Dear Matchmaker Rabbi:
I am a single man who is 49. I have been in love with Israel and her people since I was 12. I live in the United States, and I am not Jewish. I want to move to Israel to live and fall in love and become Israeli. The tug I feel in my heart goes straight to my soul. I have looked at this before and put it down to whimsy or fantasy, but the tug to me is stronger than ever. I am well educated and have solid skills.
— Please Help
Dear Please Help:
It is always nice to hear from someone who feels a deep kinship for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. What puzzles me about your letter, though, is that you seem to merge feelings of romantic love of a theoretical future person, with an abstract love for “the people” of Judaism, with yet another abstract love for the land of Israel. These are all, I think, very different issues from each other.
If you feel a pull to live in Israel – or anywhere in the world for that matter – the first and obvious thing to do is to actually go there and spend some time! It is very easy to have a romanticized notion of what another place is like without having spent real time there in the nitty-gritty reality of everyday life (and by “real” I mean a minimum of several months, not a two-week visit). There are many study and volunteer programs in Israel where you could spend a summer or even a semester.
If, after that experience, you still feel like you might want to emigrate, you can begin investigating your options. I will warn you, though, that as a non-Jew, it is extremely difficult to gain citizenship there. Israel is a country with many bright, highly educated people competing for a limited number of jobs, and the standard of living is not what you are probably accustomed to in the U.S. Even if you were to convert to Judaism (and you make no mention of being interested in Judaism as a theology,) conversions done outside the Orthodox world are rarely accepted for immigration purposes.
As for feeling a love for the Jewish people, that too is a romantic notion that isn’t really about any particular person. To love or marry a person just because they happen to be Catholic or Hindu, or happen to have ancestors from Italy or Japan – these are not the things that ultimately matter in a relationship. If a woman’s Jewishness is an initial attraction to you, great, but keep in mind that is only one very small beginning.
—The Matchmaker Rabbi
Joysa Winter, aka The Matchmaker Rabbi, knows all about how hard it is to find lasting love. It took her 17 years to find Mr. Not Wrong! In that time, she tried just about every singles site, dating club and Matzah Ball known to humanity. Now in her fourth year of rabbinical school and the mother of 1.5 kids, nothing brings her greater joy than officiating a wedding. She is finishing a book on her dating adventures called Chasing Cupid, Tales of Dating Disaster in Jewish Suburbia. You can follow her on Twitter at @wanderinghebrew.