Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has written an op-ed that is sure to generate controversy. In “Hindu Widows,” he argues that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate. Why, his article ask, should Jewish women sacrifice their happiness and their child-bearing years at the altar of endogamy?
I talked with four of these women over the space of three days last week, all wondering if I had come across any single Jewish men. I mentioned a name. Here’s what happened: They had already dated the guy. I mentioned another name. Already dated him, too: At 41, he was not quite ready to settle down. A straight, eligible Jewish man in his 40s gets around this town faster than the weekend box office numbers.
Yes, this is a problem for non-Jewish women, as well, but if your requirements for potential dates includes “must be Jewish,” you suddenly rule out 94 percent of potential males. There aren’t enough marriageable Jewish men out there. Period. It’s a game of musical chairs, and someone is going to get left out.
The remarkable thing is that Eshman isn’t the editor of a paper based in a Jewish backwater. Greater Los Angeles is home to significantly more than 500,000 Jews–the second-largest concentration of Jews in the country, after New York. In 1997, there were more than 100,000 Jewish men and women between the ages of 30 and 44 in the area covered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ population survey, an area that doesn’t even include Orange County, Long Beach or Pasadena. At the time the survey was conducted, the authors noted the phenomenon of “gender mismatch” in the L.A. area. There were 3 percent more women aged 30-49 than there were men, which explains some of the problems facing women now in their 40s.
One of the biggest problems I have with the way that some in the Jewish community look at intermarriage is how they ignore the human aspect. For the vast majority of people who interdate or intermarry, their decision isn’t about harming the Jewish people or rebelling against their parents, it’s about numbers and matters of the heart. In a country where Jews are a small minority, even in as Jewish a place as New York City, most eligible partners are bound to be non-Jewish. The “Hindu widows” that Eshman identifies have declined entering this pool of potential partners–with disastrous personal results.
But this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the Jewish community. A recent article on CNN.com talks about a similar thing happening in the black community:
Black women around the country also are reconsidering deep-seated reservations toward interracial relationships, reservations rooted in America’s history of slavery and segregation.
…”I’m not saying that white men are the answer to all our problems,” [Toinetta] Jones [a 37-year-old divorcee] said. “I’m just saying that they offer a different solution.”
She reflects many black women frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows: They’re nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and more than twice as likely to be unemployed.
Regardless of your racial or religious background, if you’re a single women in her late child-bearing years, personal happiness should always trump ethnic solidarity.
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