Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All Orthodox Look Alike

Exactly how successful are people in meeting someone on these dating sites? The big sites, Match and JDate, don’t issue any statistics, so it is impossible to know. My impression is that it makes a big difference how old you are. There is a ton of anecdotal evidence that young people, late and early 20’s & 30’s, find matches. Older people appear to be less successful.

I believe I once read, though I am not perfectly certain, that Frumster claimed it had 12000 members over 4 years and produced 120 matches. If true, it is a very depressing result. The members of Frumster are a homogenous group, no players or serial daters, and everyone is looking to get married. If they produced this pittance of a result, the other sites must be even worse. A single person would stand a better chance standing downtown with a sign saying, “PICK ME! PICK ME!”

It might be argued that Frumster and the other Orthodox sites, DosiDate and SawYouAtSinai are not really homogenous. True, the members are generally Orthodox, but then again Orthodox comes in many different shapes and styles. Frumster lists as possible varieties:

Modern Orthodox Liberal
Modern Orthodox Machmir
Yeshivish Modern
Yeshivish Black Hat
Chassidish Carlebachian
Shomer Mitzvot

Plus 4 backgrounds

from a religious family
from a traditional family
from a non-observant family
0rthodox convert (ger)

We all know, or should know there is modern and there is modern, there is stringent and there is stringent, there is yeshivish sorta and there is yeshivish. And there are as many forms of chasidish as there are chasidic groups. As an example I’ll construct 1 combo, not uncommon:

I am a black hat yeshivish guy from a chasidic (Bobov, Sanz) background. I learnt in a Litvish yeshiva, and I continue to learn in the Brisker way, but adhere to chasidic customs, e.g. wear a gartel, don’t eat gerbrochets, etc. I wouldn’t call myself chasidish, since I am clean shaven and b”h I am working downtown as a macher. I think of myself as heimish, but not chasidish. I do go to movies and plays, but would not want a TV in my house. I am undecided about a VCR. Looking for my female counterpart.

Such a profile straddles 4 varieties. These distinctions are not trivial and certainly significant for the participants. When you work through all the permutations and combinations the possible number is huge and the actual number of variations is large. And I haven’t even approached the proliferation of totally psychotic distinctions. Young women have been known to ask “Does he wear loafers or tie ups”. The tales I could tell…

These different stripes and sub stripes are a classic example of what Freud called the narcissism of small differences. As a group becomes more homogeneous, small differences between people become much more important, to a point where they can and do become VERY important. Go tell a black hat yeshiva guy it is equally cool to wear a yarmulke in shul. In fact, try telling a black hat guy it’s equally cool to wear a grey hat. Better yet, try telling a broad brim Borselino aficionado that a shorter brim Fedora is just fine. He will think, and rightly so, you are totally clueless.

My conclusion is that maybe it is difficult for everyone, even for members of a “homogeneous” group to find a match, and the Frumster success rate is not a definitive indication of how well people do on other sites. As Talmudists are accustomed to say, vtzawrich eyun, this question needs further study.

Glossary:

Ahkenazim are Jews whose origins are from Europe

B”h is an acronym for “baruch hashem”, the English equivalent being “Praise be the Lord.”

Gartel is a black rope-like belt worn in shul around the outer jacket, worn mostly by Chassidim. It is similar to the rope belts worn in some monastic orders. (Franciscan, maybe others)

Gebrochts is matzah that has been soaked in liquid. Chasidim don’t eat gebrochts on Passover, hence no kneidlach, matzah breis or fried matzahs. Somehow they survive. Everyone else, kneidels away.

Heimish comes from the German”heimisch” meaning “to be or feel at home in a place or with someone.” It is used here to refer to someone who maintains the sensibility and feeling tone of some area of Europe, frequently the small towns of Eastern European, the proverbial shtetl, thus enabling others who maintain the same style, to feel at home and therefore comfortable in their company. It is used both as an adjective and adverb. In general you have to be a ffb (frum from birth) from a European family to be considered heimish. Sefardim are not generally heimish, at least not to Ashkenazim.

Litvish is a Yiddish word for Lithuanian, in this case Lithuanian style yeshivas which are non chasidic in doctrine, though individual chasidim might attend. These Lithuanian academies brought about a revolution of sorts in how to think about Talmudic issues, somewhat analogous in methodology to analytic philosophy, the dominant school of philosophy in Anglo-Saxon countries. Of the many variants of yeshivish analytic thinking, the current flavor of our generation is called the Brisker derech (way), named after Rabbi Chaim Soleveitchik of Brisk, (the city the gentiles call Brest-Litovsk). The Brisker way of analysis is taught in many schools, but the holy of holies is the Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem. An amusing and informative article on the Harvard of the Ultra Orthodox is found here:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=533290

Macher is almost an English word. If you don’t know what a macher is, you really should not be reading this blog. A female macher is you guessed it, a macherina. I’m joking. A machernista. Still joking. A female macher is a macherin. When a macher marries a macherin they become a power couple.

Machmir means accepting of the more severe and stringent interpretations of halacha or Jewish laws.

Sefardim are Jews from Arabic countries. Many originally came from Spain or Sefard.

Yeshivish, chasidish means acting like a yeshiva person or chasidic person generally acts or is expected to act.

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