The Jewniversity Dating Scene

By Anna Sheinman, October 28, 2011

Summer camp is wasted on the young. A giant Jewish schmoozefest, helpfully delineated by level of orthodoxy (Habonim Dror to the left, Bnei Akiva to the right, all the others please fill in as appropriate), two or three times a year, for weeks at a time.

It is a very, very good way to meet potential life partners. Sadly at that point you just 16: hormones are running high, flirting skills are excruciatingly low and you fall in and out of love three times on one camp.

Back home, the dating potential at school after many years in a limited pool of people has fallen to virtually nil. But then, as the girls are getting over their hair-straightener addiction and the boys are learning about appropriate levels of Lynx, like a magic Jewish fairy, along comes university. For most of us that means lots of new nice Jewish girls and boys for our parents to want us to marry.

And this is where it all goes wrong, via a pleasingly alliterative mnemonic: family, friends and frumness.

First up, family. Any Jewish person who you meet at university, halacha clearly states, your relatives know their relatives.

You have essentially just been set up by your grandfather

The greater distances involved, (eg you live in London, they live in Manchester, and you're both at Leeds), makes this game of Jewish geography that bit more exciting, so relatives will tell other relatives and this will result in your great-aunt cooing over Shabbat dinner about "Anna's new friend". This is embarrassing.

Your grandfather will then say "Ooh, Moshe's grandson goes to Leeds, he's two years older and does a different subject, but I'm sure you'll bump into him. He's terribly handsome". Wink wink, nudge nudge.

You sincerely doubt that you'll meet in a university of many thousands, or that he's a looker if he inherited even part of Moshe's nose, but then proceed to meet him at the first JSoc event and fall head over heels. You have essentially just been set up by your grandfather. Gross.

And so we are on to friends. If you do manage to find someone at Booze for Jews who is neither the nephew of your uncle's best friend, nor sanctioned by an elderly relative, you will have joined the Jsoc dating pool. Welcome to the world of dating your friend's exes and absolutely everyone knowing who you walked home with after the JSoc ball.

The unholy trinity of school, camp and cheder, followed up with a serious dose of JSoc means everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows what you're doing.

But if you're willing to brave the gossip and the social incest, there then comes the issue of frumness. At home you knew which community people belonged to, you probably mostly socialised with people of your, shall we say "intensity" of Judaism, and life was good.

Then you get to university, where you don't know who's so edgy and Liberal they wouldn't touch you with a bargepole, or who's shomer negiah, and actually won't touch you.

Throw into the mix people who "find religion" on year course, and others straying from the tribe while away from the nest and, even if you do decide you like someone, arguments about keeping Shabbat, keeping kosher, and keeping Christmas are all in your future. Enjoy.

Anna Sheinman is a third year law student at Downing College Cambridge. She is a reporter for the Cambridge tabloid newspaper The Tab. Follow her on Twitter, or read her blog.

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Last updated: 4:57pm, November 22 2011