It’s not often that the Orthodox Union schedules a press event to coordinate with a holiday named after a former Catholic saint, so take a second to absorb the fact that the office of the organized modern Orthodox world is launching a campaign to promote Jewish dating on Valentine’s Day.
Steven Burg is starting a Valentine’s Day intervention against inter-dating.
The OU is pushing its "Why Date Jewish" initiative through its youth group arm, the National Council of Synagogue Youth, because it has come to a simple conclusion: Jewish kids tend to justify dating non-Jewish kids when they are young because they figure that youthful romance does not last. They don’t realize that often it does, and that inter-dates lead to intermarriages. So NCSY is striking while the Feb. 14 love is hot.
"Around Valentine’s Day, you can’t walk by Pathmark or any store without being bombarded by hearts and roses; there’s more of a sense that love is in the air," said NCSY’s national director, Steven Burg. "The climate is starting to warm up in March, people are in the love mood, so let’s teach them that there is a real advantage to falling in love Jewish."
The initiative includes the launch of a Website, www.whydateJewish.com, that explains the ins and outs of why Jews should date Jews and only Jews and what exactly is Jewish love, along with the distribution of a pamphlet, part of NCSY’s Torah on One Foot series, called "Dating Jewish."
NCSY estimates that more than ‘0,000 Jewish kids attend its events each year, and of those, around 10,000 from 150 high schools nationwide come from Judaically unaffiliated homes, said Burg, who lives in Bergenfield and attends Cong. Ohr Torah there. And the dearth of teenagers’ commitment to Judaism on any level is staggering, he said.
Burg said that two years ago he spoke to the Jewish culture club at LACES high school in Los Angeles, one of the ‘5 top schools in the country, and when he asked a group of 80 kids how many had even attended Yom Kippur services that year, only 10 raised their hands.
"Even the Yom Kippur Jew is disappearing; now it’s just the ambivalent Jew. We have to be concerned," he said. "For the unaffiliated kid, there is no difference between dating Jewish and dating non-Jewish."
So the Website and pamphlet try to alleviate some of the concern about exclusive Jewish dating, answering, for instance, the question, "Isn’t it racist for Jews to refuse to date non-Jews?"
The pamphlet’s answer: "Absolutely not. Non-smokers may refuse to date smokers, vegetarians may refuse to date carnivores, and political liberals may refuse to date conservatives. It’s not racist to only date people who share certain interests or beliefs."
There’s even a section on the Website that explains why Valentine’s Day presents a Jewish Catch-”.
"Valentine’s Day is either the celebration of a Catholic saint’s martyrdom or a Roman fertility rite or possibly both. Either way, it’s just not a Jewish idea to send Valentine’s Day cards and gifts to your boyfriend or girlfriend," says the site.
So why is the OU sending out a Valentine’s Day of sorts this year?
"Intermarriage is up so high, "said Burg. "We need to make people understand that before they get married, they date."