(September 2, 2011 / JNS) Getting to know people from different backgrounds can be exciting or unnerving. My grandmother once met a Spanish man who seemed nice, albeit a little anti-Semitic. “He would say things like ‘Jew go there, and ‘Jew do this,’” she said. Weeks later she discovered that he was saying “you” with an accent.
Small misunderstandings aside, is love easier to find and maintain with a fellow Jew? You might be armed with “Jewdar,” a sort of evolutionary advantage that enables you to detect other Jews, but should they be your only romantic prospects? Some sociologists would say yes, because homophily, or love of the same, causes us to form relationships with people who share major commonalities, including level of education, socioeconomic status, and religion. But what are the pros and cons of dating a Jew?
Pro: If your parents subtly hinted that they would disinherit you if you settled down with an Unchosen One, thus weakening the survival of the entire Jewish race, you can die in peace knowing that the legacy continues. And maybe you appreciate sharing a heritage.
Con: You shouldn’t date someone just for others’ approval. You also could have conflicting levels of faith (my Reform sister would never date an Orthodox Jew or anyone who questioned the sanctity of sushi). And since you might have to decide whose parents to visit over the holidays, expect some Jewish guilt from either your mother or your mother-in-law.
Pro: The two of you can speak the vanishing language of Yiddish. While perhaps not overtly romantic, Yiddish’s array of unusual words and expressions offers an amusing way to practice communication, an essential part of every relationship. In what other language can you compare looking exhausted to a rooster who just finished having sex (oyszen vi a hon nokh tashmish)?
At the risk of catering to your jaded and paranoid nature, remember that by reproducing with an Ashkenazi Jew, you increase your offspring’s chance of carrying the Tay Sach’s disease gene and contracting this fatal genetic disorder. Studies show that approximately one in 27 Jews in the United States carries the defective gene, much higher than the rest of the population. Solutions include blood testing and genetic counseling, to assess your risk.
Pro: As Jews, you might hold the same qualities in high regard: being well educated, hardworking and ethical.With similar expectations and values, you’re more likely to agree on important matters.
Con: Sometimes, similarities can feel stifling. A partner with a different upbringing will have a new way of looking at life, and you might make indispensible self-discoveries by being challenged. Do you want someone to reinforce your beliefs or expand your views?
Assess what is important to you. And keep in mind that many Jews tend to earn respectable salaries, revere good food, humorously self-deprecate, and never lack conversational material. Naturally, a dinner date should preclude the urge to choke on your food just to escape the person across from you. Whoever you find, there is always therapy or conversion.