Jewish dating in the U.S. ranges from old-fashioned matchmaking to dating without any emphasis on religion at all. Here's a brief overview, including a look at some of the more modern ways of meeting fellow Jews.
On the Internet
The Internet has brought a mini-revolution to the world of Jewish relationships. These online dating sites are making romantic Jewish matches every day.
A site called JDate exists exclusively to bring Jewish singles together. It has the usual profiles and photos of members, but this site also lets participants specify whether they keep kosher, how often they go to synagogue, and what branch of Judaism they grew up in. JDate has brought about quite a few marriages, and there are many Jewish parents who pay for their children's subscriptions.
JWed is aimed at Jews specifically looking to marry. It tends to attract people who are serious about religious observance, although levels of dedication vary. This site is committed to connecting Orthodox Jews.
Beshert is another site that's been around for a while. It lets members respond to messages without paying a monthly fee. It also sponsors Speed Dating and other non-virtual dating events. Beshert focuses on traditional matchmaking to make a Jewish love connection.
J Singles allows you to search for friendships and dating candidates right in your community. Send photos and messages right from the J Site. Registration is free for everyone.
Making a Jewish Marriage
In observant Jewish families, it's important for the children to marry people who are also Jewish. Even in less observant families, parents who don't pay much attention to religion often find themselves wanting their children to marry within the faith. Many feel that a Jewish marriage helps guarantee this ancient religion will continue.
Intermarriage is a great concern among Jewish religious leaders. Some rabbis won't even perform a marriage between a Jewish person and a non-Jew. They worry that the children of such a union won't identify as Jewish, or that Judaism won't be emphasized. In fact, in many Jewish denominations, children are only considered Jewish if the mother is a Jew.
Finding a Date
Among very traditional Jews, matchmaking is still an option. Families live close together in small neighborhoods, since observant Jews do not drive on the Sabbath and must be within walking distance of the house of worship, called a synagogue or temple. Often, someone in the neighborhood will make a hobby of match making, trying to bring young people together. Or the parents of a young man and woman may suggest that they would be a good match. More often, the parents simply do what they can to help their children meet other Jews, in hopes that they'll meet the right person and fall in love.
Many Jewish people meet potential dates the way that most Americans do: at school, at work, at religious services, through friends or through hobbies. The problem, for people who consider it important to marry Jewish, is there are so many chances to meet, and fall in love with, people of other faiths. It's not uncommon for young Jewish men and women to date non-Jews, even become involved in serious relationships and then realize they don't want commit to someone who does not share their traditions. Some choose only to date other Jews specifically to avoid this problem.
Finding One's Bashert
"Beshert" is a Yiddish word meaning soul mate. It's the ultimate goal in Jewish dating, at least for people who are hoping to marry. Finding this person usually isn't any easier than finding Mr. or Ms. Right in any dating situation.
One way to meet potential dates is through family. It's very common for Jewish parents to try to "fix up" their children. Of course, it's also not uncommon for the children to refuse to participate in this matchmaking!
Another way is through Jewish organizations and events. Synagogues and community groups regularly host events and offer volunteer opportunities, and some have social groups and classes specifically for singles. Especially in smaller communities, however, the same people usually turn up, which can be frustrating if one's beshert isn't among them.
Jewish Dating Etiquette
For most American Jews, the rules of Jewish dating aren't any different from common practices. Each person makes his or her own choices about what's expected and what to do, from who calls whom first to when and if the relationship becomes sexual.
More observant Jewish people may choose to limit sexual contact until the relationship is serious, or until they are married. For some, this extends even to holding hands and kissing. Very traditional Jews don't touch or shake hands with members of the opposite sex unless they are close family members.