Reverse Discrimination in Dating

A friend of mine who is also a BT was recently dating a guy who was frum from birth. She really liked his personality, his enthusiasm and his sense of humor. There seemed to be a lot going for them as a couple, which is why they were introduced in the first place. But she had a real problem relating to him on one level – he had never had much to do with the secular world, had never had secular or non-Jewish relatives; and that was a very important part of her life.

My friend is very close with her non-religious family. She grew up with some frum friends and a lot of non-frum and non-Jewish ones, many of whom she is still in touch with. She thinks it’s extremely important that whoever she marries feels comfortable going to her family for non-religious holidays, occasional Shabbosim and family events.

She also really enjoys going to movies and listening to non-Jewish music. It’s something she grew up with, and it’s not something that she feels the need to curtail completely from her life.

He couldn’t understand this. He didn’t understand how she could possibly eat in her parent’s house, which wasn’t strictly kosher (though they made a lot of accommodations for her). He didn’t understand how her family could celebrate holidays in their own way, and how she could take part in their celebrating things in a non-Traditional manner.

He also couldn’t understand why people liked non-Jewish music. He had listened to it a few times, but just didn’t connect with it nor did he find it appealing. And he felt that seeing movies was antithetical to being a good, frum Jew.

In discussing the situation with him further, my friend discovered that he really just couldn’t even relate to a non-frum lifestyle at all. He had never been exposed to non-Jews or even non-religious Jews. He worked in a frum place, had all Orthodox friends and had no non-religious relatives. The secular world was a foreign concept to him.

Because of my friend’s ties to her family and friends who don’t live in the Orthodox world, she had a hard time dealing with this. He couldn’t understand where she came from, and that is a big part of who she is. Because she found they couldn’t relate on that level, she felt he would never truly understand who she is, and that is important to her, especially in a relationship like marriage. She decided to stop seeing him because of this.

I don’t think it’s impossible for people from such different backgrounds to make a marriage work. But I think it is difficult, and for my friend, this situation was more than she could transcend. So I guess as much as you hear about discrimination against Baalei teshuvah in dating, there is a bit of reverse discrimination as well.

16 comments on “Reverse Discrimination in Dating

  1. Gotcha. And so I reiterate that the guy in the dating story should be praised and admired as an ideal, however, not everyone is as fortunate to be born into a situation in which such ascetism is possible.

    One should realize, however, that the world around us does in fact assert it’s influence on us and can lull us into believing that roasting human flesh is infact a suptuous kosher meal.

  2. Aryeh Leib-

    Neither one. Just pointing out the paradox. This also impacts the recurring debate on this blogsite about whether to jettison or share our pasts. No Mitzvah for Lakewooders to familiarize themselves with “Human Treif” (Chazal say “we don’t tell one person to sin so that their friend should gain merit”) but once somone has how wonderful it must be to be able to channel it into serving H*. I think it’s a manifestation of T’shuva out of love transforming z’donos (puposeful sins) to z’chuyos (positive merits AKA Mitzvahs).

  3. YD,
    I think what you are saying is that Rabbi Shaifer, of The Shmuze could only tell over that moshel b/c he has had contact with “mountain men.”

    However, had he been from B’nei Braq or Lakewood, he may never have even met a mountain man (i.e. outside influences).

    If this is infact what you are saying, do you mean to praise this ascetic lifestyle or to bury it?

  4. Shoshana-

    I think that your friend exhibited mirror-image discrimination rather than reverse discrimination. Here we have 2 people essentially saying the same thing “I have a comfort zone of attitudes and activities that I grew up in and I’m not willing to change anything significantly even for love and marriage.” It reminds me of the Star Trek episode where there are only two aliens who survived a genocidal war on their planet. To the casual observer they appear identical. “But wait” they tell the Enterprise crew “can’t you see, He is black on the right and white on the left while I am black on the left and white on the right!”

