Four years ago, I was a 20-something-year-old girl navigating my way through the young, Jewish, and, most importantly, single ocean located within the tri-state area. I would make it a point to go to every party, social gathering, mixer, and anything else in hopes of finding a nice boy to hopefully score a date with and then eventually settle down.

Because I grew up in a traditional Orthodox Syrian Jewish community, the pressure was on from the second I had turned 18 to find a husband by any means necessary. The problem with that, however, was that I was nowhere near ready to take care of myself, let alone deal with the emotional stress that comes along with maintaining a complex adult relationship leading to marriage.

Between the age of 18 and 22, I truly focused on living my life how I wanted to and totally disregarded the pressures to settle down. I spent a semester abroad and had the time of my life. I came home to New York and went to the best clubs, bars, and restaurants in New York City with a great group of like-minded friends. I traveled to amazing places and felt the freedom that I so desired growing up in a more sheltered culture. But, at a certain point, I yearned for something more — something deeper and more meaningful than getting into the best spots and meeting the coolest people.

That feeling — coupled with the death of my grandfather, who was truly like a best friend to me —shifted my priorities in a major way. After some time had passed, I tried to pick up my life where I left off. I started going out with my friends again to our usual spots, but a large dark whole in my heart really kept me from enjoying it the way I once had. I knew I needed to buckle down and start putting myself on the right path for my future.

I had already chosen a path in my education and career, so now it was time to really focus on dating. I began in the more traditional way that was deemed acceptable by my Orthodox community. I was set up by matchmakers, went on blind dates, and introduced myself to as many single men as possible whenever I was out. I went to many singles-events that were advertised with the promise of meeting great like-minded young professionals who all had the same goal in mind: to date in a serious capacity. After attending literally hundreds of these events, however, I was shown the unfortunate reality of the situation: Most of the men I was meeting did not have serious goals at all when it came to their dating lives. They simply wanted to find “easy” girls who were willing to go home with them, only to never hear from them again. After falling into that regrettable trap numerous times, I decided that I needed to be a bit more unorthodox in finding potential men to date.

Despite it being the norm throughout the rest of the world, creating a profile on apps like Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, or even the Jewish version, JSwipe, is considered to be very taboo in my community. The stigma that many people in my community hold against app dating is that, somehow, meeting your special someone in this way is less legitimate than meeting them in a more organic or “old fashioned” way. Many people view meeting people through apps as forced, weird, and even dangerous. Not only that, but people in my community view those who use dating apps as if they are desperate and had no other choice because of their immense failures in the “real” dating world.

I, being a modern woman trapped in a more Orthodox world, decided to go against the grain as I typically did throughout my life and take a chance in order to meet new people. That’s when I started JSwiping. I loved the idea that I could freely swipe through the pickings as if I were shopping for my future Mr. Right in a catalogue, and I loved meeting people outside of my community. It was truly like taking a breath of fresh air.

When I first started swiping, I found it overwhelming and exciting all at once. I began chatting with men whom I would have never chatted with otherwise. I learned a lot about the world around me as well as about myself and what I was actually looking for. Yes, I went on some disaster dates through JSwipe, but I had just as many disaster dates via traditional dating so that didn’t discourage me.

And then I met one guy on JSwipe who caught my eye right off the bat. He was from a totally different Jewish culture than me, but on the same level in terms of spirituality, which I found fascinating. We went on our first date and the conversation didn’t skip a beat for about four straight hours. We had so many common interests that it seemed to be a prank of some sort. We laughed and connected on a level I had never had with anyone else in my life.

Fast forward to now — and I am happily married to that man with our first child on the way.

Yes, many people within my community react strangely when they discover how we met, but I have learned to disregard them completely. The thing I find most interesting is when people in my community react in a surprised way when they discover I met my husband through JSwipe. “But, he’s so normal!” they exclaim in utter disbelief. Yes, I met my husband on a dating app and he’s not a weirdo, crazy person, or whatever closed-minded beings assume people on dating apps would be.

Now I’m trying to pave the way for more men and women within my community to attempt to get with the times. We live in the new millennium and with this new age comes new-age ways to meet new people. Through my experience I have learned that we don’t have to remain within the social, religious, or cultural constructs which we were born into. We can expand our horizons, build our own futures for ourselves, and choose what to include and what to omit from our upbringing.

So to anyone who still thinks that app dating is odd or out of the question: my happily married husband and I are happy to show you the light any time.

Shelly Greenstein Forman

Shelly Greenstein Forman is a writer based in New Jersey with works published on Elite Daily, Mogul, Uloop, and more. She is currently serving as editor-in-chief of Sephardic.Org and enjoys speaking her mind about important issues whenever she can.

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