I’m a psychologist and coach, specializing in dating. Many of my clients say there are so many permutations within the Jewish culture that they feel there are many lifestyle issues regarding religious preferences, issues that can be deal breakers when it comes to making a match. Here are 7 things to consider as you walk down the path from your first date to the altar:
1. How religious is your partner?
This usually means how often do they practice the Jewish laws and customs in their daily life. Do they regularly attend synagogue, pray, practice mitzvoth etcetera? Is this something you would welcome, or could tolerate?
2. How strongly do they believe in God?
Some religious Jews may or may not believe in God, and some Reform Jews believe strongly in God. Is this important to you? Have you discussed your level of faith and how it affects your values and beliefs?
3. Are they kosher?
Being kosher can affect how you eat inside your home, outside your home, or both. There are even levels of keeping kosher. Sometimes singles who keep kosher expect their partners to do this outside the home too, or they are comfortable simply letting their mate decide what is right for them. This is a longstanding lifestyle choice that should be discussed before living together and committing.
4. Do they keep Shabbat?
There are many Friday and Saturday nights in your life, and whether you celebrate Shabbat or not will affect how you use them. There’s a continuum about how singles celebrate Shabbat. Some light candles, some don’t use electric or do any work, and other’s won’t drive. While you don’t have to be exactly alike in your choices, it’s best to see if you can find a common ground.
5. How do they expect to raise your kids?
Sometimes singles aren’t particularly religious on their own, but they have plans to send their future children to Hebrew school, be Bar Mitzvahed, or circumcised. Before getting engaged, this should be discussed to see if you are on very different pages.
6. How important is all this and how flexible are you?
You may have a preference about going to synagogue with your children every Friday, but for the right mate you would be willing to go twice a month. Most couples end up standing for their core needs and compromising on other issues. So, it’s important to decide what is important and where you will meet in the middle if you want to form a partnership.
7. What are the extended family expectations and traditions?
I have heard many troubles occur once the single person got to know the extended family expectations and traditions. Most things can be workable with good will and maturity. If the couple is clear about how to organize their nuclear family, then this can be respectfully communicated to the larger clan, maintaining a united front. This will enable you both to maintain a shared vision while keeping the larger family harmonious.
These seven issues should not necessarily be explored on the first date, but as your relationship evolves, and definitely before making a lifetime commitment to marriage.