Ask Shuli: Gentleman and Scholar?

Ask ShuliDear Shuli:

I’ve been dating this Jewish guy for a few months. We talk about a range of topics (politics, the Vikings, movies), but I can’t get him to talk about anything of Jewish substance. What’s he afraid of?

–Coffee tawk

Dear Coffee tawk:

It sounds like your guy may not be the scholar you want. Are you trying to get him interested in religious discussions? Or, are you attempting to discern his Jewish values and preferences, for the future? It’s a good idea to feel out what you two have in common, especially values. But keep in mind: It’s still early in your relationship, and he may not feel comfortable baring his soul to you.

Remember: Jewish does not necessarily mean religious. Your Jewish backgrounds may be completely different. For example, you may have been raised in a Conservative synagogue and dutifully attended Sunday School, day school and/or Hillel at university. He, on the other hand, may have more secular leanings. He might not be that interested in discussing religion or Jewish issues.

Or, perhaps he’s finding his way through these issues in his own head. Just be open: If you have a topic you want to broach, Just Do It already! Sure, it’s easy to take the Minnesota Nice route and discuss the weather, the Vikes or any other safe topic. But if you’re ever going to enjoy a longer-term relationship (or future, if that’s what you want) with this guy, you’ll need to delve a bit deeper. Follow the age-old tradition and practice a few lines or questions in your bathroom mirror: “Do you think rabbis should officiate at gay marriages? Are you interested in being shomer Shabbas (keeping Shabbat)? Have you ever considered making aliyah?”

If he continues to avoid these discussions, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions—about this boyfriend and what’s important to YOU. If it turns out that he’s not the guy for you, consider scoping young adult groups/chavurot at your favorite synagogues, Hebrew classes at the JCC, or events such as classes and seminars offered by the U of M’s Center for Jewish Studies.