Should a woman hold out to meet perfect Jewish mate

Divorced Jewish female seeks — what?

I'm 43, divorced, a professional and a mother with an adorable and precocious 9-year-old daughter. And yes, I do hope to get married again. So whom do I date — Jews or non-Jews?

Of course, I reason, I should date only Jewish men. It is just as easy to fall in love with a non-Jew as it is with a Jew, so I shouldn't ask for trouble. And, after all, being Jewish is part and parcel of my very being.

I love being Jewish. I love celebrating the holidays, observing the Shabbat and being involved in my synagogue. And I work for a Jewish organization, so I should set an example.

By dating a Jewish man, I will have a companion with whom to share the joys of being Jewish, right? There won't be any misunderstandings about holidays or what dishes we can or can't order at a restaurant. We won't have to deal with the Christmas issue. He'll get all the Woody Allen and Borsht Belt jokes and not be intimidated by my job or shocked at my directness. And we'll be comfortable in our shared history and common language.

Or so I thought. Here are two case studies.

PDD (Post Divorce Date) No. 1:

John — who is not Jewish — and I are fixed up by a mutual friend. We meet for lunch, which is nicer than a quick cup of coffee and less scary than obliging yourself for a whole evening with a dinner date. We have a wonderful lunch and move on to the second date.

What do I know? I'd been married for 15 years. So I sweetly look at John and ask, "So, how come you're not married and what are you looking for in a woman?" Trying hard not to show his astonishment at my directness, he answers my questions.

Out of our dating grows a wonderful friendship, filled with mutual respect and admiration. He's one of my dearest friends. He buys me Chanukah presents, respects my religious observance and doesn't make fun of my eating habits.

PDD No. 2

David — who is Jewish — and I meet at the preschool our daughters attended. One Friday, as my daughter and I head for synagogue, his daughter asks daddy if they may join us, so along they come. Little do I know that the last time he'd been in a synagogue was probably at his bar mitzvah. I highly recommend first dates with your kids; you can determine right off the bat whether the guy is a total dope by seeing how he is with his kid and with yours.

Then it's our first solo date. I've learned; I keep my mouth shut and let him take the lead. He looks at me sweetly and says, "So how come your marriage broke up and what are you looking for in a man?" Maybe it's a Jewish thing.

We exchange war stories (both trying to be appropriately nice about our former spouses) and get down to our ideal mates. They are fairly similar descriptions. We want someone who is bright, witty, a good person, good with our kids, attractive and — oh yes — Jewish.

I figure this guy could be good news. We enter into an eight-month relationship. He is smart and witty and a very good person. He's a bit too lenient with his daughter but adores her and takes his parental responsibilities seriously.

Then the relationship falters. Our idiosyncrasies aren't compatible. The interesting thing is that the longer we date, the less patience he has with the Jewish stuff. He is OK with my food practices; the diet is healthful. But he has made his synagogue appearance and isn't about to go again. The religious stuff was quaint at first, but now it's inconvenient. Isn't religion a lot of hooey anyway?

The pattern has been repeated: The non-Jewish guys are respectful and don't have permission to ridicule and demean Judaism. The Jewish guys do have permission because it is their own.

So, in other words, I want someone who is Jewish, who loves being Jewish, who enjoys belonging to a synagogue and celebrating all the holidays, who doesn't mind having a quasi-kosher home, and who supports my work, who I am and what I want to do. He should, ideally, follow my brand of Judaism.

Or he should be a non-Jew and simply respect me and allow me to be me. And, of course, he should not mind giving up his holiday traditions or relinquishing any thought of ever having a Christmas tree in any joint home we might share or any thought of a child of ours being anything other than Jewish.

Of course, if I found a non-Jew who fit all of those criteria, what message would I be sending to my daughter about the importance of marrying someone Jewish? And how would my non-Jewish partner feel about my wanting her to marry someone who was Jewish? And if it's early in the relationship and you're discussing whether or not you want to have children, how do you politely work into the conversation that they have to be Jewish?

So, the choice is between a nice Jewish man with my kind of Judaism or a nice non-Jewish man with no identity of his own.

I think I'll go read a book.