On Jewish Men and Jewish Women

I’ve spent the past few days defending Jewish women against all sorts of stereotypes and criticisms, and, frankly, I’m exhausted. I personally know so many amazing Jewish women, and I report on amazing Jewish women I don’t personally know all the time. So all this complaining by Jewish men about Jewish women makes me think there must be something wrong with Jewish men.

For starters, there aren’t enough of them.

(Yes, that sounds like that joke from Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”: “The food is terrible … and such small portions,” but there’s truth to it).

There are simply more Jewish women than men (there are more women than men in the general population, too) — not to mention men have far less pressure from biology and society to get married by a certain age — and so Jewish men have the luxury of being picky, and of complaining.
When they do decide to choose a wife, finally, and settle down, they often marry women who are younger than they are, leaving single Jewish women in their upper thirties and forties with an even smaller pool of Jewish men to date.

The editor of the L.A. Jewish Journal, Rob Eshman, has what he clearly thinks is a brilliant solution to this problem: encourage single Jewish women over the age of 35 to intermarry.

I have to admit, it’s superficially an appealing idea. The women would expand their pool of potential mates, making it, perhaps, easier to find a suitable husband; hopefully they would have children before their eggs ran out, and those children would still be Jewish by birth. Brilliant!

Except that it’s not. It’s actually quite patronizing and insulting.

Jewish women who are 35 and over and looking for Jewish men to marry aren’t doing so just because their rabbis are telling them to. These are adults we’re talking about, who we should assume are acting according to their own convictions and value systems, not just doing what their rabbis tell them. (While this may not be so in ultra-Orthodox circles, that’s not where the problem of unmarried women exists).

Having Jewish children is not the only reason one would want to marry a Jewish spouse — sharing Jewish values and community is, and should be, just as important. The idea of telling women, hey, just go out and marry a non-Jewish man so you can have a kid already, undermines women’s abilities to make their own decisions and, even worse, reduces them to walking wombs to be guided, if not outrightly controlled, by the community.

And another thing. Eshman’s argument is inconsistent. It’s reminiscent of another bit of advice I’ve heard — don’t have premarital sex, but it you’re still not married by the time you’re X age, well, maybe it’s ok. While this reasoning is obviously meant to encourage psychological health, I don’t think I need to point out its inconsistencies. The same ones apply to Eshman’s thinking. If you’re going to say that women should not be stigmatized for marrying non-Jewish men, why start at 35? Why put women through 15 years of dating disappointment?

Because Eshman’s viewing this only as a desperate move.
But the only thing worse than desperate dating is a desperate marriage.

Eshman is clearly well-meaning, but way off-base.

–Rebecca Honig Friedman

12 comments on “On Jewish Men and Jewish Women

  1. howard on

    Is there any truth that the torah says that
    the ideal age for a jewish man to wed a women
    is half of his age plus 7 years.

    thank you

  2. layma on

    My daughter is 27.
    Very good looking and hard working and can’t find Jewish man.
    Our nation is very small. A lot of woman and not to many good men.
    + A lot of Jewish men prefering Non-Jewish woman.
    Russian or Oriental.
    It is a real PROBLEM for Jewish women !!!

  3. Noreen on


    I can empathize with what Jewish women are going through, we have the same thing going on in our community, the African American community.

    It is quite amusing for some people to sit around and rationalize about how pitiful certain women might be, but in reality, its soo not the case, i have met many vibrant, sexy educated jewish women with boyfriends/husbands, who date who they want to date.

    i know when it comes to marriage its “something else” we often say, well
    id prefer to marry someone of my culture or
    ethnicity, religion etc, but guess what, men don’t limit themselves like this nor have they ever, and they don’t really bother explaining themselves.

    i feel that God will allow the Jewish peopel to prosper and thrive as he has for
    many millenia, after all, many Jews today are mixed up, they are not some homogenous group of people, conquest and intermarriage and conversion and so on and they are still here, It may sound crazy for me to say this, ‘leave it to G-d’, but why not, there are certainly enough Jewish people who truly love their identity and cherish it enough to preserve it for prosperity.

    Good luck to us all.

  4. Naomi on

    What can I tell you? It actually worked for me.

    I was a very lonely 39 year old spinster, raised in very liberal Conservative synagogue, who married a 30 year old (non-practicing) Baptist red neck from Tennessee that I met in the VERY early days of the internet. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

    14 years, a little help from Eternal Jewish Family, and a conversion later, my husband wears a kippa and tsitsis, our home is kosher and shabbos & taharas mishpacha observant, and our son is about to be Bar Mitvah at the Orthodox schul we attend.

    Is there a moral here somewhere?

  5. Anna on

    I am half non-practicing Jew(by Jewish tradition that makes me full by my Jewish mother.) I’ve been married to a sweet and wonderful man who comes from the maily christian redneck family. My in-laws are true rednecks, but luckily they live 130+ miles away. We married when I was 28 and my husband was 21. Now our daughter is 3 and she can site the prayers in Hebrew(I don’t even know how!) It’s important to keep the options open if one wants a loving supportive family.

