Jewishly) remote area of town (The middle of 150th street, where the nearest synagogue is a 30-minute walk), even the far walks of one hour to synagogues with numerous young people is closer than the two or so hours it would take me to walk to any shul in Dallas from my house (not to mention how easy it is to walk here).

It makes me wonder though — is life more meaningful when it’s difficult? Wasn’t there more meaning to the fact that in Dallas I was still attempting to keep Kosher, I still kept Shabbat every week (although by staying at different homes every week), and I still only dated Jewish despite a small dating pool? Life was definitely not tough, luckily, but there were some strange challenges. People thought I was nuts when I told them I dated long-distance to have a bigger dating pool, and the first time I told a group I’d not be able to meet during Shabbat got some weird reactions. Did my continued efforts despite people’s lack of understanding mean anything more came out of it?

In some ways, yes. I gained a great deal of confidence by standing up for my decisions that a lot of people didn’t understand, and my efforts in keeping Kosher, keeping Shabbat, and dating Jewish, no matter what it took, led me to great places that have made living in New York more exciting and meaningful than if I’d just waited to do those things here. But to call New York “easy” is still relative — the truth is, those things are still difficult here. Sure, there are 2 million Jews, but 10 million people overall here, it’d be much easier to date a non-Jew. There are tons of Kosher restaurants, but there are also hundreds more non-Kosher restaurants, many with great smells and sights in their windows. It’s not a rare occurrence for me to drool over the smell of Subway or the sight of a chicken and cheese sandwich. And while Shabbat is easy because of the number of people in my life who keep it, there are definitely moments where I don’t want to take a walk or read a book and instead just pop open my laptop to goof around.

Judaism, and life in general, is full of challenges and tests. Some are easier than others. But just because things are made easier doesn’t make them any less of tests, and any less special when we stick to our guns. I felt guilty when I got here and it seemed like everything was so much easier, I thought life needed to be more difficult. But I think it’s just become relatively easier, and new challenges have started to show — prepping my own home for Shabbat every week or finding the budget to keep kosher. The only bad thing, really, would be for me not to keep pushing myself to grow and find new challenges around me. Whether it’s Judaism for you, or a new place, or whatever the thing in your life, don’t hesitate to try and make it easier. New York has been a great experience, and even better, I’m sure it will bring me many more challenging experiences to help me grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible when the now-easy parts of my life were difficult.


The Sounds of Silence

by Aaron under Date Night,JBloggers,Relationships

As I attempted to come up with a topic this week, I was drawing blanks. I wanted to write about my trip to Europe, my life in New York so far, how my dating life is going, any number of things that have been on my mind. But every time I started writing something, it was worthless. I drew a blank.

When you’re not being asked to write a blog for an awesome organization every week, silence can actually be a great thing.  It’s not always that I can’t write about things, but sometimes I feel like I’m writing just to write.

Interestingly, in the last year, some of my best dating moments have involved silence. From long car rides to Memphis where I’m just taking in scenery to the beauty of Central Park, sometimes there’s more happening in life than just trying to get to know someone. Sharing an experience is such a beautiful thing, and I think sometimes we feel an overwhelming need to talk through things as we’re getting to know someone. But in my opinion, nothing compares to just sharing a moment in silence.

So that’s my very simple blog this week. I’ve been around the world in the last month, and I’ve seen some great sights. I know the best is only to come, but the finest moments since my last real writing time (early May) have been the moments of taking in life in silence with another person. Overlooking the beach in Barcelona, looking out over New York from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, or even just listening to strangers talk about Grindr while I was sitting on a park bench while cuddling up with someone special. These have been the best moments of my last month, and they didn’t involve me feeling the need to say a single word.


Just How Jewish Are You? And Not Feeling Jewish Enough…

by Haley Plotnik under JBloggers,Judaism

I’ve spent too much of my life feeling like an inferior Jew. First of all, it’s hard enough to define one’s Judaism. When I was asked what type of Jew I was in the past, I’d answer “I was raised Reform,” or “I’m culturally Jewish.” Now I sometimes say I’m “Con-form” or “Refervative.” The only reason I won’t commit to Conservative is because I want to join a synagogue that acknowledges the importance of gender equity.

