Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

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.


Have You Met…

by Aaron under Date Night,JDate,Judaism,Online Dating,Single Life

As we near an important time in our heritage, the holiday of Passover, the time comes around for us to think about new beginnings. Nisan is the first month on the Jewish calendar, and it represents spring and reinvention. If Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are our judgment, Passover is the time to really create a new you.

The one thing we underestimate however is just how difficult it is for any one person to do that alone. I know I constantly try to improve my social abilities and other areas of my life, but almost none of those are possible in a world where I am 100% responsible. Sometimes I don’t feel like making plans, sometimes I need expert advice from outside my knowledge base, and sometimes I simply wouldn’t do things like skydiving or volunteering in Israel completely alone.

As we begin our new year, I’ll draw from something that just ended to explain a bit better. One of my favorite parts of the show How I Met Your Mother was the awesome game of “have you met Ted?”. As Barney Stinson introduced Ted Mosby to women neither party knew, the ice was broken just a little bit by the two people having some vague reason to talk.

For the sake of being a decent person, that probably isn’t the best method of helping your friends meet people. But what I would suggest for your coming year, whether you are single or otherwise, is to help others a bit more in the realm of dating. As anyone reading this blog can probably attest to, it’s not easy out there alone. The good news is, we all know different people, and in an age where you have dating apps that let you click “yes” or “no” through masses of people, a personal touch is always nice. Try to think of two people who might work together in your life, or even easier, bring someone around who may be new to the rest of your social circle. It’s not easy out there, but if we all suit up to help each other, everyone stands to have a legendary year.

Have a very happy Pesach everyone, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!


Lauren and Alastair

by Aaron under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

In writing my blogs, I sometimes like to remember that it’s not only single people reading. So for this week’s piece, I went to one of the sturdiest relationships in my life, the marriage of my friends Alastair and Lauren. As we ate dinner together last week, I decided to ask them for advice on healthy relationships.

  • On how they decided they were right for each other. Practicality is always king. Agreement on where you’re both headed is vital. Alastair and Lauren think of themselves as good roommates and think that, combined with their attraction, made for a great relationship. Common goals are also vital, and the practical understanding of the long-term blueprint was important in their relationship leading into marriage. They also trust each other immensely, and think of each other as their closest confidants. Money is an important point that comes up for them as something they immediately trusted each other with beyond just living together.
  • On what keeps them happy. Anticipate the other person’s needs. For example, Lauren and Alastair cook for each other when one is stuck at work (or in a classroom with me, in Alastair’s case). Basically, do nice things without being asked and put your partner before yourself. Life isn’t having sex and talking about G-d, it’s making the decisions to help each other and keep life stable.
  • On finding the right person for you. Find an environment that’s conducive for people being together regularly. Jewish events, hobby groups, and universities (within limits — maybe not if you’re in your 30s or older and not in college) are great ways to find people. Finding a place where you’re comfortable with lots of people is great, and while the university option was how they met, they still have lots of faith in meeting at community events.

One final note I’d like to make is how much I enjoy having Alastair and Lauren and their fellow married friends in my Jewish community. In Dallas, we don’t have “singles” events for young Jews, but rather events for young Jewish people in general.  While some people don’t love the mixing of singles and couples (how can you tell who to hit on?), I think there’s an added value not just from the fact that those in relationships can also be great people, but in the fact that they can give you a sense of guidance in a very confusing dating landscape.

Having two people in as stable of a relationship as Alastair and Lauren is more than just a great reminder of what I aspire for, but also a great resource to help me get there. So couples of the Jewish world, be sure to stay active in your community as my friends have, you never know who will benefit from your friendship, and the friends you can introduce them to.


Find the Funny

by Aaron under Judaism,Single Life

A few weeks ago, I began working on learning a new art: improv. The entire experience so far has been a blast. Working with Jewish friends, and learning as a group of Jewish young professionals, has been outstanding. It has also helped me to see the humor in everyday situations, and has given me more ways to think about how things are funny in my daily life.

