You’re reading this page, which means that you have at least some interest in Jewish dating. You’re probably Jewish yourself (why else would you want to use a Jewish dating site, right?), or maybe you just think you would be more successful in dating and marriage if you joined the tribe (or a member of the tribe).
Whatever the reason we’ve decided to try and clarify things for you a bit. There are a lot of stereotypes and myths related to Jewish dating. Some of them might be true. Others, wishful thinking. Some, blatant antisemitism. In this series of pages we’re making it our mission to set you straight (no pun intended) regarding everything you want to know about this subject.
Fundamentals – Jewish DNA
First, a brief introduction is in order. For thousands of years, probably close to 4,000, since the patriarch Abraham began his grand nation building project, the Jewish People have stuck to their own when it comes to marriage. Sure things were a little fluid the days of the Patriarchs, but once Jacob and his 12 sons went down to Egypt for a few hundred years of bondage, and certainly after the Exodus, marrying exclusively Jewish was a requirement set in stone (literally).
Nothing much has changed in that department over the last 4,000 years. The rules of traditional Jewish that define who is a Jew are still the same. It’s pretty simple: if your mother is Jewish, you’re Jewish too. Your dad is pretty much irrelevant in this equation.
Let’s run through some example to clarify:
1. IF Mom = Jew AND Dad = Jew THEN You = Jew
2. IF Mom = Catholic AND Dad = Jew THEN You = Non-Jew
3. IF Maternal Grandma = Jew THEN You = Jew Got it?
In traditional Judaism the religion is defined by the mother, period. Why was it set up this way? There isn’t any specific reason given. If you want to guess, it probably relates to the fact that you can more easily and definitively prove the connection between a child and its mother than between a child and its father. Think about it.
Conversion to Judaism
So you need to be born of a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish. But wait, there’s another way to enter the tribe: Conversion. Judaism is not a religion based on race or ethnicity. There are Jews of all different colors from all parts of the globe. If you stroll through practically any Israeli city you’ll come across Jews that are black (usually Ethiopian), Asian, Indian, Arab and yes, Caucasian.
If you want to become Jewish you need to go through a conversion process. The details of conversion are beyond the scope of this little old dating site but in short, you need to accept the precepts of Jewish observance, immerse in a Mikvah (a ritual pool) and, if you’re a man, get circumcised (still interested?). That could be why there are usually far more women converts then men.
Once you’ve converted you’re a full fledged Jews and eligible to marry within the tribe. The one exception is that you can’t marry a Cohen — which is a descendant of the ancient priestly class that used to minister in the Temple in Jerusalem. How do you know who is a Cohen? Many of them have last names that include the words Cohen, Katz, Kagan … but the only way you’ll really know is if you ask or they tell.
It was all pretty simple — you were either born of a Jewish mother or converted — until about 150 ago. That’s around when Judaism began breaking into different denominations. The Orthodox didn’t change. The Conservative changed a bit. The Reform (and Reconstructionists and New Age and etc) made huge changes including accepting Patralineal decent, which means that if your father was Jewish but your mother wasn’t, you were still considered Jewish. Standards and requirements for conversion also vary widely between the denominations.
How does this effect Jewish dating? Basically, just because one denomination considers you Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that another denomination will. For example, if you converted in the reform movement you might not be considered Jewish by Orthodox Jews. It really depends on a lot of factors and also on the person you’re dealing with.
The only way to make sure you don’t get yourself involved in a situation (or relationship) that doesn’t work because of the “who is a Jew” issue is to be 100% honest and open about who you are. Then you won’t have to worry about misunderstandings that arise down the road.
What if you aren’t Jewish according to anyone? You’re a pure bred Irish Catholic. Should you be using a Jewish dating site? Will Jewish men or women date you? Will they marry you? We’ll try to answer these questions and more in this series.