Is the social scene for Jewish singletons aged over 30 fractured beyond repair? As a UK-based dating coach, I was challenged this week to research the above question. "Great!" I thought, "this is an opportunity to really delve into the Jewish community, to find out what people feel is the reality, and to provide a communal perspective, not just my own."
So I needn't look too much further than my business Young Jewish Professionals Club (www.yjpclub.com), which I set up to help Jewish singles make friends and find lasting love.
In addition to the feelings expressed by those on the YJP Club mailing list, I also considered the opinions of my Jewish contacts on social media.
The general feeling is, unsurprisingly, that the older you become, the harder it is to meet a Jewish mate. This assumption increases the likelihood of people marrying out, as the desire to find love and to achieve their personal milestones supersedes loyalty to the religion.
So why is being single and over 30 seen to be such a challenge? Well, the Jewish community is certainly not short of an opinion or two.
'The older you get, the harder it is to meet a Jewish partner'
First, people have unrealistic expectations in terms of looks and attributes. Having established themselves in terms of career, property ownership and lifestyle, nobody wants to compromise or "settle". Nanci tells me, that "a potential soulmate could upset your well-arranged applecart, so do you take that risk, or walk away?"
Next, there is the preconception that all Jewish women are "Jewish princesses" and all Jewish men are "mummy's boys" and it's a perception often reinforced by experience. "I don't want to pick up where their over-generous fathers have left off," says Anthony. Conversely, Melanie tells me that Jewish men seem to expect a Jewish woman be a combination of "a supermodel, a cordon bleu chef and an executive PA".
Third, there is an ever-diminishing pool of prospective partners. It's impossible to attend every single "Jew do" event, and when you do go, you end up seeing the same people. Events are deemed to be "boring and bearing no relevance to one's interests". It is perceived that all the truly interesting events are those aimed at the under 30s or over 60s. Meanwhile, smaller organisations, such as synagogues, may not publicise events widely across social and digital media, meaning that they and potential participants are both missing out.
Also, while it's accepted that technology enables us to meet more people and from further afield, it may also be encouraging the tendency to be constantly seeking the "bigger and better deal". With so many to choose from, who is to say that the next swipe on Jswipe isn't the one for you? One woman tells me: "I think dating apps and dating sites are what is encouraging a generation of commitment-phobes.
"The very day you've met someone you like, you are tempted to go back on and see who else there might be. Why? Because the app is beeping at you to say you've got a match, or the website alerting you to the fact that someone has viewed your profile. It's an irresistible combination of curiosity and paranoia."
Some people explore the services of a professional matchmaker, but often don't know where to start to find such a person, or whether they are likely to be any good. Professional matchmakers charge as they are providing a service but not every client appreciates the time, skill and patience required to deliver. However, if cost is an issue, there are a variety of other options to be explored, such as a conversation with your rabbi or taking matters into your own hands and enlisting the services of a dating-coach for example, which may cost far less than a matchmaker.
So what's the way forward? How do we tackle this litany of woe?
Well, there's no getting away from the fact that presentation of oneself is vital. If you're out to make a positive impression on somebody, then it's important to get the basics right. You don't have to be super trendy, but basic grooming and a well turned out appearance can go a long way. In short, make an effort, otherwise why should someone make an effort for you? Research suggests that people form impressions about others based on the first few seconds of an interaction, often before you have even uttered a word.
It's also important to understand your own values and belief systems before embarking on the search for ''the one'', something that many have yet to spend time considering. It's equally important to get over your own biases: not everyone is the same and we change over time, so it's important not to rule people out immediately, or to discount everyone you already know. As one happily married woman put it to me, "relationships and marriage are all about compromise, so if you're not willing to compromise at this early stage, then you're in for a rude awakening later on down the line. There's no such thing as Mr or Miss Perfect… life is all about give-and-take, not just the taking that suits you".
As for etiquette when using technology , you owe it both to yourself and the other person to give each other a real chance to get to know one another. As one gentleman admitted to me "the grass is rarely greener on the other side". Another lady advised me, "using technology to meet people is still quite new to most, and knowing how to navigate it successfully can be bewildering".
It seems that people are open to learning and understanding the online system by way of meeting people, but don't know where to look for advice.
This is one of the many things I discuss with my coaching clients and spend much time explaining how even the smallest tweaks to their profiles can yield far greater results, while still remaining authentic. It's like learning to drive a car: once you understand the basics; you're good to go from short to long distances.
I feel very strongly that collaboration between communal organisations and synagogues would draw a bigger and more diverse crowd, thus providing more opportunities for everyone. It also means the cost and workload can be shared as well as resources, which will ultimately yield a far greater return.
I honestly believe that the dating scene for the over-30s isn't broken beyond repair. It simply needs an infusion of enthusiasm, collaboration, communication, open-mindedness and a willingness to look beyond first impressions.
I heard a superb quote only recently which sums it up perfectly: "What we are never changes, but who we are never stops changing". In other words, in our small and ever-dwindling community, we need to give people a second and third chance and not brush people off for falling into the category of "same old face again".
Get to know the personality, aspirations and quirks that lie beneath the surface, and you may well just find you click with what is already out there.
Opportunity is in abundance and faith should not be lost in the search for finding love.