Looking for Ms. Wrong

A good friend of mine got married a couple of months ago to the wrong guy. The thing is, I think they’re going to last a long time.

My friend, “Karen,” is a top administrative officer for a government agency. She hired this lawyer, Joe, to do some outside legal work for the agency. He was living with someone at the time, and he wasn’t her “type” anyway. No problem: no chemistry, no conflict.

Karen and Joe worked together peacefully for more than four years. They got to be good friends on strictly a professional level. All was fine.

That is, until last October, when Joe suddenly realized he had fallen in love with Karen and told her about it. He told her she could take her time figuring it out for herself, but he was determined that they were going to end up spending the rest of their lives together. All this even though he still had a live-in. Karen’s reaction: She thought he had gone a little wacky and recommended counseling! But she reluctantly agreed to an “official date.”

Two weeks later, they were engaged; three-and-a-half months later, married. And they adore each other.

Same with my lifelong friend, Harry. He was a physical education teacher (Jewish — go figure!), 6-foot-3, about 210 pounds., strong as an ox — dated mostly the non-Jewish waitresses he met at the Charthouse, where he worked for waiter’s tips to earn enough to make ends meet. When he met Rachel, she was a pediatric physical therapist from a whole family of doctors — dated mostly short, unathletic, brainy Jewish doctors, lawyers and accountants. Harry was definitely not her type.

Harry’s idea of dress-up was a “nice” pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt without any holes in it. His dress shoes were his newest pair of sneakers. His idea of a great date was when she agreed to go “Dutch” down at Joe Jost’s, a popular, working-class dive in mid-Long Beach. Rachel was used to guys in designer suits who wouldn’t even think of not picking up the tab at the latest trendy Sushi bar.

Result of this “wrong” pairing: Click! Game, set and match. They’re about to celebrate their 17th anniversary; they have two great kids; and they’re still on their honeymoon.

Ever notice when you see some couples that they really “fit” — they really do seem to belong together? When I talk to them, I often find out that their partner was definitely not the person they thought they were looking for.

“In fact,” she’ll say, “he has some habits that in other guys I just couldn’t stand. But in him, I not only put up with them, but find it kind of cute!”

The way I figure it, in this game, you never really know what you’re looking for until you find it. And when you do, all those “wrong” things just suddenly become OK — even right.

So lately, I’ve been asking some hard questions about my own “requirements.” Jewish? Yeah, I guess that’s not negotiable. Oh, I’ve tried the “other side” a few times. It’s just that, when it comes right down to it, the possibility of having one of our future kids wearing a cross and believing Jesus was the messiah really isn’t acceptable.

OK, but what else? I’ve always been attracted to women who are clever, with a keen wit and sharp sense of humor. A bright, mischievous twinkle in the eye is a plus.

The rest of it? I took a lot of time working out my “perfect match” for my JDate profile. Now I’m realizing that I’ve just seen it too many times — regardless of what I “know” about my type, it’s probably going to happen that some vague biological reaction will mysteriously and unexpectedly assert itself when I meet the “wrong” person. Then all those things on my “must” list just won’t matter any more.

So now, taking a cue from the popular challenge to “think outside the box,” I’m doing my best to “look for love outside the box.”

What I still need from someone out there is to meet me halfway. While I’m trying to keep my eyes and my heart a lot more open to the possibilities, what are you looking for? What do you see when you look at me?

Deleted my JDate e-mails because I’m “too old”? Tell that to Catherine Zeta-Jones or Annette Bening! And are you telling me you’d take a pass on Sean Connery today, even at his age? (Same goes for receding hairline excuses.)

Rejected a setup by the matchmaking service because I’m “too short”? Hey, I thought you said “size” doesn’t matter! And how often have you expressed disdain for guys who focus a little too much attention on the size of a woman’s chest?

Looked past me at Friday Night Live because it seems like I’m “too serious?” You know, “serious” doesn’t have to mean “boring.” There’s nothing like a little serious fun to keep a relationship interesting and alive. Ever hear the expression, “Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac”? Try it, you might like it!

Now when they say to me, “There must be some reason a nice guy like you isn’t married,” I tell them, “It’s not that I’m waiting for that ‘perfect person’ who doesn’t exist. It’s just that I’m waiting for the right ‘wrong’ one to come along — the one whose ‘toos’ aren’t ‘too’ for me.”

Look, I know you’re out there somewhere. The problem is, although I’ve figured it out, I have to hope you’ll stop searching for Mr. Right. Because what you’re really looking for is me: Mr. Wrong … who’s really been the right one for you all along.

