... sparks debate about dating in the Jewish world
By BEN BRESKYUpdated: FEBRUARY 8, 2019 07:45
‘The only way out, in order to follow the laws really, is to get married,” so states one of the four men profiled in the new documentary titled Single Jewish Male.In Jerusalem talked with director Chananya Weissman following the screening of the film at the Orthodox Union Center in the city last month.Weissman stars in several humorous YouTube shorts that satirize the dating scene. He is also the author of End The Madness: Guide to the Shidduch World and How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance as well as several other books ranging from science fiction to Torah subjects.“I made a film about single men because it’s a voice that is rarely heard in the shidduch world,” Weissman told IJ. “It’s not just a problem that women are facing, it’s a problem that everyone is facing.”Weissman lamented that he hears again and again, “It’s either there aren’t enough guys, or the guys are all losers. I wanted to show there are good guys out there.”This was the fourth public screening of the film, and unlike other venues, it attracted an older, married crowd. Because of the timing during the afternoon, many older, retired residents who typically attend events at the OU Israel Center showed up. Also in the audience were quite a few matchmakers and those involved in the shidduch world, who watched with interest.Following the screening, Weissman and two of the featured singles fielded questions from the audience, some of whom took issue with the film.“The audience was opinionated,” said Weissman. “Some were supportive and some challenged it, and that’s fine. I am challenging the system to a degree. There is a fear of not fitting in, and then being blackballed,” he related. The director stated there were other men profiled who backed out of participating, because they feared it would be “dating suicide.”David Kilimnick, one of the featured singles, pontificated as to whether participating in such a film would decrease his chances of finding a date. A stand-up comedian who for 10 years ran the Off the Wall comedy club in downtown Jerusalem, he has often joked about the Jewish dating world in his act.Kilimnick, who has never been married, told the crowd that he sometimes feels like a second-class citizen, especially at family-oriented settings such as synagogues, or on Jewish holidays.He spoke to IJ following the screening at the OU Center, where he joined in the question-and-answer session.“I think the community genuinely cares about this issue,” Kilimnick stated. “They always care about us poor unmarried losers,” he joked. “I love Jewish life and keeping kosher and keeping Shabbat is a necessity; but as I get older, I realize one needs to be more open in what kind of person they’re looking for.”David Katz, a Safed resident, is a widower. Rather than discuss his tragedy, he focused on how he and his late wife met in the first place and then pushed to marry fast.“She was a great person, but we had no business being married,” Katz said. Even though they seemed to be a mismatch, Katz said, both of them felt the pressure to continue the relationship. He recalled matchmakers telling him, “David, you’ll never get married; this is your last shot!”Katz went to the screening of the film at Ascent of Safed, where it was attended mainly by those from nonobservant backgrounds. Unlike the audience at the OU Center, most of the audience asked basic questions about how matchmaking and dating works in the religious community.Avi Dzik of Jerusalem is now married. He discussed his long and seemingly uphill process in finding that special someone. Although he found matchmakers and dating coaches helpful, he also found irony in the process.“I went on singles Shabbatons, and the expert married people would get up and speak,” he stated.Dzik explained that his first singles event was at age 26, and his last one before finally getting married was at age 36.“They sometimes say insensitive things, and a lot of my friends were offended by the shidduch experts,” Dzik said. “But I for some reason took it as good musar, a lesson for me to focus on. Yes, they spoke down to me. But I wanted to get married, and they were offering advice. Still, they spoke to us almost as if we had a disease – singles, or shingles? – they have an air of superiority because they were married,” Dzik said.During one conversation in the film, Weissman asks a participant, “How come 50 years ago we didn’t need dating coaches?”He elaborated to IJ: “One major change is the advent of Internet dating apps and sites. It can help some people, but it needs to be used responsibly, not a dry resumé. After the sea of endless faces and profiles, it’s hard to tell people apart.”David Schwartz, a resident of Jerusalem, is divorced and looking for Miss Right. One of the screenings took place at Schwartz’s yeshiva, the Diaspora Yeshiva, located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Weissman said the screening there had a very mixed audience of singles and married couples of all ages, who had mostly positive opinions of the film. Another screening took place in California and also got positive feedback.The film was going to be shown at a major women’s beit midrash program. Weissman said the administration was in favor of it, but the young women themselves nixed the idea because, at their age, they didn’t think it was relevant to listen to what older singles had to say.Schwartz advocated self-discovery and improvement in the journey to find the right match. But he also agreed that there are unique challenges in the modern era. With Internet dating and the easy access to information, he lamented that “people already have a preconceived notion of what they are looking for, yet it might stare them in the face, but they are blocked. A quick couple dates and they get scared and don’t want to do that inside work – to think, Can I really grow with this person?”He added a positive message, explaining, “Life is about these challenges, and working together is what helps the bonds stick.”The film and the attitude of the participants seemed to reflect positivity and humor in the face of struggle.Weissman, the director, summed it up: “I don’t choose to be Orthodox because it’s always the easiest and most convenient way of life, but because I really believe it is right. Sometimes we have to suffer for what we believe in.”The film is available on demand at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/singlejewishmale.
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