When I was a growing up, I played with Barbie dolls and Thomas the Tank engine play sets. My engineering school has a male-heavy environment, and I’ve faced a lot of disrespectful comments and gender discrimination during my engineering education and various internships in engineering roles. From “You must be my new secretary!” to words too offensive to post online, I face gender-based discrimination more often than anyone should have to. Sometimes I wonder how Orthodox women do it. I had jobs that required wearing pants, and I wonder what would happen if I were strictly following Halakha. Which brings me back to the topic of not being Jewish enough.

The following things make me feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of aspects of Judaism that a lot of young Jews share:

  1. Going to Jewish sleep away camps (Too old now).
  2. Going to synagogue every week (Not quite ready for this yet).
  3. Having weekly family Shabbat Dinners (Why not start? I may have to find a makeshift family of other rogue Jews).
  4. Going to Jewish day schools (Too old now).
  5. Reading the Torah start to finish (I’m reading Exodus at the moment).
  6. Belonging to a youth group (They have groups for young professionals)!

Maybe I’ve missed out on a lot of Jewish activities, but that doesn’t have any bearing on my future. I was raised in a primarily secular household, but I think I still picked up a lot of core Jewish values. Missing out in my childhood just makes me more motivated to participate as an adult.

Last summer, I lived in one of the least Jewish areas in the United States. When I went to the only Reform synagogue in reasonable driving distance, I met people who felt like family to me from day one. They hugged me when I told them I was coming to say Kaddish for my beloved grandfather; and when I told them I was 2000 miles from any family, they jumped at the opportunity to make me feel welcome.

It can be scary to reach out, especially in a new city, or if you feel like you don’t know much about Judaism. Through my recent exploration, I’ve realized:

  1. I know more about Judaism than I give myself credit for, and you probably do too.
  2. I’ll never feel like I am knowledgeable about Judaism if I don’t put in the effort to learn.
  3. There is always more to learn, regardless of how knowledgeable you think you are.

10 Quirky Facts: A Crash Course on Haley, JDate’s Newest JBlogger

by Haley Plotnik under JBloggers,Relationships,Single Life

Hello JDaters! My name is Haley, and I am excited to share my experiences as a young, single, Jewish woman navigating the dating scene with you. As a lover of lists, I’ll dive right in.

  1. I’m about to finish my B.S. in chemical engineering. It is NOT an easy major, but I like a challenge.
  2. I love cooking myself a healthy dinner every night. I’m a big fan of veggies, and I’m a little bit obsessed with experimental Crock Pot cooking.
  3. I’m a cardio enthusiast. I started running 5Ks in November 2013.
  4. I really want a pet (once I stop moving every 3 to 9 months and I can afford vet bills).
  5. My Bat Mitzvah was just under 10 years ago. This my subtle way of telling you how old I am.
  6. I am a practical person and a minimalist. There are 0 articles of clothing on my floor, and I’m currently packing up to move.
  7. I am trying to live in as many places as possible before I pick a place to live permanently.
  8. I live 2000 miles away from my nuclear family.
  9. I am the youngest in my family, but I am by NO means spoiled.
  10. I’ve been single for over a year. I’m a relationship type of girl, but I’m not wallowing in my singleness by any means. For me, being single is a time to reflect on what is important to me.  I think a lot about how I can move forward into more successful future endeavors. I try to continually improve myself, and I think it is important that my match has a similar mentality (or I may drive them crazy). Through my dating and relationship experiences over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about the type of person I want to end up with. My friends keep trying to set me up with “fixer uppers,” but my resolve to only date “marriage-quality” men is strong enough that a 6-pack no longer speaks to me the same way it did when I was 19. Even though marriage is far off for me, I am often reminded that I’m not getting any younger. I appreciate the encouragement, but I am patient. I have several friends tying the knot in the next few months, but I am a firm believer in the “compare and despair” philosophy. Who knows? Maybe my feminist Jewish boyfriend is just around the corner. And maybe he’ll even want to be a stay-at-home dad in the future. A girl can dream, right?

Success

by Aaron under JBloggers,JDate,Judaism,Single Life,Success Stories

Failure, inherently, is a gigantic part of life. As your life goes on and opens up new opportunities, you are bound to fail at some point. But more rewarding than anything are those moments when you seem so on the brink of failure, and success somehow comes crashing toward you anyway.

In particular, I can remember two times in the last year where failure that I couldn’t begin to fathom came crashing on me. The first was a long-distance date with a Jewish girl from New York I’d been chatting with on JDate. As I planned to fly out to New York from Dallas, the greatest ice storm we’d seen in years began to take over the city. I had the foresight to move my flight to a day earlier, but even then, the ice piled on and basically froze all of Dallas in fear. I witnessed a truck crash on my way to the airport and was almost late for the flight. When I got to the airport, panic struck as I was told I’d miss my connector no matter what. At the last second, things changed, and they let me race through security for a long weekend in New York that, while a one time event, was still a good time.

As I sat in the baggage check-in line that day, I felt a dread I never knew before — here we are, having Skyped for two months, our big meeting finally at hand. We were so excited and the prospect of waiting any number of weeks more seemed awful. There is a certain power of getting to know someone, even over video, and it was devastating to not be able to be happy with that person in person… even for a weekend.

But as things often do, it worked itself out.

I had a similar experience again this last week. I had been trying and trying to get to New York for the summer, becoming so good at long distance networking that I started my own company to help people do it (TheSocialCustodian.com, though the site is not totally complete yet). As the one company I’d made it far with in New York was reaching a final decision, it was down to crunch time. They told me they’d let me know by a certain time, and I heard nothing.

And yet, I didn’t stop. I took my phone and called, and sure enough they were getting ready to offer me the job as I called. It was a moment that changed my life essentially, and will change the rest of my year by its very nature.

Yeah, that’s great, my life is awesome. How does it affect you? Life will bring on big challenges, and again on the theme of the beginning of the new year, don’t let that fear freeze you. The world offers great things to those who are ready for failure in pursuit of success, as I was when I made the call and tried to make the flight, and it rewards those ready to fall on their faces. Let this be the year you try to make a sketchy flight, make a new call, or just say hello to someone unexpected. Sure, you’ll probably fail at some point, but success is the greatest feeling in the world. See you in New York, JDaters.


Why the Underwear Matches

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism,Single Life

In what will henceforth be deemed my “women-ssance” of 2013, I began to develop a new pattern. I started matching my underwear color to an item of clothing I was wearing. From shirts to sweaters to socks, what was underneath always matched something visible.

I didn’t know at first why I started doing this. It was just fun and made choosing outfits in the morning an exciting endeavor. But a year later, I think it finally makes sense in other ways. All it took was me wearing a yarmulke (that also matches my clothing, typically) to make me understand.

For a good while, I’ve been Shomer Shabbos, and I keep Kosher for the most part (I’ll still eat dairy or pareve outside of my home), but I felt like until I was the best Jew ever, I couldn’t wear a yarmulke regularly. I found a loophole of sorts (I wear a hat when eating treif to avoid the guilt I believe I’d otherwise feel with a yarmulke), and suddenly I feel comfortable wearing a yarmulke everywhere. The first day of class with it was a little weird (classmates are still asking me what holiday it is since it’s so new for them to see), but it has since helped in making me more comfortable in my own skin.

What I think it does best is it puts all of my cards on the table in a lot of situations. What you see with me is totally what you get — I wear a yarmulke, and it shouldn’t surprise you if I can’t do something on Shabbat or eat certain foods. It makes it easier to turn down interviews on Shabbat or to keep myself dating Jewish exclusively. It comes down to the basic idea of both the yarmulke and my boxers: what’s beneath should match what we see.

This applies online and in real life. Your dating profile and messages should be authentically you — don’t try to cast a wide net; you want to find someone for the long game. And in real life, people should be able to tell what they’re getting into, whether it’s in what you’re wearing, or just the actions you take and the words you say. This is really just a spin of something that’s been said to death, but nothing is sexier than when your external attitudes are true to your internal self, or in my terms, your clothing matches your underwear.


I’m a man!

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism,Single Life

Eleven years ago this week, I participated in a ritual that has been part of Jewish custom for all of time: I became a Bar Mitzvah. I read from the Torah, led some services, and, of course, had the party that the ritual has come to be known for in secular culture. While I didn’t have dancers welcome me to the stage with neon signs, I still felt like it was a very meaningful experience.

So for this week’s blog, I thought it might be appropriate to touch on some of the learnings from my Bar Mitzvah portion. The lessons this week (as with most weeks) can be applied to your life, secular or religious, Jewish or otherwise. The Parshah this week is called Bo (in English this translates to “come”), and the basic premise is the occurrence of the final three plagues in Egypt (I’m assuming everyone’s at least seen Rugrats Passover and remembers this part), as well as some other milestones for the Jewish people.

It’s also the birthday of the Jewish people (so if you’ve been wanting to throw a surprise party for us, now you know when to do it). It’s kind of an odd thing for an entire people to have a birthday together, and this raised an interesting point at the discussion class I go to on Monday nights: what’s more important, an individual or a community?

An individual needs to be well-rounded to help build a community, but at the same time, one can’t be fully community focused. It’s fitting to me that this is the Bar Mitzvah portion I was assigned, as community involvement is something very dear to my heart. I’ve run a community blog for a few years now, updating local young Jewish adults with events going on every week in Dallas, and in the meantime I have also witnessed tremendous growth in the young adult Jewish community in Dallas.

So when people come to Jewish events and dating inevitably comes up (what can I say? I really enjoy talking about dating and this blog), people tend to ask me what they could do to meet someone in Dallas. The easiest advice I always have to give is to come to more events in the community. Whether you’re Jewish or not, you’re never just going to meet someone being alone.

So if you’re not finding anyone, there’s no better time than the New Year to go out and get involved in a group or two in your community. Join one of the countless Facebook pages for Jewish life in your area, join a meetup group, or just any group where you can make new friends. Life didn’t get easier after I became a man, but after finding my community, it definitely did.


What I learned as a girl

by Aaron under JBloggers,JDate,Online Dating

My last name is Stayman, and I will frequently make a joke about my manliness when I introduce myself to people. Usually it’s something along the lines of “Stay-man, which I intend to do”. I have, however, somewhat been lying about that. I intend to stay a man of course, but I have veered a bit to the other side in a sense, too.

Back in college, some friends and I thought it would help our fraternity/Jewish groups to make a fake girl’s profile on Facebook as an entering Jewish freshman on campus. Using this technique we found a number of incoming Jewish freshman, men and women, who either returned our friend requests or were excited about our “existence” and friended us. We invited kids to parties and events using the girl and we set membership records for Hillel and the fraternity. No one ever noticed that first girl they talked to wasn’t there.

Not my proudest moment, but they called me the Jewhunter in college for a reason, and I was darn good at doing anything it took to get people involved. I called it quits after that, despite my fraternity continuing to do it in the coming year to see if lightning could strike twice (it didn’t).

So then this year I posted on Facebook for Chanukah that I would re-do anyone’s JDate profile that wanted me to. Surprisingly, the biggest response to my post was from females, and I started redoing profiles. In the last few weeks I’ve done some good ones, but my best one was for a close friend. It was my magnum opus, the greatest profile I’ve ever re-written from a pretty decently sized pool of profile re-dos.

There was one thing I forgot from my days of the fake Facebook girl though: men surprisingly forget so often to talk about anything but looks. So I asked my friend how her newly revamped profile was going. “Terribly,” she told me. “Everyone is just saying the equivalent of ‘you’re pretty’”.

I think on both ends, we misunderstand what it is we’re supposed to see in a girl’s profile. Most women I’ve helped have either way too simple or too complex of profiles (ie: 2-3 pictures and 6 adjectives and then a message me tag at the end, or the polar opposite with their overwhelming life story and the maximum on pictures), and I think that makes guys panic and talk about the only thing all of them have in common: being a girl. We message about looks far too frequently, and sometimes it’s because it’s all we can manage to easily take away. So ladies, be sure to add some personality, I know for me that is usually the biggest factor. I’ll definitely message a girl with a personality before I message a boring girl, the pictures only serve as a filter for whose profiles I’ll read (so in that sense, yes, pictures are important, too).

And guys, seriously, pick out things that show personality on both ends. You’ve got to be fun, so find things in the pictures that aren’t their looks, even if their profiles are fairly empty. If they’re somewhere exciting, like say a picture in Rome, ask about their travels. It’s all about the details, so figure out what you can talk about that doesn’t mention looks.


Don’t Ever Change

by Aaron under JBloggers,Single Life

Hanging on the wall of my bedroom, there is a poster that has been with me in every room I’ve ever lived in, from when I shared a room with my brother as a kid to my dorm room to the bedroom I sleep in now. That poster is a poster of one of my favorite things: my name. Written around my name are compliments from fifth grade friends from an exercise my school completed weekly of hanging posters of a students’ name in each classroom. Every student went around and wrote nice things about each person, and at the end of the week the poster was laminated and given to us.

Some of the compliments make sense: “Have a very successful year!” “You’re a great friend!” “You’re cool!”. Some make a little less sense: “You’re good at football!” or the person who decided to write “Hi”. But one thing on my poster as well as the poster my brother has hanging in his room is one comment that I really like: “Don’t ever change.”

As I sit here on the eve of my 24th birthday, I think about how much about my life has changed in the last year. I’ve changed jobs, I’ve travelled more, I’ve become better at giving of myself and doing volunteer work more often. Heck, I’m writing for a dating website that until a year ago I’d hardly had any luck with as a user! Life is at its best when it is changing.

With all that in mind, I don’t believe the core of me has changed at all. One of my favorite rabbis once told me a story about a person who said they changed completely and made everyone ask “were you really so bad before?” One of my favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks of becoming our habits. I suppose in some ways I have become my new habits, and that’s great, but it hasn’t changed who I am.

What’s fundamental about me is that I am a person who loves my Jewish culture, I like to help others, and I have a passion for any job placed before me. Those traits won’t change. Maybe next year people will be able to accurately say I got good at football, but they won’t be able to say Aaron at 24 fundamentally changed a bit.


I’m single

by Aaron under JBloggers,Single Life

My first year of college was spent at a community college. I wanted to be close to home, I could’ve gone anywhere probably, I had great grades in high school. I was transferring the next year, I told everyone.

I always had to defend my choice, I thought. Who would be impressed by me getting my core classes out of the way for a small price? I was scared to leave home and wanted to save money, but you can’t just tell people that, I thought.

I’ve had the same stigma attached to being single since I was aware of the fact at age 4. I don’t think I ever thought it was okay to be single. It just seemed to me like people had to be together.

At the risk of sounding like I shouldn’t be writing for this column, it may surprise you then that I’ve been perpetually single since the beginning of high school. Maybe it was my constant need for a committed relationship that’s been stopping me. Maybe it’s that secretly I’ve just been trying my whole life to impress people enough to want to be with me, and that constant need to be better has gotten in my way.

In one of my favorite movies, Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke observes that he is always around himself and never gets a chance to be someone different. Everything he does, every kiss, every moment, has to involve him no matter what. I think I’ve felt some of that too, I just wanted to experience someone else, to not have to just experience me.

That’s not to say I’m not happy with who I am, far from it. Rather, I think the problem is that I can never accept just me as enough. I’ve always felt like some other half I was supposed to know is missing. But publicly, I would like to admit to myself here that I am very happy with who I am and very proud of the person I’ve become. I’ve done a lot of great things in an effort to make a name for myself, and I think even that I have done successfully.

So now I find only one thing left to do. There’s obviously a reason I’m writing this piece this week, and I’m sure you can figure it out based on my tone here. I’m ready to start a very extended Hi-Datus, as I call it, and just spend some time getting to know myself. I want to learn more what it is I like, how I can be happy alone, and how I can better find what exactly it is I’m even looking for, and even better, help others to do the same. As the wise artist Fergie once said, “This [guy] don’t stay single for long,” but as long as I can help it, I’m gonna say I’m single, and I’m not going to justify a damn thing.