In a recent sermon, Reform Rabbi Donald Weber, of Temple Rodeph Torah in New Jersey, reportedly offered to personally pay for six-month memberships to the Jewish singles matchmaking website JDate to any singles in the congregation who asked. The idea was to help bolster the dwindling American Jewish population in the face of national surveys that say about half of American Jews are marrying outside of the Jewish faith.
What do you think of online dating services that match people within the same faith?
Great idea! Using technology to advance our religious beliefs is always a good way to reach young people — the people who are our future leaders, supporters and congregants. After all, the youthful demographic is very in tune with the latest and most advanced technology; it makes sense to approach them through the Internet, since that’s the medium they’re most familiar with. (In regards to JDate, some care should be taken to ascertain that those who claim to be Jewish online are in fact so; oftentimes, this is not the case.)
Surveys show that children of Jews who marry into the faith have a far greater chance of identifying with Judaism than those who don’t.
In fact, fewer than 10% of grandchildren of intermarried couples identify themselves as Jews. This frightening statistic should spur all Jewish leaders to encourage marriage within the faith using all possible methods of communication.
At the same time, we must be very careful not to alienate those families, which are already intermarried.
We have a responsibility to welcome them as warmly as we would anyone else. We can help strengthen their Jewish identity; they should be encouraged to introduce into their homes as much Judaism as possible so we retain the beauty of our tradition.
As a rule, conversion to Judaism is not encouraged since we espouse the idea that Judaism is the right path for Jews as is Christianity for Christians and Islam for Muslims.
As long as one believes in God and practices their religion in a peaceful, non-threatening manner, then they are living a purposeful, spiritual life.
However, in a circumstance like this — where we face a serious challenge to our heritage and risk confusion for our children — I would support the idea of a non-Jewish spouse embarking on a sincere conversion.
RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN
Chabad Jewish Center
It’s a real challenge today for young people to meet prospective marriage partners.
For individuals who consider their faith tradition a fundamental part of life, the prospect can be even more daunting. The variety of places to meet possible mates can seem few and far between. Within local Catholic parishes, there was a time when young-adults groups were vibrant parts of community life. Many people I know from the generation above my own met and married at their local church. Today, the church no longer attracts young people as the social center it once was, where individuals come and meet others.
Dating services that match people within the same faith can be a good way of making introductions. Connecting those with similar values, interests and religious views is a good start, but the real work of the relationship would obviously have to come once the initial contact is made.
The courtship and eventual marriage would take place only after all other areas of life are explored and found to be in sync.
I have personally witnessed the marriages of couples who had met on Catholic dating services. Some of them had spent years looking in all of the conventional places without success. An online dating service was able to make that vital connection otherwise missed.
FATHER PAUL J. HRUBY
Church of the Incarnation
The American Muslim community offers several similar services marketed and offered as matrimonial services.
Our society’s typical dating scene is generally frowned upon by American Muslims, since Islamic teachings unambiguously prohibit extramarital sex. In addition, Islamic guidelines disallow sexually suggestive behavior and immodest attire between non-married men and women. Other guiding principles insist that gender interactions do not take place in private or provocative settings in order to avoid temptations. These preventive measures are to preserve chastity before marriage and fidelity during marriage for men and women equally.
Since sound family and extended-family relationships are important among American Muslims, some parental involvement is considered healthy when marriage partners are sought.
The notion of arranged marriages, however, is not an Islamic mandate, but rather a cultural practice within some communities.
Islamic teachings are clear that males and females are free to choose their own spouses. Part of this freedom is the manner and extent of parental involvement allowed by couples before marriage.
For American Muslims, these online matrimonial services are good to meet specific needs for special circumstances.
There have been reported cases of happy marriages that have resulted from using such services. I would hope, however, that healthy social networks created by American Muslims would continue to be the primary means of finding a suitable spouse, rather than online services.
A byproduct of active participation in mosques and Islamic organizations provides additional social opportunities for prospective couples to meet as well.
Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge
The phrase “Whatever floats your boat” comes to mind. If people want to marry within their own tradition, fine. However, I also think it’s fine if people marry outside their own tradition. In a perfect world, religion should bring people together, not separate them.
However, currently in the Middle East, the Sunnis can’t stand the Shiites and vice-versa. Not too long ago in Northern Ireland, Christians were killing each other, too. So potential problems exist — but I like to believe that love conquers all.
Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is about when different young people dare to go against the norm and marry the “other” with disastrous consequences.
“West Side Story” is the same theme, with the “other” involving a different race from one’s own.
Again, the consequences are disastrous, but the authors of both works were not trying to say, “Don’t do it!” Rather, they were pointing out how human prejudices can get in the way of true love. So, if people want to marry their own, who can blame them?
However, if two people from different traditions, races, ethnicities and religions want to tie the knot, they should not be persecuted for their choices.
As my father said to me one time, “Skip, don’t marry the person I want you to marry or the person your mom wants you to marry. You marry the person you want to marry, because you are going to have to live with her, not me and not Mom!”
THE REV. C. L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN
Congregational Church of the Lighted Window
United Church of Christ
La Cañada Flintridge
I think it’s a great idea, providing users take the standard precautions related to meeting strangers online. Marital love and religious belief are both very deep issues of the heart. Both are deeply felt, basic needs. We will make great sacrifices for either, as we should. But what if they conflict? Still, many people marry outside of their faith, considering the relationship, and sometimes just companionship, worth the heartache of conflict between a cherished belief and a beloved spouse.
Paul counseled the Corinthian Christians: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness . . . what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, New American Standard Bible.)
God’s best for us is to avoid the self-inflicted heartache of a household divided by contradictory faiths. But for the many people who are in that very situation, love your spouse and keep praying for them. God is pro-marriage, and He wants yours to be blessed. Keep trusting in the Lord, and rely on His daily goodness and faithfulness. He loves you very much, and He always will.
PASTOR JON BARTA
Valley Baptist Church
“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch. Matchmaker, matchmaker, look through your book, and make me a perfect match.” These words are sung in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” They echo the longing each of us has of being paired with just the right person till death do us part. Nobody wants to have their future imperiled or their spouse to become the unbearable other half that they will be stuck with for the rest of their life, and so they hope to begin well-matched.
People change, but never into some perfect picture of what we always wanted (especially if they lacked the germ of expected attributes to begin with), but don’t some marry with secret plans to mold their mate into that hoped-for image?
If people were sensible, they would count the costs and advantages of their currently packaged betrothed. I think this is what the various matchmakers hope to facilitate in advance of the Big Question.
Scripture makes religious faith the top priority when considering wedlock, and the most religiously cited verse would be 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (Holy Standard Bible): “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”God must take priority, but there’s still more to people; there are interests and aspirations, views on children, income, lifestyle, etc. If prospects were narrowed by just some of these, the likelihood is that there’ll be things in common to sustain marriages through better or worse, sickness and health, into the golden years. If this helps curb the bane of divorce, then may God bless the online matchmaking services!
THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM