Three weeks ago, Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, wrote a provocative editorial arguing that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate–better to intermarry and be happy than be Jewishly pure and miserable.
Predictably, it inspired a lot of response. Unpredictably, an equivalent number of the letters printed in the Jewish Journal supported his proposal as opposed it. One of the endorsements came from us:
I would like to applaud Rob Eshman for showing the courage to propose a controversial and novel solution to the problems faced by single Jewish women in their late 30s and 40s. The established Jewish community asks them to sacrifice their happiness and their last childbearing years at the altar of endogamy, as if their loneliness is worth the price of Jewish purity.
If the Jewish community were to value these women’s needs more than its own self-imposed boundaries, we would very likely see an increase in the number of Jewish children in Los Angeles.
It’s all the more remarkable, too, that you note the prevalence of this phenomenon in a city that is home to more than half a million Jews. What must these women’s prospects be like in smaller communities?
One last point: The authors of the 1997 Jewish population survey of greater Los Angeles subtly foretold the future plight of these “Hindu widows.” Ten years ago, they found that there were 3 percent more women than men in the 30-49 age group. These women, who are now in their 40s and 50s, are suffering from a demographic crunch that has been a long time in the making.
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There was also a few letters from older men lamenting that they can’t find any available Jewish women. Some may take those letters as an indication that either a) both older Jewish men and older Jewish women are setting their standards too high, b) someone just needs to connect these two groups of singles together and they’ll all pair off or c) both groups are just looking for an excuse to interdate. I would argue for d) none of the above. Just because there are a handful of available Jewish singles of the opposite sex doesn’t mean that you would want to be in a relationship with any of them. It’s not as if you filled a room with 100 single Jewish men and 100 single Jewish women that all of them could or would find a potential partner (if that were the case, Jewish singles events wouldn’t have the rather tattered reputation they have).
What Eshman was arguing above all else was putting individuals’ needs for happiness above communal “needs” for continuity; the “Hindu widows” he addresses have tried dating Jewish men, but have yet to find a “bashert.” Open up the pool of possible basherts by condoning their interfaith relationships, and these women may find the happiness that they–and everyone, Jewish or not–deserves.
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