Dear Rabbi Bernath,
I’ve had issues dating Jewish women in the past. I recently met a non-Jewish woman online, and we got along really well on our first few dates. My parents aren’t happy, but I’m really happy. What should I do? I want to date a Jewish woman, but this one seems like she is right for me.
Thank you so much for your question. To start, let’s go through some answers you might get to this question.
The stereotypical Mom answer: Guilt. The Holocaust. More guilt. Jewish grandchildren. Guilt. How could you do this? No son of mine … (A bit of a parody, but you get the idea).
A standard rabbi answer: Marriage is different from dating. Think about the children, the conflicts that will arise, and what will happen when their grandmother wants to bring your kids to church. With the divorce rate as high as it is, do you need the extra stress on your relationship? Why reduce your chances for happiness long term?
I could go with either of these. But there is a real struggle in how you ask your question. You state that you want to date a Jewish woman, but it just hasn’t worked out. In other words, I could try and motivate you, but in your eyes, it hasn’t worked out, despite your initial motivation to marry Jewish.
I have my own question: Why has this happened to you? You tried doing what you believed was the right thing. Why would Hashem make your life so complicated by presenting you with this dilemma? Perhaps this is a test: do you want to marry Jewish because your parents and culture want it, or because you really want it?
Was your desire to marry someone Jewish a case of you just passively blowing with the wind? You should not be passive when it comes to relationships. My first piece of advice is to take a more active stance. Marriage is not always about taking the path of least resistance — i.e., I met someone I like, and now I’m stuck. Statistically, there are hundreds of women who you could be compatible with. Most of them would be gentiles. So do you just hop on with the first compatible girl you meet? Compatibility — liking each other and getting along — may be the only prerequisite for dating, but it’s just one of many prerequisites for a healthy marriage.
I challenge you to compile a realistic shortlist of what you seek in the long term. Ideally, you should write down three things you can’t live without and three things you can’t live with. Then pursue it — vigorously. Don’t just wait around for whoever shows up. Otherwise, the right person could show up, and you may have no idea. Instead, define your values, decide what is truly important, and go after it.
If living a Jewish life is important to you, then marrying someone Jewish should be a requirement on that list. But don’t do it because I said so. And don’t do it for your parents. If it’s important to you, do it for yourself, and stick to it. If it’s not important, why did you bother asking a rabbi?
Lastly, I understand that you struggled dating Jewish women in the past. Luckily, we are not a monolithic community. If you set up your own goals and values and look for someone who shares them, you will find your soulmate sooner rather than later.
We will all be rooting for you!
-Rabbi Yisroel Bernath
Have a question for Rabbi Bernath? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org