Dating in the faith: still a struggle

By Charlotte Oliver, December 24, 2013

Would you rather be alone than marry someone who is not Jewish?

This was one of the divisive questions posed to a 50-strong audience during Limmud’s “Jewish dating” session on Tuesday.

Journalist Dina Rickman opened the debate by describing her own struggles between pleasing her desires and those of the community around her.

She said that, raised in an Orthodox family, she always expected to fall in love with a fellow Jew – until she had that “lightning bolt moment with a gentile from Blackburn”.

“Girls like me are not supposed to fall in love with people outside my faith”, she said. “They’re supposed to marry an ‘MOT’ [member of the tribe].

“But then you begin to realise it’s not necessarily for you. I’d rather be happy than Jewish – and that is what it comes down to”.

According to Ms Rickman, a heterosexual Jewish person living in the UK has his or her pick of 0.025 per cent of the population.

“Most of these people fall into one of four categories”, she said. “Either they are secretly gay, already married, age inappropriate, or carbon copies of Alexander Portnoy.”

Members of the audience - who ranged in age from 20 to over-50, and were both single and attached – expressed divergent views on the question of inter-dating.

For 46-year-old Mike Isaacson, the conflict can be tougher for men than for women, whose children are naturally born into the faith.

He said: “If I were to have kids with a non-Jewish woman, those children would not be halachically Jewish. So, for men, it is a harder decision.

“But, at 46, if I found happiness with a non-Jew, I don’t think I’d have a problem with it. After all, is it better to risk growing old alone, or not have kids at all?”

Erin Thaler, who is in her 30s, disagreed: She said: “For me, my only options are either to have a Jewish marriage, or have a child on my own.

“Your choices get smaller and smaller as you go on, but I would just do the single mum thing.”

General consensus was that, while assimilation grows in the UK, the question of inter-faith dating is still a source of anguish for many Jews – old and young.

Amy, 35, said: “There is tension between what I want and what everyone wants around me.

“I am terrified of disappointing people, and am constantly fighting with that.”

Last updated: 4:21pm, December 24 2013