“I’m actually Jewish.”
The faith question had been left conspicuously blank in his Match.com profile. Based on experience I assumed why, yet I can never be 100 percent certain until I learn otherwise. But as I heard those familiar words during our first phone call, a self-deprecating confession of sorts, I felt just a wee bit excited with this added knowledge, much like Judy Benjamin did in the 1980 comedic film, “Private Benjamin,” when she learned her sexy French love interest, Dr. Henri Alan Tremont, played by Armand Assante, was Jewish. Then, and only then, did she agree to sleep with him.
I don’t know what it is but I, like Judy Benjamin, am a sucker for a handsome Jewish man. Not that I haven’t dated non-Jewish guys before. I have. And I am open to meeting men of other religions besides my own. But I do list in my profile openly, and proudly I might add, that I’m Jewish. Yes, I realize on a secular site like Match.com I am exposing myself to rejection from those who want to date only women of their own faith, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to see whomever he or she wants. Yes, my candor does occasionally subject me to such left-handed compliments as, “You’re too beautiful to be Jewish.” But the choice how to react still remains all mine.
More than a few Jewish guys have revealed to me how they are either apathetic about their faith or don’t like to date Jewish women at all. When I hear such preemptive statements or witness outright efforts to initially masquerade Jewish descent, I stop and wonder what causes these men to feel such shame.
I admit I’m not religious. I don’t keep a kosher home and have zero desire to do so. I rarely attend synagogue, not even on High Holy Days. And I eat shellfish and pork wholeheartedly.
I am spiritual, though, but not not Jewish enough to classify myself under the Match.com catchphrase, “Spiritual but not religious.” I firmly believe religious faith, whichever faith it might be, plays a relevant part in picking a potential partner, regardless of whether it is the first, second, or umpteenth time around. Apart from the logistics of being entrenched in organized religion, i.e. dietary rules, chosen houses of worship, and the specific scripture from which we pray, a long history of traditions and values should be thoughtfully considered and not readily dismissed.
Interfaith marriages can be successful. I don’t deny that and have witnessed those of friends and family. But achieving such satisfactory integration requires first taking pride in our identity. And then, through education and learning, gaining an understanding of what it is we choose to renounce or embrace.
I am confounded by the apparent sense of self-loathing exhibited by so many Jews. Faith is only one part of who we are. Religious identity should be worn with pride, not fear or shame. If a potential match doesn’t want to be with us because of our beliefs, revealing them later will likely make little, if any, difference. And, it begs the question, why would we want to be with a person who doesn’t want to be with us?
Own up. Be proud. There are a lot of women out there looking for a mensch. And there are a lot of men who would be only too happy to find themselves a balabusta. Leaving out information or hiding behind ambiguous titles only postpones what will eventually be or not be.
So feel free to tick that “Jewish” box. You’re not bragging. You’re kvelling.