Dear Matchmaker Rabbi,
I am wondering if I could get some insight in regards to being a convert attempting to be successful with dating Jewish men.
I’m almost 30 and feel like I am running out of resources and options. I have developed a great relationship with the members at the local Temple. I have asked my rabbi and was advised to try the black Jewish community. I did and was unsuccessful, as I have a feeling that the Jewish men I encounter are not so sure about dating me, as I haven’t completed conversion yet.
I also have had Jews consult with their rabbi about dating me as I do impress/scare the men to the point that they have to do so. I also participate in Jewish community events, as well as Jewish dating events, in order to ‘put myself out there’ so to speak.
1. Is it appropriate for a Jewish man/woman to date a convert while the convert is in the process of completing their conversion?
2. What could a convert do in order to show that they are dedicated to Judaism and all that entails, during a date, without having to regurgitate all of the information that the convert has spent years learning?
3. Would it be best if a convert just wait until the conversion process is complete before attempting to date a Jewish male/female?
4. What advice could you give to a convert who is trying their best, yet keeps getting rejected, and frankly, is finding Jewish dating to be a big disappointment, due to the lack of acceptance and constant requirement to prove their “Jewishness”?
I would like to begin by offering a big and heart-felt “welcome to the Jewish people!” Your conversion may not be “official” yet, but you have already made the step that is the most important in my mind—fallen in love with our tradition.
I believe that the richness of our community is built not on the halachic status of our individuals; it’s built on the good intentions, kind actions, and commitment of the people that make up our community.
That said, the answer to your question(s) is going to depend a great deal on which branch or slant of Judaism you are talking about. Many Orthodox men will not be interested in dating prior to your conversion. After you convert, they will probably still not want to date because they will not view your conversion as legitimate, since it wasn’t done by an Orthodox rabbi. (Since you mention a “Temple,” I’m assuming you’re working with a Reform-affiliated rabbi?)
I’m not defending this position, I’m just explaining it. It’s a viewpoint I actually find highly offensive and damaging, but that’s a different topic for another time.
Jewish men outside of orthodoxy — many of the men you might meet on JDate® — are not going to care that you have not yet officially converted. More than 50 percent of Jewish men marry non-Jews, so why would most men refuse to date you on the grounds of your religious affiliation (whatever they happen to consider it)?
To be honest, my hunch is you might be having the opposite problem. Men are not so much viewing you as “non-legit” but rather as intimidating in your knowledge, and “over” enthusiastic about a tradition about which they have mixed (or even negative) feelings.
Just because a man is on a Jewish dating site doesn’t mean he’s going to Temple every week, or even twice a year. Just because he’s on JDate doesn’t mean he’s not also on another secular dating site. There are lots of guys who want a cultural Jew, but not a religious Jew.
I’ve had several close female friends over the years who have converted to Judaism. To a person they talked about how, in most cases, they were far more enthusiastic about Jewish religious observance than their dates were. Over the years, I had several dates tell me I was an “Uber Jew,” and they didn’t mean it as a compliment.
You are in a tricky position. It sounds like you are liberal, but you are also Jewishly observant (whether halachic or not). That also puts you, as I was, in a small slice of the Jewish dating world. All I can say is numbers, numbers, numbers. You have to keep trying and keep looking. Your beshert, your destined one, is out there.
One piece of your letter to which I plead ignorance: dating in the black Jewish community. The black and (largely) “non-black” Jewish communities are, sadly, highly segregated. There is a black Jewish synagogue in my city, and in five years, I have never met one person who goes there.
I am told that many (most?) black Jewish communities do not accept or observe Jewish customs that evolved in the rabbinic era (ie, halachic practices), so there is at least one non-racist explanation for this schism. There are no doubt, many others. Race relations are complicated.
If you are black and Jewish, I’d love to hear your views and advice for this lovely Jewish soul who has taken the time to write …
-The Matchmaker Rabbi
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