I got a really difficult email the other day from a good friend of mine. She too is studying to be a rabbi. She is 35 and not yet married (old in our world). She is studying to be a reform rabbi, but she too feels the pressure to be married by the time she is ordained, which for her is only in a couple of weeks. She is currently seeing someone, that she really like, and makes her happy- the problem is that he is VERY secular, to the point of being anti- religious – even reform is too much. She wrote to me because she doesn’t know what to do. She wants to be with him, but at the same time she feels like she can’t fully be herself. She is debating about changing what she would say at her ordination, so as not to frighten him. She is worried that her dreams will make her never find someone, and feels like she doesn’t know who she is any more.
The job openings have started to arrive. But so far, the two that I have seen are in small communities, that are very family oriented. Even though one of them, I think I would apply to, part of me doesn’t want to apply because if I am single I would be alone. I think about my job her in Australia. Professionally, I am very happy. I am doing everything that I want to be doing. The community is really sweet and war. I have opportunities not only to be in the shul, but also to go to embassies and national events. Really it is great.
But then I am alone. Shabbat comes, and I have to try to find people who want to come to my house- because if I don’t have any guests, it is just me. I do have desire to be with another person, but there isn’t another person to be with. There is not a single person to even consider dating, which means that I am just alone.
In some ways there is something really open about being single and not knowing what happens next. I can go anywhere. I don’t need to worry about someone else being able to find a job or work. I don’t need to worry about how crazy relocation can be for another person, who might be relocated just for me. The world is my oyster.
But mostly, I think that this is really hard. It is something we don’t talk about very often, because well, it goes against part of the feminist ideal. There are so many articles telling women that it is ok to be single, you don’t need a partner in your life. You can be and should be independent. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you want to do. If you look up quotes on being single, it is all about how you don’t need a person.
But let’s face it – it is something that might stop me from doing what I want to do, because as much as I want to do this, I also want to have a partner. Yes, I am strong enough to do things on my own, I have been doing that all my life. But I WANT someone else there. I want to have someone there – both emotionally and physically. My marital status makes me (and I know also jobs I apply to) think twice- is it a place that I can meet someone? Is it a place that is only families so I am just going to always feel like an outsider and even more alone?
My friend mentioned that becoming a rabbi is something that she has always dreamed of and she is so close (like two weeks away), and now she is potentially considering putting it aside so she can have a partner. Yes, in some ways I want to tell her, if he really is “the right one” he will accept her for who she is. But let’s be honest, that isn’t true. When you are a woman studying to be a rabbi, at a certain point there is a feeling that you have to take what you can get. If every other aspect of him is great, then maybe I do need to change a bit of who I am.
I know that some of this is rambling, but it has been sitting in my head for two days. I did answer her, but it made me think of myself. In only 4 weeks I will be moving back to the US (for real this time). I am starting to apply for jobs for after June, and I have no clue where I will be. But I do know that my being alone will be something that affects my decision.
I hope for myself, my friend, and well anyone else out there that is in a similar boat (I don’t think this applies only to rabbis, I would say anyone with a communal job, but others too), please let us not have to lose ourselves just to find partnership.