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Everyone who’s dated–that is to say, everyone–knows that figuring out why you are attracted to someone is often the greatest mystery in your life. Are you interested because the other person is interested? Is it physical attraction? Does the person laugh at your jokes? Is there a chemistry that can’t be explained?
One factor that is particularly difficult to untangle is the cultural factor. Are you attracted to someone because they come from a similar background–or because they come from a different one? In Elizabeth Rosner’s “Everything I Know About Being Bad I Learned in Hebrew School,” an excerpt from Bad Girls: 26 Writers Behave published in The Forward, a girl who grew up with a stringent Orthodox upbringing rebels against Judaism and dates every non-Jewish boy she can find:
Her motivations for dating non-Jewish come from a complex mix of adolescent rebellion, proto-feminism in the face of non-egalitarian religious schooling and the conflicted way her parents practiced Judaism: while her father was observant in every way, her mother ate shrimp cocktails at restaurants and didn’t go to synagogue. The irony is, once Rosner moved to the Phillipines to escape her parents, she found herself holding onto her Jewish identity tightly.
In an article in Tango magazine, Sarika Dani, an Indian-American woman, discusses her attraction to non-Indian men:
But, like Rosner, as Dani got older, the appeal of the exotic wore off. She is now dating an Indian-American man:
In the San Diego Jewish Journal, Tinamarie Bernard rages against “ShiksAppeal,” that is, when Jewish men, or women, purposefully only date non-Jewish partners. Although in Bernard’s case, the stereotypes that she attributes to Jewish men who won’t date non-Jewish women are more than matched by the stereotypes she uses to argue that Jewish men should date Jewish women.
Sometimes the attraction to the other can be more than curiosity and excitement over the power of mystery, it can manifest in a desire to actually become what the other person is. In the case of a previous boyfriend of Paula Tavrow, he wanted to become Jewish, like her. What she couldn’t figure out was whether he was interested in her “as a woman, or as a Jew?”
Finally, Beliefnet has an amusing story about how Jewish moms are pushing JDate on their children, and sometimes getting the hoped-for result: a Jewish marriage.
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