    Aryeh Leib- How many people growing up in Bnei Braq or Lakewood even know what a Mountain Man is, much less about cannibalism? I find it an intriguing paradox that the Rabbi utterly rejecting the “outside” world would not have been able to come up with so apt a moshol for its negation but for his own obvious contact with it.

  5. Aryeh Leib:

    There is a big difference between what someone says in a speech or in a shiur, tape or otherwise and particular, directed advice or psak. Rav Miller was a Gadol, no question about it. But a single piece of general advice is not usually something you want to base a specific hashkafa around, for a few reasons.

    First, everyone is an individual. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, family, psychological make-up, etc. That being the case, unless one has a Rav or Rebetzin that knows him/her well, general advice might not fit their situation.

    Second, everything has a context. Who was Rav Miller speaking to? When did he make this point? What problem was he addressing? There is a widespread opinion that in our times, 5-10 years is considered a generation in terms of the way the world is changing. That also means that a general statement made 5-10 years ago may not be applicable today.

    Third, as Mark pointed out, Gedolim often differ with each other. That doesn’t make one right or one wrong. It does mean that there are different ways to growth and different paths to take regarding family and friends. As a personal example, when my brother intermarried, my Rav advised me not to cut him off. Others may have disagreed and have told me to distance myself from him. When he moved on to messianic judaism, my Rav again advised me not to cut him off. When he returned to Torah he once told me that the fact that I didn’t cut him off or attack him was a big part of the reason (at least as far as he sees it) for him coming to Torah.

    Reb. Heller in her “Community” lecture given in Kew Gardens Hills a few weeks ago spoke about the different approaches to dealing with outside influences. Definitely worthwhile. I can get you a copy.

  6. Many times it can be the timing that is off in these situations. Everyone grows at a different pace. As we try to integrate kedusha into ourselves and our lives, along the way the secular things (music, movies, concerts, TV, unfiltered internet) become less meaningful or simply unnecessary. Things I once thought I could never do without, now aren’t even a second thought or a temptation, honestly. It’s all stages. I hope as a mother of a teenage bochur, that my son resembles the fellow described in the post, he sounds like a prize of an FFB, described with “enthusiasm, sense of humor, surrounding himself at work and with friends in a frum atmosphere, no temptations to non-Jewish music and the like. Good for him and despite all that he must even be open minded to even having agreed to going out with the girl from such a different background and current lifestyle. Good Shabbos to all.

  7. Aryeh Leib

    Rabbi Avigdor Miller was one of the Gedollei Hador and there are mountains of emes in everything he said.

    However that does not mean that an individual should follow a given psak or piece of advice.

    There is a definitive process for how we determine what the halacha is and I highly recommend reading the piece in The Aryeh Kaplan Reader to get a clearer picture on that.

    For advice it seems that the process is a little less defined, but I would think that playing close heed to the majority is a big component.

    Listening to personal Rebbeim and close knowledgable friends is probably the major component when it comes to advice – as outlined in Avos and other Torah sources. And fortunately KGH has a mulitude of available friends and Rebbeim.

    We’re hoping that Beyond BT can be a further for source of developing friendships and relationships with Rebbeim. If anybody wants an email of a particular contributor or commentor let us know and we will try to facilitate it.

  8. BS”D

    I think your friend was right. I married a fairly right-wing FFB, but he is more exposed to the secular world than most Hasidim. Admittedly that influence has not necessarily always been positive in our lives, but it is part of what makes us a pair.

  9. I’m not sure that I see this as discrimination. It wasn’t because this guy was FFB that she didn’t feel that the shidduch would work, it was because he couldn’t even understand things that were important to her. Yes, in your friends case they were things that came from her past and were secular, but the real “problem” was that they weren’t sharing the same world view – which can be a problem whether we are talking about FFB/FFB shidduchim BT/BT shidduchim or FFB/BT Shidduchim (or to be complete BT/FFB shidduchim. :-) )

  10. Mark,
    I can see both sides of the argument and that is why I asked if we should disregard Rav Miller’s advice altogether. I’m sure if Rav Miller made the comment then there is at least a mah-she-hu of emes in it. Wouldn’t you agree?

