Single in the (Jewish) South


This blog post was written by ISJL Education Fellow Missy Goldstein.

It is almost without fail that calling my Bubbe leads to a question or two about my love life.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”first-date-510

Or, more specifically: “Have you met any nice Jewish boys?”

My response is always something along the lines of: “Bubbe, I live in Jackson, Mississippi.  There aren’t a whole lot of Jewish boys my age around here.  The ones I do know I work with.  Two have girlfriends, and one of those is also my roommate.”

I grew up hearing sweet and genuine love stories, such as that of my parents who met as USY advisors at International Convention, or my camp counselors who had their first kisses under the kissing tree at camp, or seeing the beautiful pictures from a wedding of a friend who met her husband freshman year of college at Hillel. All of these beautiful relationships have created the pressure for me to find a nice Jewish mate.

But after 13 years of Jewish summer camp, 12 years of religious school, and 4 years of Hillel involvement I have a lot of amazing friends, none of whom I want to date. Sorry, guys.

Recently, I read 40 Days of Dating—a blog about two people who had been friends for many years before starting an experiment to see if they could make it as a couple. Just like any other experiment, theirs has rules by which both parties have agreed to live: Seeing each other every day, visiting a couple’s counselor once a week, and, of course, documenting everything.

Imagine: changing the dynamics of a relationship with someone you’ve known for a long time. 

Imagine: creating possibilities where there seem to be none.  

In the South, some of our Jewish communities are very insular. We’ve been going to camp and Sunday school with the same people from such a young age that we can’t help but see them as siblings, or those crazy kids who pulled the stupid prank.  But what if we tried this experiment with a friend? Even if it doesn’t work out, we’ve spent 40 more days with a great friend, learned about ourselves through self- and couple- reflection, and are potentially that much closer to finding our beshert (soulmate). OR you could find that you really do have romantic feelings for each other.

I don’t want to ruin the end of their story for you, so I will just tell you that the two people who dated for forty days struggled with themselves and each other; they addressed problems and learned from one another; they became more aware of their actions. Who couldn’t use a little bit more of that in their life? It was inspiring – although I doubt I’m going to try a 40 days of dating experiment any time soon, I now have an idea for a “36 (2 x chai) Days of Judaism” program that I’m stoked to create for the religious schools I work with.

And Bubbe, don’t worry about me too much…just like many other Jews who have moved somewhere new, I ignored the Christian Mingle e-mails in my inbox, and I joined JDate.

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