Glenn M. Gottlieb is a professional mediator and corporate attorney
practicing in Los Angeles. He is actively looking for Ms. Wrong and can be
contacted at gmgottlieb@hotmail.com.

New Coalition Opposes Intermarriage

In the face of widespread popular Jewish acceptance of intermarriage and a sense that the Jewish community’s leaders have given up any effort to oppose it, a group of 25 Jewish rabbis, intellectuals, lay leaders and communal affairs professionals is galvanizing to fight for change.

After an initial, closed-to-the-press meeting Feb. 20 at the New York offices of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the nascent group is now asking leaders of the Jewish community to state loud support for what has been the Jewish norm of Jews marrying Jews.

This week, group members issued a statement saying they intend "to work together to help restore the ideals of inmarriage and to promote its importance to the future of the Jewish community and to the preservation of Judaism and the Jewish people. We believe that there exists a leadership responsibility to shape the communal climate and set norms."

Steven Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life for the AJC, who organized the meeting, called the purpose "to change the culture" regarding intermarriage in American Jewish life.

The coalition, as yet unnamed, includes three Reform rabbis and two Conservative rabbis who work in congregations, along with Modern Orthodox sociologists, the head of an influential foundation, and author Elliott Abrams. Officials say the group has not yet determined how it will programmatically address its mission.

Sociologist Egon Mayer, founding director of the Jewish Outreach Institute, which promotes outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried families, said, "They’re going to make speeches to people who in every other aspect are integrated into American life and expect those people to listen?

"It doesn’t cost anything to pontificate, but the American Jewish Committee could use its collective intelligence in better ways than this,"Mayer said.

In response to this dismissal, Abrams said, "It almost amounts to censorship, if he’s saying that people should shut up rather than try to change things." He continued, "Defeatism isn’t a useful tactic. The rate of intermarriage isn’t fixed and can be affected."

"I’m afraid that we’re reaching a place where intermarriage can’t even be discussed," he said. "We’ve already reached that in some synagogues, where people get angry at the rabbi, whose contract might not be renewed" if he or she discusses the subject.

According to Bayme and company, however, although intermarriage may be inevitable, the Jewish community does not have to accept it as normative. "We’re not deluding ourselves into thinking that intermarriage will go away, but we’re not powerless when it comes to affecting the climate in which the Jewish community perceives it," Bayme said.

Bayme added that he organized the meeting after being shocked by the findings of a survey sponsored by his own organization that revealed that a majority of American Jews regard marriage between Jews and gentiles as neutral, even positive, rather than as something negative — a radical break from the traditional Jewish point of view.

A majority of respondents to the survey — 56 percent — said they would not be pained if their child married a gentile, and 50 percent said they view Jewish opposition to intermarriage as racist. Among respondents, 57 percent even said rabbis should co-officiate with Christian clergy at interfaith weddings.

The study also found that support for the conversion of the non-Jewish spouse to Judaism has collapsed. Only one-quarter of American Jews agree that the best response to mixed marriage is to encourage the gentile partner’s conversion to Judaism.

One goal of the new coalition is to make conversion a positive aim in interfaith marriages.

The complicated and emotionally charged issues of interfaith families are felt particularly acutely in Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative synagogues, where intermarried congregants and their children feel excluded if the subject of interfaith marriage is even broached, rabbis say.

"We call it ‘the I word,’" Rabbi Avis Miller said half-jokingly. Miller, who spoke at the AJC meeting, is rabbi of Conservative congregation Adas Israel in Washington, D.C.

She said it is hard to maintain boundaries by defining legitimate roles in synagogues for non-Jewish spouses without having them perceived as barriers. And, Rabbi Miller confessed, "We do lose people in the act of defining who we are."

Reform rabbis face particularly acute challenges because, unlike their Conservative colleagues, they can choose to officiate at mixed marriages. Their willingness to do so has been a litmus test for many Reform rabbis being interviewed for jobs at congregations.

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin of The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, N.Y., says he does not officiate at intermarriages, but the pressure on his colleagues to do so "can be very intense." One of three Reform pulpit rabbis to participate in the new coalition, he said he hopes that "we will come up with a way of communicating to the Jewish public that inmarriage is the way to go, that we can teach our young people to focus their romantic choices on Jewish partners."

Rabbi Salkin said he is involved with the group because he wants the Jewish community to better articulate the message that "there’s only one reason for Jews to marry Jews: because we want Judaism to continue…. There has to be a ‘what for’ in the message that we give people to marry Jews," he added. "The ‘what for’ is that Judaism is worth struggling for."