How’s this for a coincidence: a writer named Susan Jacobs has written an article on “The allure of interfaith dating” for the Jewish Journal Boston North barely a week after a different writer, also named Susan Jacobs, wrote an article on interfaith dating for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Like the first article, this piece on interfaith dating is good overall but flawed in spots.
The intro to the article very sensibly discusses why Jews date non-Jews:
In today’s society, where Jews are no longer confined to ghettos and the ratio of non-Jews is far greater than Jews, inter-dating is inevitable.
But the Jacobs isn’t happy to leave it at that. Instead, she posits the existence of something called “shiksappeal”:
Although some Jews simply stumble into relationships with non-Jews, others make a conscious effort to connect with partners from another faith. What is the allure of dating a non-Jew? Is it the mystery of the unknown, or a way to rebel against one’s parents or society?
That kind of statement would have been out-of-date in the ’50s let alone the ’00s. Even the most Jewishly involved people in today’s world end up spending a significant amount of time around non-Jews. Very few of them end up dating non-Jews because they represent “the mystery of the unknown.” If anything, there’s no mystery at all to non-Jews because Jews see them so frequently.
The article goes on to include quotes from Jewish men and women who actively sought out non-Jews as partners, for a variety of reasons, from a 5-foot-11 women who wants to date similarly tall men to a 32-year-old man who is put off by Jewish women’s desire for a financially successful mate.
Overall, the idea that some Jews choose to date non-Jews over Jews is worth exploring. There are certainly some people who are turned on by “shiksappeal.” (For literary evidence, read Portnoy’s Complaint; for cinematic evidence, watch Annie Hall.)
But to write a story about these people without recognizing that they make up a small portion of Jews in interfaith relationships is just irresponsible. It also tends to villainize Jews in interfaith relationships as shallow, or self-hating, or bigoted when most are just like Jews in intrafaith relationships: regular people who are looking for love in a world that has a very small number of Jews.
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