Dating 101: Snakes & iTunes

My dating life is interesting. By interesting, of course I mean slightly more pathetic than interesting, but still interesting. I truly have to laugh at the absurd things that happen to me, otherwise I would cry. Cry and scream. Cry and scream and adopt a cat. By cat of course I mean a dozen cats, two dogs, and perhaps a parrot. One I could train to laugh every time I said “I have a date”.  I am good at a lot of things, but detecting crazy in men is not one of them. I suppose in the big scheme of things this is not a terrible gift to be saddled with, but some days the inability to see exactly how insane a man is exhausts and depresses me.

I was chatting on Match with a man from Beverly Hills. He works in mining, was sweet, and if you took out one contact lens and squinted with your other eye, looked a little bit like Kelsey Grammer. We were texting back and forth as I am in London, and made plans to go out when I get back. He asked me to tell him something interesting about myself every day that I was in London. Seemed like a cute thing to do. I told him I was Canadian and had a Canadian flag tattoo. He told me that he had a very large penis, that he refers to as “snake”, and you can see it even when he is wearing a suit. You can’t make this stuff up people.

I marveled that of all the things he could have told me as we did the dance of introduction, he opted to tell about his genitals. I told him I thought it a was strange and disrespectful choice. He told me he meant no disrespect and was simply sharing. I reiterated it was offensive, and he told me I had no sense of humor, sent him mixed messages, and should “fuck off and die”. He then proceeded to tell me I would remain alone because I hated men. Dear Lord. I don’t think I hate anything, other than Donald Trump as President, so his outburst was hilarious. The snake charmer was anything but charming and I was in shock.

He was texting nonstop, then started to talk about my son, who he knows nothing about. Well that’s no fun, so I blocked him on my phone, blocked him on Match, and sent them a screen shot of his text telling me to die. This is a guy who has put his picture online, given me his phone number, then threatened me, all because I told him it was disrespectful to talk about his penis with a stranger. His name is David and he’s 48 years old with glasses, so if anyone comes across him run because he is unstable and dangerous, with or without his snake. As of this morning Match had not suspended him. Dating is strange to be sure, but this is terrifying.

Cut to James, also from Match, who also happens to do something with mining. He is originally from Brazil, and is looking for love after having his heart broken. We exchanged a few emails, then exchanged phone numbers and started to text rather than call as I am in London. He wrote to say he was going to Boston and would let me know when he had arrived. He did as he said he would, and when I asked him how it was going, he told me he got an iPhone. I am a diehard Apple person, so I congratulated him on stepping into the light. I asked what he was up to on a Sunday in Boston, and he told me he was downloading an app he needed for work.

He then told me he did not have his credit card and could I buy him an iTunes card and send it to him by email. Really? Yes. Really. I’m not sure how he bought the phone since he said he left his credit card at home, but I’m guessing details are not important to James. Details or the truth. When I told him he was insane to think I would send him anything, he stopped writing. Not a word since I said he was creepy and I would report him to Match. It makes me sad because there are women who will fall for things like this and in an attempt to not be lonely or feel desired, will buy into this type of scam. James should be arrested, not dating.

Cut to today, when James wrote to tell me I misunderstood him and he expected more from me. He doesn’t know me, so I’m not exactly sure what exactly he was expecting, or what was disappointing. He said he wasn’t asking for money, just asking for an iTunes card to get some apps, for his work, so he could give a great presentation. He said he has a daughter, and friends, and a boss, and family, so why ask a woman he does not know? This is insanity and makes me sad for people who are dating from a place of deep loneliness, as I am sure money is being sent and snake selfies are being taken. It is very sad and frightening.

I looked this morning and the profiles for both James and David are now hidden from the Match website. I am not sure if that was done by them or Match, but they should be looked at more closely. These men are predators and ruin it for others who are online genuinely trying to meet someone. I invite Match to get in touch with me at and I will give them the details of these two loser who are polluting their website and good work. Dating is scary in general, but when you do it online, there are risks involved that perhaps women don’t think about. It can be creepy, but if you want to find someone, a necessary evil.

I date not because I love to date, because who would love something so revolting? I date because I would like to share my life with someone, and dating is how I will meet that person. I am hopeful, which is truly the most important thing to have when dating, because without hope you’ve got no shot in hell of ever meeting anyone. Please just be careful out there, and I don’t just mean the ladies. There are women online who are scamming people just as often as men. Do not send anyone any money, do not tell anyone where you live, meet in a public place, and don’t let anyone pick you up at home. You cannot be too careful.

It is sometimes hard to trust people you know, let alone strangers, but you really must try to be aware. If you come across people you sense are dangerous, tell someone. Write to the dating site you are using and tell them. You owe it to yourself, and also to the other people who will innocently stumble across these people. If you’re wrong and they are not dangerous, just crazy, still better to have said something than to be quiet. James and David are bumps in the road and I will not be scared off by a couple of idiots. I will be cautious and I will be brave because my bashert is out there and he is keeping the faith.

Increasing Political Isolation for Jews

If all those statistics are true about Jews still being one of the most liberal voting blocs in the nation, why are they increasingly estranged from the American left?

Easy: The left, ranging from the anti-globalism fringes to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to some segments of the mainstream liberal community, has adopted policies and perspectives that even many progressive Jews regard as offensive and dangerous.

Good causes have been rendered marginal by activists looking for easy-to-grasp heroes and villains; political correctness has turned Israel from a noble experiment into the ultimate example of vicious colonialism.

And a political culture that can’t say no to extremists has turned the concept of civil rights on its head. It’s no longer unusual to see activists peddling the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" at anti-war and anti-globalism rallies — and for organizers, for all their talk of human rights, to remain silent in the face of this overt anti-Semitism.

That’s producing a kind of political disenfranchisement for Jewish voters who remain strongly liberal, but increasingly lack partners with whom to pursue those political interests.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is in sync with mainstream Jewish voters on a host of important domestic issues. But there is also no other group that is as tolerant of some of the most anti-Israel and

anti-Jewish voices.

Many have been highly critical of Israel in recent years. That’s no sin, since many American Jews and Israelis openly criticize Israeli policies.

But many of these lawmakers go further by giving legitimacy to those who criticize the very idea of Israel, and whose criticism veers off into outright anti-Semitism.

When a United Nations conference

on racism was hijacked by anti-Israel forces and turned into a lynch mob of open anti-Semitism, administration officials boycotted the conference — but leading CBC members, including Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) demanded full U.S. participation.

When McKinney and Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) lost their reelection bids, some CBC members complained about excessive Jewish influence in American democracy. McKinney’s father, a defeated state legislator, was blunter: when asked about why she lost, he angrily spelled out the reason: "J-E-W-S."

Overt expressions of racial intolerance are no longer acceptable in American life, but if the targets are Jews or Jewish influence, many who rally under the civil rights banner are surprisingly tolerant of intolerance.

Other CBC members have provided a Capitol Hill platform for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. When Farrakhan returned from a recent Mideast "peace mission," it was CBC founder Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) who provided him a forum, as if he was a legitimate statesman, not a garden-variety bigot.

It’s not just the CBC.

When anti-globalism, anti-International Monetary Fund forces come to Washington to demonstrate, a wide range of left-wing groups rally under a banner that also includes nutty anarchists and aggressive pro-Palestinian forces.

Collectively, they depict Israel as the last colonial power and the ultimate example of institutional human rights abuses, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein as misunderstood freedom fighters, Zionism as inherently racist.

That same process is at work in the nascent anti-war movement focused on the expected U.S. strike against Iraq.

Many Jews probably share the aversion to a unilateral, preemptive U.S. strike, but don’t expect to see lots of Jews joining anti-war demonstrations; the movement is already linked to the same pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli forces that produced so much overt anti-Semitism at the U.N. racism conference.

Even Tikkun Magazine Editor Michael Lerner, in a letter to supporters, expressed concern about "vulgarity and anti-Semitism" in the new anti-war movement. The left just can’t say no to groups, however extreme and however intolerant, as long as their intolerance is wrapped in the proper Third World, anti-colonialist argot.

Another example: the divestment campaign on American college campuses, which reached an absurdist crescendo with the recent divestment conference at the University of Michigan.

Many Israelis agree that their country has a human rights problem. But to say that Israel is in the same league as Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or an endless list of others reflects a breathtaking lack of balance that looks more like political correctness run amok and a pathological hatred of Israel than compassion for victims.

Overwhelmingly, the left chooses to ignore genocide by Third World countries, while relentlessly criticizing Israel for an occupation most recent governments have tried to end.

The result: Jews who remain liberal, which means a majority are becoming politically isolated.

Their views on a host of domestic issues remain progressive and they continue to be turned off, not only by the Republican Party’s positions on those issues, but by the iron grip of the religious right on the GOP.

But increasingly, they feel uncomfortable in coalitions with groups that tolerate or even encourage the viscerally anti-Israel, Third World rhetoric and misguidedly accepts anti-Semitism in the name of human rights.

