The dating game in Jewish Atlanta is a common topic of discussion, but to gain a better perspective of what it’s like for older singles, including those who are divorced or widowed, the AJT spoke with people over the age of 40.
Arlene Appelrouth, an AJT contributor, has been a widow since the death of her husband, Dan, a year and a half ago. Despite looking for a potential partner after her period of mourning, Appelrouth has found it difficult to re-enter the dating scene.
She has tried online dating, including using JSwipe and considering JDate, but she has found the apps overwhelming.
“You’re flooded with pictures and profiles of men who are interested in meeting women; however, it’s like walking into a candy store,” she said. “You have all these different shapes and flavors, and who knows what to do with them? I find it amusing but am also taking the time to really ask myself what I really want, which I don’t know yet.”
One of the things Appelrouth has found challenging about the apps is the requirement to declare a Jewish denomination.
“I can’t really put myself in a box, which is why I hesitated to sign up for JDate,” she said. “I don’t like labels and don’t like telling people what kind of Jew I am.”
Although Appelrouth has been advised by people she respects that there aren’t any people out there worthwhile, she remains hopeful. “I don’t know if that’s true and don’t think it is, but I hear that when you get to a certain age, you’re just better off being alone, as people have so much baggage.”
In addition to JSwipe, Appelrouth has used Match.com but was surprised to find that most of the men trying to date Jewish women are not Jewish themselves.
Appelrouth is active in the community, participating in various events, but she said she would like to see more programs targeting singles in her age group.
“There’s a lack of social support from the community and organizations for individuals who find themselves single,” she said. Appelrouth has never used a matchmaker but may be willing to do so in the future.
“It’s a prickly transition and shift in a person’s consciousness,” she said about the difference between thinking of yourself as a widow and seeing yourself as single.
With a master’s degree in counseling, Appelrouth also hopes to start a group in which widows can come together to share their experiences and discuss their feelings. “It’s something to think about, as I have had countless women tell me there is no support for widows.”
While Appelrouth misses her husband, she enjoys staying active. “I’m trying to do those things that were meaningful for me, but it’s challenging.”
Others who spoke to the AJT requested varying degrees of anonymity. While the newspaper does not usually grant such requests, we did so for this article in the belief that the general issues older singles are facing are more important than the specifics of individual cases.
A woman in her late 50s said that although she often attends fundraisers, she has not had the opportunity to meet anyone new and feels that there is a lack of events for her age group.
“The Jewish community as whole, whether through The Temple or the JCC, should help organize some activities for people 40, 50 and over that they would enjoy going to,” she said.
She has never used a matchmaker but is open to the idea. She has turned to such apps as JDate, Match.com and JSwipe. “I’ve met a lot of nice people through those apps, but you also have to be extremely selective,” she said. “Even though it’s very competitive, I also think it’s the best way to meet people right now, as there is nowhere else to go in Atlanta for Jewish singles around my age.”
After losing his wife early last year, Don, who is in his 70s, shared his insights about the difficulty as a widower of finding a partner who shares the same values.
Since his wife’s death, he has met people only through his synagogue and community events. He has used dating apps but has found the process difficult.
“The people are either too young or too old, and I am looking for someone who cares about being Jewish and not just spiritual,” he said.
Don said he is frequently invited to the homes of friends and family members for Shabbat dinners. Those occasions have enabled him to make new friends but nothing more.
“I’d like to meet someone, as it is a big part of my life I would like to have filled,” he said. Although Don has never been set up by a matchmaker, he intends to give the process a try after receiving some information from a fellow member of his Orthodox synagogue. “I’m going to look into it and see what happens.”
After living in Atlanta for 11 years, a woman discussed her Jewish dating experience as a divorcee.
Although she belongs to a synagogue, she has a problem finding a relationship within the shul because she considers herself Conservative while most members are Orthodox. “A lot of the men are not going to ask me out because even though I keep kosher, I still drive on Shabbos and am not in a position to have a match made.”
She said her age often plays a role in meeting someone.
“I am 55, and I think men look for someone who is younger,” she said, adding that people fix her up with men who are much older. “Although I’m in my 50s, I am often introduced to individuals in their 70s, which is not deflating but makes me wonder where all the men are within my age group. Maybe if I was 10 to 15 years younger, I would have a better chance of meeting people at various young adult professional events.”
She has participated in Jewish singles meetups and attended various synagogues to meet people. “You just never know who you will meet, and you can never have too many friends.”
She said she is often asked to provide her phone number for a potential suitor.
Though she has tried matchmaking, she said she often was paired with much older men, and she has failed to meet the right person with JDate and other dating apps. She said she has found that most of the men on Match and JDate are not Jewish.
“I’m not looking to just date someone, but a partner who is going to communicate and share their life with me,” she said.
She added: “I guess my hope within this community is that people aren’t afraid of commitment and they stop thinking about what’s greener in the other pastures without taking in what’s in front of you. We often miss the gems in front of us when we are looking elsewhere.”