By Tamar Caspi Shnall
The Jewish community is small. It’s even smaller when you’re dating. And it shrinks to minuscule proportions when you only take into account those that are seriously looking for their beshert. Chances are you’ll see the same people on J*Date, at YAD events and working out at the JCC. If you happen to run into someone you’ve never seen before, odds are they’re the friend or relative of someone you’ve already dated or your friend or relative has already dated them. The Jewish dating world can quickly become incestuous.
There was one guy on J*Date whose dad grew up with my mom. And another J*Dater’s grandparents were close with my grandparents many years ago. I know it sounds cute, but it can get obnoxious. Once I was set up with a guy I supposedly knew when I was little. My mom even pointed him out in pictures from my second birthday party. A charming story, but it didn’t equal fate.
I met one guy at a Jewish event who had recently moved to town after graduating law school. After adding him on Facebook, I found that he knew many of my elementary school classmates and I was able to do a quick, undercover background check, receiving the blessing from all our mutual friends. Although he wasn’t my beshert, I was able to utilize the Six Degrees of Jewish Separation to my advantage.
A few years ago, I met a guy at the AIPAC Policy Conference. We quickly discovered his best friend and my sister dated in college but it wasn’t until a few months later, playing Jewish geography, that we found out I had previously dated his sister’s best friend’s brother. It may seem a distant enough relation, but it was enough to skew his view of me. Apparently the kind of woman who would date the one guy isn’t the same type of woman the other guy sees himself with. Confusing, but yet still credible in a twisted sort of way.
Which brings me to a topic many people have written me about: With the eligible Jewish singles community being so small, is it okay to date an ex’s friend? Really, it’s up to the friend to decide what he or she is comfortable with. When I ask friends if they would care, most of them say no, so try not to dwell on the topic; otherwise you will incite suspicion. Don’t concern yourself over what your ex could be telling your new beau because you have no control over it. You have to just hope that the new prospect likes you enough not to be swayed by anything else.
Another instance of the small world we live in came to me while I was on a blind date. I suddenly had the realization that the guy would be perfect for my friend Julie. I got really excited at the idea of making a shiduch, but telling him that wasn’t going to be so easy. Even though I thought he was a quality guy, passing him off to my friend — as amazing as she is — would still be a form of rejection. They were both getting glowing praise from the same person, a perfect use of Jewish geography! Alas, after a few dates the sizzle fizzled.
Jewish geography can be good, for the most part. You know what kind of company the person keeps, who their friends are and if they’re an all-around good guy or gal. But it can also ruin a perfectly good prospect. Sometimes it’s better not to know whom he or she has dated, because that’s their past and may not reflect who they are now or who they are around you, and really, that’s all that matters.
Tamar Caspi Shnall recently married a Dallasite but has 15 years’ worth of dating advice to share! If you have any dating dilemmas, you can e-mail her at email@example.com.