  6. Danny on

    There is no point in blaming jewish men. We live in a free society in an open markets where people have the freedom to choose what they desire. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. Yet Jewish men have far less difficulty marrying. Furthermore, almost all Jewish men substantially prefer to marry Jewish women, but very often they don’t. Why? For a women to understand she has understand the psychology of a male in female terms.

    There is nothing more offensive for a woman than for her to be treated as a sex object. The parallel is for a man to be treated as a money object. Now lets remove stereotypes from this discussion. Imagine there was a large ethic group of men that were recognized to principally appreciate women for their physicallity. How would these women men be perceived by society and their counterparts they are supppose to mary. The truth is that many Jewish women have been encouraged from a very young age to value a man for his money – also many have not. However, since a large portion have, it has allowed a stereotype to develop in the minds of Jewish men. Remember, just as women do not like to be treated as a sex object, so to, men do not like to be treated as a money object.

    The second main reason that jewish men mary out is that a man is biologically designed to seek beauty. There may be ethnic groups that the Jewish man may find more physically desirable than from his own peer group. Eventhough the Jewish male may not be as physically appealing by society, his attraction to most women lies in his reputation of possessing three of the most important qualities, smart, well-to-do, & faithful. These are appealing qualities to all women. Whether it be true or not, society has placed these attributes very highly.

    Again, please keep in mind that these are generalizations and are not intended to describe any individual. All people are unique and have their own special qualities.

  7. Ellen on

    Danny I think your spot on! just because he is Jewish people have to also remember they are still just a man with human feelings!

    No one is to blame! 🙂

  8. SilverWings on

    As usual, a Jewish woman writer blames Jewish men over the issue of the lack of interest by us Jewish men in (modern) Jewish women. The ongoing level of denial, blaming, lack of objectivity and honesty by Jewish women is really appalling.

    Don’t you women ever look deeply into the mirror beyond the surface? Are you capable of it?

    Most Jewish men are genetically hard-wired and socialized to prefering and settlign down with a Jewish woman and wife. We are also smart enough to observe and understand the modern American (and especially secular) Jewish culture.

  9. Kat on

    I agree with SilverWings. I’m a woman, but I’m not going to defend these women as if they aren’t part of the problem. There is obviously something wrong here. If men keep complaining about jewish women there is a problem! Maybe jewish women should try to change instead of denying they’re the problem. The stereotype exists in these women as in other nationalities. Sometimes its just true. Accept it.

  10. Mach on

    Well, for some of us, when we -were- in temple, there weren’t any girls there. Then, when we try to find our faith again, the liturgy has changed. So we don’t go to temple, and loose track of the faith, it’s not what we grew up learning.

    Since when was G-d a gender neutral term? When did he stop being he and just go by his first name? So, not only are we not where the Jewish girls are, but we’re not even following the rituals anymore because, hey, they’re not only different, but if they change in such a fundamental way, they obviously have only arbitrary meanings.

    But let’s say we get lucky and meet a Jewish girl at a bar (Something I did) and hit it off, and get her number. So we make a phone call, nu? “Hi, I’d like to take you out on a date.” No response. Does she want us to call back? Does she not remember us? Do we even -care- about this woman? Of course not, we haven’t even had a date yet.

    So, we write her off. She’s not calling back, she’s not interested even if she says she is. Why bother chasing her? There’s shiskas who not only want to date, but who want sex sooner and seem to be less resistant and more -passionate- about it.

    Then, there’s the issue that Jewish women want Babies.

    Ladies, no offense, but for men in America, what with divorce rates, guaranteed alimony for the wife, and lack of child custody… Well, we don’t. Well, I don’t. It’s a waste investment, a child, nu? My father had me, he got divorced, look how much he got set back and had to suffer to keep his family afloat while paying out.

    So it’s not only a religious issue, it’s a cultural issue in my opinion. In short, Jewish men can not only get our jollies elsewhere, but with greater ease, and with less expectations and frankly, less carping and far more fun.

    Then there’s the other side, my sister grew up like me, but unlike me is big on the faith… She won’t date Jewish men. We’re too nebbish. Far too geeky. Far -too- respectful of women to be properly interesting for modern dating. (This also hurts with Shiskas, but they have less of a money obsession out front so it balances out in my mind. )

    Just my two sheckles.

  11. jacpil on

    Rebecca is bigoted. she insists with her responses in trying to justify jewish women- using religion as the issue. HISTORY does not support this. the reality is the jewish woman insists on running the family on moral, financial grounds, and the jewish man will not accept it. period I do agree that from a religious point of view, the worst combination , regardless of sex, would be jewish and catholics. the jewish response is always the same- for jews only and against everyone else. tnx

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