For most people on JDate, meeting someone Jewish is a top priority. Maybe it’s because you felt inspired by your 5th grade Hebrew school teacher. Maybe it’s because you love any excuse to get your hands on some homemade kreplach. Or maybe it’s because you have a strong spiritual side and really value your relationship with G-d. Whatever the reason, it led you to JDate.
Now, let’s say that you’re still that same spiritual, kreplach-loving person, but you meet someone in (gasp!) the real world – a happy hour, your apartment building’s pool, outside while walking your dog, etc. You want to find out if your prospective new belle or beau is Jewish, but you don’t know how. There are so many options. Some are funny, some are clever, and some are just plain ridiculous.
1. Find out the last name.
This was the strategy my mom took when she met my dad. My mom and dad used to live next door to each other, and my mom actually met my dad’s brother, my uncle, first. (My dad was just the guy always sitting in the window studying.) To my mom, it was important to marry someone Jewish, even though she didn’t grow up in a particularly Jewish area of North Jersey, so she asked my uncle his last name. He told her that his last name was Ettin. What he said and what she heard were two different things when she asked, “What kind of name is that?” She thought she heard “Sicilian,” but what he really said was, “It’s silly!” That got them to talking, then she met my dad, and the rest is history. (As a side note, I sent my mom this article, and she said, “I went to great lengths to find someone Jewish, and I found a ‘silly/Sicilian’ guy right next door!”)
Another way to find out someone’s name is to ask for a business card. I once briefly dated someone I met at jury duty (I was on the jury of a six-week murder trial!), and I was curious to know if he was Jewish, so I asked for his card. The last name ended with “man.” I was happy as a clam… ahem… happy as a kosher meatball.
2. Make sly references to Jewish things.
Maybe you’re walking down the street with your date, and you casually say, “I sometimes make my grandma’s amazing kugel recipe” to see if there’s any recognition. Or throw in some Yiddish for good measure. “I can’t believe my ferkakte car broke down again! It’s such a schlep to get all the way out to the Mini Cooper dealership in Virginia.” Your date will either look at you like you’re a little mashugana (and maybe you are!) or with a sense of appreciation and knowledge.
3. Ask his or her family background.
Maybe you ask where his or her ancestry is from. Maybe you ask if the family came over on the Mayflower or through Ellis Island. Maybe you ask where his or her grandparents lived. These are all indirect ways to get to someone’s religion.
But, of course, none of these is a surefire way to find out. And some ways could be fairly ignorant and obnoxious. The name may be Davis, for example, which could have any background. Plenty of Jewish people have blond hair and blue eyes. And with so many people of mixed heritage, it’s such a melting pot that nothing is certain until you ask. Now, am I saying to ask someone outright on a date whether he or she is an MOT? Not in so many words. But, like any other potential deal-breaker – education or age, for example – you are allowed to ask before you become too invested. Make sure you’re asking in a nice, open way, though. Rather than, “Are you Jewish? If not, I can’t date you,” instead ask something like, “What’s your background, out of curiosity? I’m Jewish, but I have a hard time telling what other people are these days, and I don’t like to assume anything!” Or just go out, enjoy the date, and focus on whether you actually like the person before you decide if you’ll be having Jewish babies together. 😉
Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.