Between the experiences so far in improv and my light background in stand-up comedy, I thought I’d give some tips on how to make light of situations to make yourself and others happier.

 

  • Write down all your ridiculous arguments… This can be as simple as the difference between a fajita and a taco, which is the worst type of doctor, or simply whether or not you should freeze bread, but chances are you argue about stupid things regularly. I find writing these arguments down has helped me either open new strangers up to conversation, or simply add humor when with old friends.

 

  • Yes, and… One of my favorite bits from my improv classes that has really improved my attitude is just agreeing with things either other people say or that I think. For example, one of my first improv classes involved blanket statements we had to say “yes, and…” to. We would then build off of  that statement and go back and forth between partners, just starting each sentence with “yes, and…”. The ridiculousness that comes from a person agreeing with any given statement and making a joke of things can always make a situation easier to deal with.

 

  • Don’t do what’s expected… This is pretty obvious, but creating characters who go in extremes of what you actually believe can be fun. For example, most people tend to glamourize volunteering, and few can find faults with people giving of their time. But pretending (with a smile, of course) that you really hate giving of your time and being ridiculous in situations where no one would ever say such things can be fun.

 

I apologize if these are pretty generic pieces of advice, but finding the humor in your life and being able to laugh at the world is a key piece to happiness, in my opinion. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but those are just more opportunities to find your funny.


March Without the Madness

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Online Dating,Single Life

As we enter March, so much begins to happen. This year, we’ve got Purim, basketball, and a sequel to 300. Madness is everywhere.

As for me, I’m missing all of it (yes, even that 300 sequel). And I couldn’t be more excited. I’m heading to Israel with the Jewish National Fund and helping to irrigate the Negev desert a little bit.

While I can’t wait to help Israel, what’s more exciting to me is the opportunity to just take some time away (not to mention being in Israel for Purim). It’s good to look away from the madness a bit — to not worry about a bracket, about what you’re going to wear to a party, or how to be part of the next big cultural thing.

I think one thing I’ve heard in common from a lot of people I’ve helped in trying to find someone in Dallas (including myself), is that sometimes an escape is vital. I love watching a city disappear from my sight as I fly away, and I like getting to start fresh somewhere, I think most people do. So it’s been a while since I last mentioned it, but be sure to make March a time to take a look at things and decide what you really want out of your time on JDate and your dating. Take a break from your normal life and see what you can change — Purim especially is a time of joy and finding new things, so if you haven’t been involved in Jewish life, now is a great time.

And if you have been involved? Maybe there’s only so much joy we can get out of one place. If you’re serious about finding something, take some time to book a vacation, make some long distance dates (or just don’t and let it happen), and try something new to make the madness a little more bearable.


Seeing Multiples

by Aaron under Judaism

“Look, just to be clear, this has been great. And I want to see you again. But I also need you to understand I’m seeing other people,” I said. This was never an easy conversation. “I just want you to understand, I want to learn Torah with you, but you have to understand I study with other rabbis, too,” I told my newest rabbi.

Since graduating college, I’ve studied with multiple rabbis, sometimes at the same time. A lot of people might warn you that getting multiple opinions can be misleading, allowing you to get too many answers and basically play Choose Your Own Adventure with Judaism. I would not like to think of myself as one of those people.

Back in my senior year of college, my friend Rebecca and I began what we deemed our “Shabbat Tour of 2011,” where we went to a different shul every week and experienced services. I was much less religious at the time, but really enjoyed checking out different shuls and styles of services. Three years later, after becoming Shomer Shabbos, I now spend Shabbat at various shuls every week, on yet another tour. And I would have to say, these last six months of “touring” again have been the most enriching of my entire life. New friends, new lessons, and new ways to connect those two things always make my weeks better.

This was especially clear to me this past Shabbat, one that I spent with the rabbi from my childhood day camp. He is a man I credit with getting me involved deeply with Judaism, and spending the Shabbat with him (and my family, who live close by) was such a lively experience. I saw how things had changed since I was a kid at a shul from my childhood, and also realized how much I still have to learn (people of great wisdom have a way of making you see that).

A lot of my blogs try to tie other issues into dating subjects. Not this week. Quite the opposite, actually. A lot of people can see multiple people comfortably from a dating perspective. I am not one of those people. But when it comes to making myself happier, I can think of no better way than by learning with multiple rabbis (or multiple spiritual techniques in general) and learning what clicks for me. This Valentine’s Day, a lot of people are going to be wishing they had someone, and hopefully you’re checking out JDate. In the meantime however, I encourage you to try some variety in your spiritual life, too, and hope you can find some of the joy I’ve found in seeing multiple rabbis.


Losing (Or Gaining?) My Religion

by Aaron under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

After writing a blog about taking a hi-datus a few months back, there were obviously protests from women all over the world. But in terms of things that actually happened, one of my rabbis contacted me and said I was flat out wrong. “Being single,” he said, “is not how one grows in Judaism. True growth is done by growing together.”

As friends and readers may know, much of my life has been spent single, and I’ve grown Jewishly quite a bit in the years since college. There are definitely a lot of things I wonder about, such as whether I would’ve grown more or less with a steady partner in my life. So I did the logical thing and took to Facebook to question other friends on their religious growth — with or without relationships. Here’s what I found:

  • One friend started keeping Shabbat after dating her boyfriend.
  • Another married couple I’m close with now spends every Shabbat together, though the woman in the relationship did not grow up keeping it.
  • Some of my friends found that being alone, whether from moving or just being single and diving within themselves, made them feel more religious.
  • Other friends found their experiences to fluctuate more than they’d like when they are in relationships, both positively or negatively.

The responses I liked the most though, and fittingly enough for JDate, were the ones that held the idea that the relationship needed that religious foundation to exist in the first place. Very few people who claim religion is a dating dealbreaker will message outside of their religious affiliation, according to a study from Wired.com (special shout out to my friend Rachel for the link). One the most profound responses came from a Catholic friend; she said religion was an important part of her marriage, and something she could share with her husband. Additionally, other friends saw this shared religion as a model they wanted to base their future relationships on, even if they didn’t exist yet.

So does one grow more while single or in a relationship? It’s difficult to say, but what seems certain to me is that there is no point to stopping the growth. It’s worthwhile to explore what’s important to you when you’re single, and even better to find someone to share you passions and growth.


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.


Lashon Hara

by Aaron under Judaism

A part of dating that many people underestimate takes place off the dating websites, and is not only limited to your engagements with the opposite sex: it’s the attitude you carry with you all the time. You can’t change that, and a lot of different parts of your life impact that attitude. With that in mind, one of my friends did something amazing a few weeks ago: they stopped me from gossiping about someone.

In the age of the paparazzi, gossip (or Lashon Hara as it is called in Hebrew, meaning literally “evil language”) about anyone and everyone is a common thing. Sometimes it can even be helpful, as the Torah tells us (and science reaffirms, through helping our mental health according to some studies) that talking ill of someone to help avoid an unfair situation, such as Bernie Madoff’s scheme, is okay. What is not okay is talking about others in lights that we shouldn’t be.

Dallas has this problem, and I’m sure many more of the young adult communities have the same problems around the world, Jewish or otherwise. But it’s become a real problem in Dallas, with a lot of people hurt over people being involved in their lives that shouldn’t be. So my friends and I have gotten in the habit of watching out for each other and reminding each other not to gossip about others and rather to avoid names (which is also not okay if it makes it obvious as to who is being spoken of still), or even better, just saying nice things about others.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with dating or your life. It’s simple: people may not be able to read your mind, but your attitude will come across in everything that you do, and gossiping about others on a regular basis is only likely to bring you down. I consider myself pretty happy, but even I do it sometimes, and I know that’s not right. I feel worse when I talk about others, even if that slight second as it’s happening feels so juicy.

So start looking for the positivity more in others and raising people’s spirits when possible. Everyone loves the person who makes others feel great, and believe me — you’ll start to love that person, too.  And really, that’s the first step of this whole thing.


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.