  11. “It may seem counterintuitive or even somewhat offensive, but Rabbi Avigdor Miller advocates for BTs to separate themselves from their past when they are becoming frum and to have limited if any contact with their family and friends.

    Should we disregard Rav Miller’s advice altogether? ”

    Aryeh Leib – I don’t think you phrased the question properly. You will often have Gedolim disagree on an issue. If Rav Avigdor was your Rav, than following his advice makes sense.

    But on the issue of having limited if any contact with family and friends, the vast majority of Gedolim and people involved in Kiruv disagree with this and feel that you should keep contact (at least with family) for many reasons.

  12. Agree with nameless. It just wasn’t a good fit. Reverse discrimination would be if your friend had not consented to go out based merely on the fact that he was an FFB. Or if she rejects out-of-hand all future FFB shiduchim based on this one experience. Fellow may be a Kadosh but not everyone, BT nor FFB, is.

  13. I agree with your friend, that it didn’t sound like a match. But I wouldn’t call it discrimination; it’s all about fit. If a suit only came in XL and you’re a size medium, it doesn’t fit, and alterations probably won’t help enough. Doesn’t mean the suit isn’t gorgeous.

    My first shidduch was with a guy (FFB) who told me on our first date about watching his Rosh Yeshiva daven shmoneh esrei, crying (the RY) during “v’li yerushalayim” because he meant the words from the bottom of his heart, and how the impression it left on him (the date) impacted his own davening, and he aspired to such a level of kavanah.

    I went home and cried. Because here was a beautiful neshama, and all I knew was that I was in awe. I would never be able to relate to him. Talk about different universes.

    Definitely not a solid basis on which to form the kind of marriage I was looking for. I wanted a best friend and partner, not a malach. But, oh! what a beautiful neshama.

    Definitely NOT a good fit. Many years, a good marriage and few children later (each of us), my heart still aches at the memory. But chas v’shalom anyone should ever say I “discriminated” against him.

  14. I say B’H that the man in your story couldn’t relate to the secular world! He sounds like a shtickle kadosh.

    Rabbi Shaifer of the Shmuze told over a mashal that I thought was so on target!

    Imagine you are walking through the woods when you smell the most delicious reiach n’choyach (pleasant aroma). You happen upon a mountain man who is roasting some kind of meat on a spit and you ask him what it is.

    “It’s mountain meat” is his reply.

    “Yeah, but what kind is it?” you inquire.

    “You know, leg” he responds.

    “Leg of goat, sheep, cow? What is it?”

    “It’s leg, you know…real leg.”

    Just then, it dawns on you what this guy is talking about. He’s roasting human flesh, and you’ve never felt more nauseated in all your life. There’s no way you’d even consider eating this dish!

    Rabbi Shaifer continues…that’s how we should view the world we live in, but we don’t. We get so consumed by the delicious aroma, so won over by the alluring sights, sounds, and smells of our modern, progressive society that we can’t even tell that what we’re involved in isn’t only traif, isn’t only chazer traif…it’s HUMAN traif!

    So I applaud the fact that this guy couldn’t relate to the secular world. It’s no easy feat to have arrived at a marriagable age and not to have been sullied by what can be considered the unwholesome influences of our modern era. It sounds like he is someone that we could all learn from and whom we might do well to emulate.

    Your friend sounds like a lovely person and will no doubt make a terrific wife BE”H, one day.

    I do believe, however, that true tikkun haMiddos resides somewhat, if not completely, in the process of becoming a porush (ascetic), and although it may taste disagreeable initially, and we certainly should not expect to arrive there tomorrow, it is the path that as Jews looking to grow we should embark upon.

    It may seem counterintuitive or even somewhat offensive, but Rabbi Avigdor Miller advocates for BTs to separate themselves from their past when they are becoming frum and to have limited if any contact with their family and friends.

    Should we disregard Rav Miller’s advice altogether?

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