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Is Dating Only Jews Prejudiced?

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The phrase “marry a nice Jewish girl” is as engrained in Jewish culture as lox and bagels. From the time we’re children, we’re told to find a nice Jewish girl (or boy), in order to eventually produce other nice Jewish boys and girls. It’s really a forward thinking system.

Maybe that’s why the words “boy” and “girl” are used. We’re so young when we’re first told to date someone Jewish, encouraging us to meet adults would be creepy.

It’s really the entire premise behind JDate. If there was no overwhelming desire for Jews to meet and procreate with other Jews, then there wouldn’t be much need for the site. We’d all be on PlentyOfFish.com, wondering why most of the members look like they were extras on “Jersey Shore.”

A non-Jewish friend of mine was telling me about how his girlfriend is Indian, and how they’ve been dating for 3 years but he’s never met her parents. They want her to marry within their culture, and a white guy from New York doesn’t exactly fit the description.

When I commented on their racism, he said, “Wait, isn’t that what you did?”

In a way, he was right. I met my wife on JDate because I wanted to marry a woman from my own culture. What’s the difference between “Marry a nice Jewish girl!” and “No daughter of mine is marrying a black man”? Don’t those sound kind of similar?

This thought that I might be doing something racist hit me hard. My sister is black – which wouldn’t be very unique, except I’m white.

Because of this, I’ve spent a great deal of my life railing against racism and prejudice. I have jokes in my act about it. I’ve gotten into long debates (and less civilized altercations) with strangers over it. I even flew down to Arizona to protest SB-1070. Racism has always been an incredibly sensitive and important issue for me.

So why am I okay with “marry a nice Jewish girl?” It’s not often that I am left without a snappy comeback when challenged. But this one I had to think about. What my friend was saying made logical sense.

When Jewish parents want their son to marry the daughter of other Jewish parents, how is that different than an Indian family doing the same? Two white parents upset that their daughter is marrying a black guy? Two Texas parents who have forbid their daughter from marrying anyone from Oklahoma?

Is it all intolerance? Or do we get a pass because Jews have been persecuted?

Conventional wisdom says that it’s alright when Jews are pushed to marry other Jews because our religion could die out otherwise. We’re not being exclusionary to others, we’re just including ourselves. They’ve tried to stamp us out so many times, it’s our right to be prejudiced.

Well, not exactly.

I realized my answer. As I’ve written before, I met my wife on JDate because I wanted to be with someone who shared a similar experience to me; who understood and respected my background; who would go to Shul with me during the holidays; who got it when I talked about the guilt my parents laid on me, and the guilt I laid right back. You know, tradition.

Is it possible I could get the same from a Christian woman willing to convert? Sure. Is it likely? About as likely as finding a decent bagel in India.

When parents encourage their children to stay within their religion, it’s okay because that has to do with a belief system. When parents do the same based on race, it’s not okay because that has to do with irrational fear of something physical. Your skin color doesn’t define you as a person – but your religion often does.

Trying to find a match based on a belief system is perfectly acceptable. If your parents forbid you to marry anyone who prefers Superman 3 over Superman 2 well, that’s acceptable, too. Odd, but acceptable.

Well, not that odd. I wouldn’t want any child of mine marrying the kind of nut it takes to think Superman 3 was a superior film.

I know that my parents would prefer me to be with a giving and caring Christian woman over a murderous Jewish woman, any day. But all other things equal (or even close to equal), they’d simply prefer me have someone I can share my culture with. And I agree.

Also it helps that on our first date, my wife and I both ordered the exact same bagel.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been seen on VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central®, but you’re more likely to have seen him on the last Barbara Walters Special.

*Comedy Central is a registered trademark of Comedy Partners, a wholly-owned division of Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks.

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16 Comments »

  • Meok says:

    I am a black man and I researched the issue after seeing a commercial by JDate on Espn. My conclusion is that what JDate is promoting is not racism. By conscious choice, many minorities within the majority (based on national, religious, socio-economic, racial, cultural origins or heritage) marry each other all the time. Why do you think Hispanics inter-marry more often than not? Same for Blacks, Mormons, Asians, Arabs, Armenians, etc… People tend to feel more comfortable with other people with whom they share a culture. My wife is black and I do not think I was being a racist when I chose her.
    According to the Webster Merriam dictionary:
    rac·ism noun \ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm also -ˌshi-\
    : poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race
    : the belief that some races of people are better than others
    Full Definition of RACISM
    1
    : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2
    : racial prejudice or discrimination
    — rac·ist noun or adjective

    So racism is based on prejudice or discrimination because of the idea that some people are superior to others. Research other dictionaries and you will see that the single determining idea of racism is that people discriminate because they feel superior.
    Answering people who feel this website is racist, I am going to say that what is going on here is preference by affinity not superiority and I am perfectly fin with that because we all do it every day.
    Peace.

