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Equal Opportunity Dating

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While it's easy to meet people in New York, it's not always easy to meet people you'd want to date. During periods of my being single, in order to meet new potentials, friends have encouraged me to enter the online dating world. Some suggested JDate.

For those of you who don't know, JDate is an online dating service with the intent of creating a romantic connection between Jews (or a handful of others who sign up who are not Jewish but who presumably have some sort of affinity for the Jewish faith/culture). Who doesn't like a NJB (Nice Jewish Boy)? "What is there to lose," I thought. But something inside me was always hesitant. I didn't need to limit my search to a NJB. In fact, it's never been my intention; I'd just like to find someone who will respect my religious and cultural traditions and, ideally, be open to learning about them and the role they play in my life.

I did a little asking around on this topic. Brad L. says, "I think when it comes to religion, if you are a devout believer in a very specific philosophy you should probably stick to zealots of the same stripe, it just avoids the eventual philosophical conflict and the big fight that ends in you discovering the other person doesn't actually respect your beliefs."

I've dated other Jews before and it feels "safe." You don't need to worry about major clashes in religious beliefs, and you have been brought up learning common stories and legends. Quite frankly, though, it can be a little ... well, boring. I'd love to discover a new religion or culture and add that to the list of the new and interesting things that my future partner and I have to learn about each other. This also would likely lead to increased open-mindedness between family members and children. (Maybe I just want to stamp out discrimination one love match at a time. How wrong is that?!)

My parents have been together for almost four decades, being an inter-racial and inter-cultural couple themselves. They are still learning about each other after all this time. It's not to say that they wouldn't have had four decades of interesting things to share had they been of the same race or ethnicity, but I tend to think that their coming from different cultures helps the quality and longevity of their relationship.

In contemplating my decision to join JDate, I thought of a comment that a friend once made: she said that she would only date another Jew. My first thought was that only dating other Jews means closing off an entire segment of the population with which you might find love! Only dating (and reproducing with) other Jews means that your babies will have a greater chance of having a genetic disorder. Only dating other Jews means that you are not contributing to the diversity of our world (not that that's everyone's responsibility, but it would be nice).

I have never wanted to limit myself to a Jewish boy. For that matter, I have never wanted to limit myself to a Vietnamese boy. Or a Jewish-Vietnamese boy. (How would I even find one of those, anyway? The only one I know is my brother!) Then I thought, if one person is only open to another person from their specific religion or ethnic background, could that be considered discriminatory or racist? Why date only within your group? There are a lot of sites out there which target matches within the specified "us" group, such as allblackdating.com, salaamlove.com, arablounge.com, ikarmadate.com, christiansingles.com, and so on.

There are dating sites for almost any group you might look up. Charlene J. Says that "a site like 'Meet Black Singles' isn't seen as racist but 'Meet White Singles' would be! Somehow dating sites based on religion are acceptable though. I suppose because if you are very religious, it's a deal breaker and you might as well state that up front."

I spoke with Raj Giri, CEO of IndianDating.com, who says that his company was founded in order to create matches that are "culturally based". In other words, matches between people who have similar values and backgrounds. When I asked him if he saw this as at all racist, being only open to a romantic match within your "us" group, he said that there is a fine line. "Being Indian doesn't mean you are brown-skinned." There are a number of people on the site who aren't Indian, he tells me, probably 5-10 percent. Whether it is because they have grown up in India or have close ties to India and Indian culture, they have found themselves signing up for the service.

"When you are working, it's hard to meet people," he says, and IndianDating.com creates that bridge for people by using technology. Many Indian parents would like to see their children with Indian partners. Before his site, Raj tells me, "what was out there was matrimonial." Parents used the old style of fixing their children up, and relationships seemed to go from zero to a hundred. While Raj does not comprehensively address my question, he does make a case for better "us" group matches to be made through his site and sites like it. Hannah T. shares, "...being attracted to one particular race is part of an earlier particular phase of racial acceptance. It's fairly low on the totem pole, but a beginning in the racial awareness cycle."

"I think many people today are very ingrained in their comfort zone," Jeff S. tells me. "That's why the "seeking same religion, race, etc." is so popular. I don't think its racism, but I do think it's very sad. I think people who feel this way are limiting themselves and missing out on some wonderful and mind-opening experiences."

Amen. I mean, true that.

Did I ever sign up for JDate? I didn't. I decided to go with a free site open to everyone. No application, no screening, no discrimination. Who was the last nice boy I met? He happened to be Jewish.

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