Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Culture Vultures and Botox Queens

I have this dual interest in the Ultra Orthodox and its satellites, (Modern Orthodox, Conservadox,Traditional, Conservative, heretics and scholars), and their polar opposites, secular, assimilated, marginal Jews. My interest in the Reform movement is limited, because I am somehow incapable of imagining myself in their position. I do not really understand Reform, and I want to write about subjects where I can bring to bear some knowledge or at least empathy.

I have some thoughts about secular Jewish life, life at the end of the religious spectrum and it is to this topic I now turn. I thought it would be useful to look at liberal American Jewish life thru the prism of internet dating, and in particular JDate. JDate as everyone knows by now is an internet Jewish dating site. It has seen better days, but it’s still active. Hope springs eternal. The reason why JDate is a useful way of looking at American Jewry besides the photos, are the profiles. Everyone has an opportunity to put their best foot forward. What you get is a mixture of the truth, what the man or woman think the other sex wants to hear, and a version of their idealized selves, i.e. what the person wants to be. There is a lot of information to be mined from representations of idealized selves as any shrinkette will tell you.

I will confine my remarks to the women, half the Jewish population. I think the men are similar, but I have not really looked closely at the men. (The following estimates are accurate to three decimal places. Just kidding. These are eyeball, back of the envelope calculations at best, and the rest of my rant is me having fun.) There are roughly as many Jewish people dating on line as there are in all the Conservative synagogues in the world on a plain vanilla, non bar/bat mitzvah shabbus. And they are much more enthusiastic.

I’d say 95% of the women on JDate are not Orthodox. Match.com, with maybe 5% Jews, I would guess has roughly 75% as many Jewish women as the estimated 25000 on JDate, and almost no one is Orthodox. Many of the women on Match do not acknowledge they are Jews. They answer ‘spiritual but not religious’ to the question about religion. Religious women are underrepresented on these dating sites for a few reasons: the existence of dedicated frum sites like Frumster & SawYouAtSinai, the greater popularity of matchmakers and fix-ups, and the lower divorce rate of the Orthodox. (10% and growing vs. approaching 50%, the national average.)

What can be said of the non-Orthodox women? Well, maybe 8% have some language connection. There are some women who speak Yiddish, mostly Russians. Some went to Yiddish school as a child. These are mostly women on the other side of 50. There are also a considerable number of yordim, Israelis who speak Hebrew.

Another 20% or so are Traditional, practicing Conservatives or active in the Reform & Reconstructionist temples. The remaining 60-70 % are pretty much cut off from Judaism as a serious religion, as well as Jewish traditions as a basis for culture and ethnicity. They know little, have no active temple connection, and are totally acculturated, except for one thing: You can always tell simply by reading their profiles they are Jews.

Here are 5 signs:

They are culture vultures. They don’t just like art, they LUV ART. Can’t live without it. Mostly painting and theatre, since music and serious literature require more work, and movies are too common. I did not read a single profile where a reference was made to Henry James, Proust, Dickens, etc.. Not one profile read "My life is books".

They exercise 8 + days a week, sometimes before they wake up. Anything less than glutes of steel is tragic. They ski. They play tennis. They golf. If they have the gelt they boat. And they are wild about nature. Hiking & camping & kayaking and more hiking & camping.

Some, but far from all, are JAPS, who need the best hotels, into shopping, clothes horse, etc. It’s not popular these days to admit one is a JAP except for LA women. They are a breed apart. So it is difficult to estimate scientifically exactly how much royalty there is in American Jewish life.

They travel. Impossible to find a Jewish woman without spilkes. Machu Pichu,Galapalagos,…been there. Trekking down the Amazon… must you ask? Safari… sooo great. Nobody admits going to the Catskills or Upper Michigan. Nobody admits to being lazy or living life less than the fullest.

Every single woman looks significantly younger than her age. A miracle. JDate in this respect is similar to Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.

Most of these women make no mention of personal hands- on charity and kindness, even as an ideal. I did not read a single profile where a woman boasted of caring personally for the hungry and the poor. None of them care if they or their husband study anything. Lifelong learning is not a virtue. It might even be a vice in some instances. Nobody cares if the man has a personal spiritual/moral advisor. Nobody is thinking or even dreaming of moving to Israel.

These are the mothers of the 50% of Jewish children who intermarry.

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