  • Cara says:

    Ok, I take issue with your argument that it’s not racism, but is rather a desire to be with someone of a similar cultural background and similar life experience.

    I grew up in a heavily Jewish area, and most of my friends growing up were Jewish. I went to temple more than I ever went to church and celebrated every Jewish holiday with one family or another. For a long time, I could even speak a little bit of basic Hebrew. The community was always amazingly welcoming, and I seriously considered (and still have moments when I do) converting to Judaism.

    However, when it came to dating any of the Jewish boys I grew up with, suddenly I learned that I was not allowed. My parents didn’t care, but every boy I liked (and that liked me back) was told he could only go out with Jewish girls. I got into a similar conversation recently as an adult with a guy friend.

    So, I did have similar experiences, but I was still prohibited. That does feel like racism to me. I still love Judaism, but you have to understand how hurtful that eventually gets. I know that it happens in other religions, but not to such an extent.

    It’s not cool, IMO.

  • bluestate69 says:

    i don’t think going to a jewish “only” dating site is racist, but i do think some of these responses are! the one comment from an indian girl who has so much in common with jewish people, because they are highly educated doctors and lawyers, like herself, upset me in particular. i would like to remind her that there are also mexican doctors. there are black lawyers. there are arab geniuses. all of whom are at the same mental level as you. let me add this as well (in response to same, said comments), many countries, including the united states, opened their borders to jewish people. the u.s., and many other countries, fought hitler, and defeated him. for whatever reason, that post upset me. it was just so ethnocentric and sanctimonious.

  • gk says:

    The thing is, it is a race. While it’s true religion is a belief system, it’s one that people are born into- rarely a choice. It’s no different than being born into an Indian family and one day realizing you are indeed Indian, or being born into a family that’s republican, and you too find yourself being republican for no reason other than the fact that it’s a habit you don’t question the roots of.

  • Anna says:

    Forgot to add – when Hitler was taking over Nazi Germany, Indians allowed Jewish people to come to India, practice their religion as freely as they wish, and build synogogues as much as they pleased. So the Jewish people don’t usually have a problem with Indians since India was open to their culture and gave them freedom from persecution. This could be another reason a lot of Jews date Indians, etc.

  • Anna says:

    Hi,

    I’m an Indian gal. All my boyfriends have been Jewish and we have gotten along GREAT!

    It seems like there is a lot of cultural similarity between Hindus/Buddhists and Jews. I get along with Jewish people sooooo well. We have been brought up the same way and think similarly. We are also highly educated, many of us being doctors and lawyer.

    I notice Jewish people tend to hang out with Indians and Chinese a lot. We’re just on the same mental level. I feel it’s the education thing?

    :)

  • Sarah says:

    i am not here to hate, just to explain that life is too short for all these divisions…. divisions were meant to separate…. rituals are for small minded individuals who are scared to really experience life. you are not breeding machines…. only breeding machines have their place, to over populate and control other land masses….. you may think im weird… but its true… we as human’s are so un-important that its laughable…. we need to stop focusing on humans and start focusing on helping this earth heal…… one free thinker at a time….. moving forward always… please take the time to really think about what i am saying, ( when your not feeling defensive or emotional ) L’chayim, To life, to ALL life….!

  • Sarah says:

    OMG! you all miss the point… even the writer became jumbled on his own defenses. THE ISSUE IS NOT WHO YOU END UP WITH.. ITS ABOUT NOT SINGLING OUT ANOTHER PERSON FOR BEING DIFFERENT. lets not get into a word game… or a definition game here, its simple. nobody is stopping anybody from marrying within their own creed, and Marriage is about choosing a partner who makes you laugh! thats the most important part… Religion is a way to control political votes and the masses! its been broken down tele-phony for thousands of years now! wake up…. smart people, you are being duped. just because your parents are duped by trees or lighting candles, its all rituals that are based on HABIT and HABIT alone…. dont related a warm fuzzy child hood memories to VALUE , compatibility and POtential Husband/wife!!! thats just INHUMANE!

  • Shelli says:

    Jewish people want to marry other Jews because they share the same culture, history, religion, and much of the same DNA. Europeans are no different. The European peoples not only have intertwined cultures, an ancient history, and similar DNA, but many of us share the same religion as well.

    I have no problem with Jewish people wanting to marry and have families with other Jewish people. I completely understand why. However, I am very upset with the double standard Europeans face when we too express the desire for our children and our family members to marry fellow Europeans. We’re labeled as racists. We are no different in that we too want to preserve our tribe, so to speak.

    I look forward to the day when we too can openly express our desire for our children and our family members to marry those of our kind, just like the Jewish people currently do.

  • Dave says:

    The basis for Jews not intermarrying is Jewish law, based in Torah. See Deut. 7:3-4.

    The essence of bigotry is personal preference for one race, religion, etc., plain and simple. The author is correct; if the choice of spouse is bounded because of a belief system to which feels obligated, such as that in Judaism, intermarriage would be an act that transgresses that belief system.

