Jew Dating (and no, this is not a Valentine’s Day post)

by tobybee

I’m currently working on writing up a big grant application for a project that will look at a history of sexuality of Jews in Australia from 1945 to 2015 (which is when the project would start – i’m not claiming to be a soothsayer). 

and while i’m looking at Jews in Australia, pretty much no work has been done that looks at issues of sexuality (there has been work on assimilation, intermarriage, and continuity, but mostly from a sociological or demographic perspective, rather than a histories of sexuality perspective) so I need to keep an eye on what’s going on in other countries, to see if there’s anything of relevance that I can use to help me understand the histories in Australia. 

In the last few days there has been a truly remarkable number of articles in the New York Jewish press about Jewish dating, all of them interesting in their own ways (this one was pretty great (and by great, I obviously mean slimy and awful)). 

But to focus two that I’ve seen this morning. The first is an article about JDate’s new ad campaign, run on the theme of ‘Get Chosen’, and this is one of their ads (this image is taken from that linked Tablet magazine article, and it’s a billboard in Times Square):


I’ve written elsewhere previously about the role of Holocaust postmemory in teaching young Ashkenazi Jews that they should get married to a Jew and have Jewish babies in order to ensure that Hitler didn’t win (a trope that I assume most readers would be familiar with), but this is on a bigger level. It’s interesting, I think, the way they use humour: it seems like it helps to cover over the disciplining control of such statements. It makes it seem cutesy, rather than productive of a certain kind of Jewishness. (and what’s with the image? Moses with the 10 commandments is a signification of persecution? or do they think that one of the 10 commandments is to marry a Jew? choose your signifiers a bit better next time, JDate.)

And so what is this certain kind of Jewishness? Another article I read this morning introduced me to a book called How to Woo a Jew, written by Tamar Caspi, the relationship advice-giver on JDate, and which I will of course be ordering immediately. My favourite part of the article was this advice that it took from the book:

Caspi suggests dropping Yiddish words into casual conversation with a prospective date. “If you’re at a bar and a guy is talking to you and you just can’t seem to pick up on his religion, then slip in an ‘oy vey’ when two waitresses nearly collide,” she writes. “Add a ‘la’breut’ when someone sneezes. Even a flirty ‘that’s mishegas,’ will work. If he looks at you helplessly, then you have your answer. If he adds his own Yiddish phrase to the mix, then you can breathe a sigh of relief and continue getting to know him.” This probably won’t work if you are Sephardic or didn’t grow up with Yiddish. In fact, most of the Jewish dating advice is geared toward heterosexual Ashkenazi women”.

Amazing on so many levels.

If you go to the website for How to Woo a Jew you can read an excerpt from one of the chapters, and it starts by providing “a few hypothetical situations in which to imagine yourself in order to figure out how ready you are for a relationship.” One of these situations is “Are you willing to dedicate both your Friday and Saturday nights to quality dates rather than partying with your friends?”. And this is what kills me: apparently these Jews, who are searching for their Jewish partner, and who are betraying a history of persecution if they date a non-Jew, could not be imagined to be spending Friday night on shabbes events. Their obvious options would be to be either partying with friends, or going on quality dates. 

It’s incredibly revealing that the Jewishnesses being created are conceptualised primarily around notions of romantic love and heterosexual reproduction (or what Lee Edelman has termed ‘reproductive futurity’, wherein the future can only be imagined through heterosexual biological reproduction).