Faith in Unique Places

When it comes to faith, Niles Goldstein seems to have it in spades — at least the faith in his own survival. After all, when the 36-year-old rabbi went on a quest to find God, he didn’t play musical synagogues or do a Beatles-style sit-in with the Maharishi. Instead, he set out on a variety of dangerous pilgrimages, ranging from trekking along the unpredictable Silk Road of Central Asia to cruising with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents through the South Bronx.

Being chased by a ravenous grizzly bear out in the wilderness may seem like an odd approach to exploring the tug-of-war between uncertainty and faith, but Goldstein came away with a deeper understanding of this universal struggle, which he shared with fellow spirituality-seekers at The New Shul, his three-year-old multidenominational congregation in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Then came Sept. 11, and with the nation’s faith tested to a previously unimaginable degree, Goldstein high-tailed it to Ground Zero.

"A priest colleague used the phrase ‘ministry of presence,’ and I think that applies to how I was trying to help," he explains. "Just coming together and being there made people believe in the flip side of despair."

Now, from April 19-21, Goldstein will be in Los Angeles for the Faith and Leadership Conference. He will discuss the impact of the attacks on faith — his own and others’ — as well as the relationship between faith and leadership on both a global and day-to-day level.

"Human nature hasn’t changed," says Goldstein of the post-Sept. 11 zeitgeist, "but we got a glimpse of a world that people like us generally don’t see. Now, even the most progressive Jews are finding that faith can offer spiritual nourishment in the form of ritual."

Ritual is not a word normally associated with this unconventional hipster, who is most often found in faded jeans and a T-shirt. A karate blackbelt and well-known author, Goldstein co-founded The New Shul, "a downtown shul with a downtown sensibility," along with two Emmy Award-winning theater professionals. Yet, while some have described The New Shul’s sensibility as avant-garde, Goldstein sees it another way. "The independent congregation frees us up to honor our tradition and excavate old rituals that have fallen into disuse and can be made relevant today." Rituals like the 2,000-year-old Jewish rain dance, which the rabbi says has residues in Orthodox liturgy, has been reinterpreted by him with chanting and music.

Then there are the Goldstein-led Jewish Outward Bound trips. "These challenges and bonding experiences can be used to teach Jewish values," Goldstein says.

It is not surprising that the poster boy for being "on the edge" is at the forefront of exploring the link between faith and leadership in everything from community activism to entertainment industry moguldom. "Any business entrepreneur knows that the willingness to take risks is critical," Goldstein says. "Kierkegaard said that faith is a leap. When you operate from a place of faith, you risk falling down and making mistakes. But that’s far more satisfying than embracing status quo."

As part of the Faith and Leadership Weekend, Rabbi Niles Goldstein will speak on Friday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m., on "Brushes With the Sacred: An Experimental Approach to Mitzvah" at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way; and at the all-day conference on Sunday, April 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15550 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 761-8674.

In Country

Israel may suffer from a lot of shortages — oil, water, new immigrants — but it has an astounding abundance, an endless supply, of opinions.

I began hearing them on my Delta flight to Ben-Gurion Airport. I heard more standing in the passport-control line — and I hadn’t even officially stepped foot in the country yet.

A few more came my way as I headed south toward my brother-in-law’s kibbutz in the Negev. A high school student wearing a kippah and tzitzit poked his head into my car and asked where I was headed. He heard my American accent. "It’s good you’re not afraid to come here," he said, as if I had asked. "You know, we watch the reports on CNN, the kids getting shot in your high schools, and we think it’s really dangerous in America."

These opinions come unbidden, without preamble, as if people are just jumping into the middle of an ongoing conversation.

That conversation is a mostly depressing one, as I’ve heard in the past few days here. The economy has been sucker-punched by the plunge in tourism, the worldwide recession and the high-tech bust. The pre-Oslo sense of isolation has returned, made worse by a sense that Israel has been betrayed by its Palestinian peace partner and by its American Jewish supporters, who have voted with their feet to stay away in droves.

But if the al-Aqsa intifada has darkened opinions, it has also refined them (opinion in Israel has long been more diverse, more freewheeling and less infected with guilt and jingoism than its American Jewish counterpart). The left here, as evidenced by a recent newspaper interview with Chaim Shur, the father of the left, is now more wary, if not outright disdainful, of its former Palestinian partners. The right, as evidenced by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon himself, is more willing to consider the limitations of force.

And the debate continues, amid a daily life that is as full and vibrant as ever. After all, Israelis have always argued politics the way Angelenos talk about movies and real estate — it’s just what’s in the air.

The only opinion that’s been hard to come by here is how the current crisis will end. To that question, I usually get just a slow, silent shrug.