    Truth is, there are many non-Jews who would make excellent spouses for Jews, if the only reasons for choosing a spouse were kindness, humor, attraction, etc.

    The problem is that most non-Orthodox Jews don’t know and respect Torah and Jewish law and what they say about marriage, which is why intermarriage rates for non-Orthodox Jews are so high.

  • PumpkinNut says:

    Dating only jews is a valid choice.
    but dating a non-jew or someone who doesn’t meet any of your other preferred criteria while knowingly and in full awareness not really ever taking them seriously because of this, is something much worse than racism.
    Alot of people have different rules for “dating-for fun” vs. “dating-for serious”.
    I think many women regardless of their faith or cultural background have experienced this…as well as few men I’m sure.

  • Jessica says:

    Kim, you are Jewish as far as I’m concerned, but you’re the wrong gender for me :-). Just kidding.

    I’ve restricted my search for a partner to Jews b.c I can count on there being a fundamental similarity in values and ways of looking at the world. Or I can count on being able to tell pretty quickly when these things diverge. It’s gotten so sensitive that when a Christian man shows up on this site, I can tell he’s not Jewish even before I get to the tag line: “Willing to convert” or “Another stream”. Willingness is not the same as actually doing it, as Kim did, and those who actually take the plunge demonstrate a greater commitment to those values than those of us who just got this way through the accident of birth. Either way, you have to narrow the pool of possibilities using some sensible criteria, and narrowing according to “being Jewish” is good enough for me.

  • Taylor Nederman says:

    James, comparing Arizona border issues to Israeli border issues is a bit silly. No one rational in Arizona is worried about suicide bombers.

  • James says:

    This was a great article until you mentioned SB-1070… There would be no need for such a bill if the Federal government did its job and enforced our borders and our immigration laws.

    It amazes me that Americans (especially those who are Jewish) can be against a law designed to combat illegal immigration when Israel uses the same sort of laws to achieve the same objectives! And they have a security fence that works…

  • Kim says:

    This is what is good and bad about Jews. I am a convert out of conviction. Growing up in a fundamental evangelical baptist church with bible thumping parents, I (literally) kept up with any Yeshiva student. Perhaps I am too proud. But is it wrong to celebrate the completion of happy mitzvot? However I am also the most Scottish looking lass you’ll ever meet so I have dealt with all of the shiksa slurs. But put me in Old Jerusalem and I fit right in with all the other gingers. This only became a problem when I moved to Toronto. Several Jewish men that I have been on dates with have told me that having in-laws with a Xmas tree is a relationship deal breaker (even though I already do not spend christian holidays with my family). Oddly enough, there are MANY Russian/Israeli households that have xmas trees… in Israel! -they can be easily bought at the souk in Be’er Sheva. I lived, studied and worked in Israel. I tried to enter the army but was looked up and down by the man in uniform sitting behind his big desk and told, you don’t want to be here, look, what is a nice religious girl like you doing here?? He said, Go home, get married, make more Jews! Oh, if only… I fully realize why so many don’t want to become involved. I am complicated. So what? I haven’t sat around waiting for my beshert either. I have been making up for lost time: I had my on ‘Exodus’ and traveled (by auto) across the Sinai (myself with only a driver & the required tourist officer) and then by foot at Rafah for the last 100 yards into Israel. I endured the Heritage hostel in Jerusalem for weeks and davened daily at the Kotel. When I was a student in England I visited Clifford’s tower in York and cried as many tears as raindrops from the sky. I have observed the High Holidays in 6 different countries… I can no longer remember a time in my adult life that I haven’t been Jewish only to be told by any one of you reading this, that I am not good enough. Tough! There wouldn’t be such worry about keeping our faith alive if true converts, not just because they’re marrying a Jew, are welcomed without prejudice as one of the tribe. Remember that you were only Hebrews until you received the Law?! Now I live the law and love it. It would be icing on the cake if I could pass my passion and joy in my faith onto my own Jewish children. (of course my situation is more than what could ever be written here but it is hard not to speak out when I read articles such as these).

  • david bromberg says:

    oh, come on, it’s a little racist. and why do you keep bring up indian people as the heavies, as the one who are irrationally demanding that their children marry within the fold, or the caste, or whatever. there’s a hello of a lot more difference between the Hindu mindset and the judeo-christian one. a lot more difference between hindus and jews that between jews and christians. and, maybe most importantly, the whole christian/jewish thing is basically MUTE in new york because, in a sense, everyone’s a jew. i remember a friend who is now ceo of the biggest worldwide advertising conglomerate on the planet – and a completely typical irist catholic raised by nuns lots of brothers uncle was a cop irish catholic guy (and, a genuis). anyway, over several bloody mary’s one morning, he says, “david, you know what makes new york city the best city in the world.” is said, “what?” he says, “Jews.” – david bromberg

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