These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Irony’s Revenge: The Post-Modern Shidduch Date

Posted on May 16, 2013 by Derek Kwait

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Jewish Dating Tips #1: If we call ourselves single, we make ourselves lonely—A single is a person shipwrecked on an island. Adam HaRishon, the first man was single. Nobody else has been single since. When you feel alone and single, make your life more meaningful. Start appreciating those around you. Use the most precious gift an unmarried person has – your free time – to help others.

Black yarmulke? Check. White shirt? Check. Black pants? Check. Black Shabbos shoes? Check. Tzitzit out? Check. Sense of self?….As I walk down my street, telling a lie with each footstep, I feel the stares and the subtle resentment of each passerby as they rightfully judge me as something I’m not. I never thought of t-shirts, jean shorts, colorful knitted kippas, and tiztizit, as a statement of who I am before, but in this moment, I long to be me again. Or at least to get to my “date”’s house sooner where they get it.

When I arrive, she’s in the bathroom putting the finishing touches on her costume. From the back, I can already see the difference. The vivacious girl known for wearing clothing so loud that if it actually covered more of her body, everyone within a 10-yard radius would be in danger of becoming blind and deaf, has transformed herself into Frumma Blahstein for our “date.”

“Call me Shua,” I say, arms behind my back and avoiding her gaze as though making eye-contact were signing a ketuba kesuba.

“I’m Nomi,” she says, doing the same (I guess). “Laura, take our picture! Derek, let’s make this as awkward as possible!”

“It’s Shua, and that won’t be hard,” I say. We settle on a position on either side of a plant and look anywhere but at each other. “This is going to be so much fun!” we say, almost in unison.


Jewish Dating Tips #2: Let the personality of the person you are meeting unfold. A person’s nervousness can mask his or her true qualities. Don’t have any expectations on a first date.

Though Naomi and I are almost total opposites, we’ve been best friends since we both arrived at Pardes last year, and discovering each other as beshert Gemara chevrutas this year has made us even closer. One day towards the end of last year, I mentioned that while in Jerusalem, I wanted to check out some of the nicer hotels in the city. It seemed obvious that one of the most fun things to do while there would be to watch Ultra-Orthodox Jews on shidduch, or pre-arranged dates, since, as public places with a modicum of privacy and comfortable couches, hotel lobbies are hotbeds for them. And from there, it seemed obvious that we should pretend to be on one ourselves. Two more liberal Jews—Gemara chevrutas, no less—going on a fake shidduch date? What a sociological experiment! What an art project! The post-modern irony would be almost unbearable! I’m going to have to Scotchguard my white shirt to protect it from getting stained from the sarcasm that will be dripping all over it! Still, we knew that if we were to do it, we had to do it right. We made sure to do our homework first.

Jewish Dating Tips #3: Don’t touch! Are you crazy? That’s right. Not even holding hands… Put the physical attraction (or lack thereof) on hold while you explore the deeper things. Outward appearances are the least accurate indicator of true love. Beauty fades, but the inner qualities improve with age for those people who are willing to refine themselves throughout a lifetime.

One step out of her apartment and the conversation begins: What do you hope to get out of this? I read in my research for tonight that when someone touches you, it produces chemicals in your brain that makes you think you’re closer to that person that you actually are. That explains so much.

We continue the conversation as we sit caddy-corner from each other on the bus, and we soon arrive at the King David Hotel. I can only make out one other couple on a shidduch date, way in the corner. We pick a square of couches near a bar in the back of the lobby and begin our shidduch conversation:


“Where do you learn?”

“Mechon Pardes.”


“Mechon Pardes.”


Mechon Meir.”

“Oh, baruch HaShem!”


And so it goes. Over our red wine (her) and iced coffee (me. I actually ordered tea, but oh well)(total: over 50 shekel; at least one of us will be earning money) we discover (with no planned irony) that I am a frum-from-birth learner and that she is a ba’alat teshuvah studying to be a speech-therapist who studies Rashi with Chumash on the side. Beshert! We move on to discussing our hashkafas, or religious outlooks, and the meaning of Torah MiSinai to us (Divine Authorship of the Torah), first as Nomi and Shua, then, eventually, inevitably, as Naomi and Derek. Talking about it as ourselves proves much more engaging. Not long after breaking character for the first time, Naomi pulls out her iPad.

“You use Internet?!”.

“I will only be with a man who does.”

“But you use a filter at least, right?”

“Of course. It only lets me use Skype for my speech therapy sessions and email. And I have a kosher phone.”

“Baruch HaShem.”

She shows me some things, we take some pictures, then she calls the waiter over to take our picture around the time the couple on the real shidduch date leaves. Now our cover is really blown, I think.


Soon after, we decide to try another hotel. First, we head for the David Citadel, but they are closed off for a private event, so we go to the Mamila instead, but they are also closed. At both these locations, Naomi asks the guards if we can come inside and sit in the lobby while I just sort of stand off in the background feeling awkward. At first I thought they would find this odd, but the more I think about it, the more I think this actually may have been the most authentic shidduch date thing we did all night.

Jewish Dating Tips #4: Your lives should be moving in the same general direction. Make sure your goals and values are not on a collision course. You don’t have to have all of the same interests but you do need to respect each other’s differences.

Out of hotels to fake being on a shidduch date in, we head to the Roladin in Mamila Mall. As we walk through the open-air mall, it occurs to be that I should still be feeling self-conscious or even dishonest because of how I am dressed, but I’m enjoying myself too much, feeling strangely too much like myself, to even care. I ask Naomi if she feels any different dressed this way. “I feel like it means more now when I smile at women in hijabs,” she says.

Over dessert, we talk honestly and openly about life, love, relationships, sex, and how Judaism fits into all of it for us. It feels good to have such a candid heart-to-heart with someone about these things, and though our true views on these subjects are very different, in the end, we reach the same conclusion:

Damn chemicals.

Jewish Dating Tips #5: Be fully who you are. If you want to meet your soulmate, you first have to be willing to meet your own soul….The time you are given before you are married is a special time for growth. Use this time to develop yourself into the kind of partner you want to be.*

As we walk through the mall towards the bus stop, we pass a jam band. Naomi reflexively jumps in and starts mixing it up with the rest of the dancers.

“Naomi, no! You can’t dance like that dressed like that!” I say, but she doesn’t care. Pardes: Where even shidduch dates lead to mixed dancing.

The frank discussion continues as we go on to the bus, stopping only when we get on the bus and she sits caddy-corner from a Charedi man, making me sit next to him and spend the whole time watching Naomi taking pictures of us together and trying not to laugh.

Once at our stop, we give each other a big hug good-night, promise to plan our next one soon (but only one more. We know that if we go on three shidduch dates, we have to get married), then go our separate ways. I walk home feeling more in-tune with my true self, more comfortable in my own skin, than I have in quite some time, and overwhelmed by God’s sense of humor.

*Jewish Dating Tips taken from here: