What do young Jewish singles want?
We ask three Jewish Baltimoreans for their thoughts. We also take a look at the dating dilemma. What happens when Jewish singles turn 30 and haven’t found that perfect Jewish spouse?
Our generation is not like our parents’,” says Megan Hodes of Owings Mills. Largely, that statement seems to be true, for as synagogues around Baltimore continuously develop new programs for young, single Jews, the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is—just what is it that young Jews want?
Micah Kleid, who works closely with young Jews as Beth El Congregation’s communication and outreach coordinator, believes that the first thing that single Jews are looking for is a significant other.
“Everything is different after college, because you don’t have something like Hillel anymore,” he explains. “It suddenly becomes a lot harder to meet other young, single Jews.”
Kleid also says that he sees many of his peers looking for religious involvement by actively seeking a synagogue to join. He explains that many young Jews, especially after graduating from college, don’t want to go to the same synagogues they went to as children because their ideals have shifted as they’ve gotten older. Now, as young adults, they are looking for “synagogue ideals that meet their ideals.”
Last, he believes young single Jews want to have a successful career. He says the ideal job must be satisfying and provide an income that meets a person’s desired lifestyle.
“Especially with today’s economy, it’s something on everyone’s mind,” he adds.
Like Kleid, Hodes identifies the same three priorities in what she is looking for as a single Jewish young adult. However, her own ranking differs from Kleid’s.
Citing career as her biggest priority, she has spent the last few years trying to find the profession that suits her best. After graduating with a B.A. in criminal justice, she briefly pursued social work, but when that “didn’t click,” she worked at the JCC before deciding to enroll in nursing school, from which she is now preparing to graduate.
Hodes strongly values her involvement in the Jewish community with her synagogue affiliation. But unlike Kleid, she favors family tradition. Her grandfather was an executive at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and she can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“My parents were married there, and I even know what rabbi I’d want to marry me at my own wedding,” she says. She loves the way the synagogue links her to the past and family tradition, and explains, “I’m a legacy there.”
When it comes to dating, though, Kleid and Hodes definitely have similar ideas, agreeing that JDate is not a preferred way to meet people. “JDate just wasn’t for me,” Hodes explains, calling the experience “frustrating.” She says that most of her friends prefer more casual means of finding people to date, and that many meet other young Jews through mutual friends.
Though Kleid met his current girlfriend through JDate, he agrees that the online dating site is not what young Jews are looking for, calling the service “too impersonal.” As a staff member at Beth El, he is a big advocate for young adult concentrated programs.
Still, not all young Jews meet other singles through synagogue programming. Melissa Krengel, 22, enjoys participating in young adult events through organizations like The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore. She has already been on an Associated-sponsored trip to New Orleans, where she worked on a rebuilding mission, and is about to become a member of the Associated’s Young Leadership Council (YLC), a two-year program that prepares young Jews to take on leadership roles in the Jewish community. She notes that while meeting others Jews wasn’t the only reason she signed up for these programs, staying connected to the Jewish community is still pretty important to her.
Krengel, who grew up in Owings Mills and is currently living in Federal Hill, says that her career, friends and family are her biggest priorities at this point in her life. Most of her friends, acquired in high school and in her college sorority, are Jewish, and she feels that they share a similar set of values.
So what does the future hold for these young adults? It seems as though higher education and career advancement are the primary focus. Krengel, who currently works as a financial analyst, says that she is hoping to get her master’s degree. Hodes, who hopes to go into pediatrics or delivery room nursing after graduating, says her biggest goals right now are to find the hospital that is right for her and to stay close to her friends and family. But all three agree that they hope to settle down at some point in the future.
“Getting married and raising a Jewish family is very important to me,” Hodes says. “It’s always in the back of my mind.”
Finding Prince Charming
Many Jewish girls have heard the same advice from their mothers since they were getting dressed for their first date. Find a nice Jewish boy and settle down, they all advise.You certainly don’t want to end up an old maid.
So what’s a Jewish woman to do when she suddenly wakes up one morning and finds herself 30 years old, ready to marry, but with no Jewish prospects in sight?
Megan Hodes, 27, of Owings Mills, believes that being single and 30 isn’t really so ominous. Even though many of her friends are starting to settle down, there isn’t as much pressure to get married early as in previous generations.
“Our parents were getting married around 21, 22,” she says. “But my friends and I think it’s perfectly normal to not even consider settling down until around 28, 29, 30.”
Still, many women who are 30 and older do begin to panic about finding a husband and starting a family, especially when they are dating men who aren’t Jewish.
Beth, 41, who asked iNSIDER not to use her full name, says that as a young adult, she imagined herself married to a Jewish man by her mid-20s. But despite her passionate involvement with Judaism, she was happily living with her Catholic boyfriend for six years.
Though her friends and family were less than thrilled, she insists that she didn’t feel pressured to be married by any particular age. But when he proposed marriage, Beth found that she simply couldn’t go through with it.
“Somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that intermarriage just wasn’t for me,” she says. “My connection to Judaism is such a part of who I am and as I got older, it became even more important to me,” she says.
She broke off the relationship, but suddenly found herself approaching 30, with no Jewish prospects in sight.
Hodes agrees that dating non-Jews can be a point of worry for single Jewish girls. She briefly dated a non-Jew in high school and says that her friends were very disapproving. Even though she was only in her mid-teens, they warned her that dating a non-Jew was a big risk, because they could end up getting married. The experience stuck with her.
“When it didn’t work out, I just stuck to dating Jewish guys,” she says. She explains that while she does have friends who are dating non-Jews, she does see trouble with issues like how to bring up children.
Still, she believes that Jewish women who are approaching 30 need to focus on other priorities in their lives, such as finding a career that suits them. She explains that as a young adult, her biggest priority is “not having a boyfriend or finding a house,” but instead maintains that once a single girl has her professional life in order, “everything else will fall into place.”
Beth felt the same way. Though she is now happily married to a Jewish man, they didn’t meet until she was 31. Moreover, she insists that she only found her husband because she was considering moving to a new city and wasn’t looking to meet anyone at the time. Beth says she firmly believes the old adage that you only find “the one” the moment that you stop looking.
So what’s the best advice for single Jewish women approaching 30? Hodes and Beth agree that the best approach is to quit worrying.
“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Hodes says. “If you focus too much on trying to find a boyfriend, chances are, you won’t.”