How can a socially isolated Jew with Asperger syndrome find a Jewish soulmate?
[Administrator's note: A related question can be found on Jewish Values Online at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=860]
As I don’t know the specifics of your situation and how socially isolated you are, I can recommend three possible solutions, which hopefully will be relevant for you:
1)You, or if you’re not comfortable with this, perhaps a family member or close friend can speak to a local rabbi, Jewish teacher or community activist, who can either help you directly or can put you in touch with a matchmaker (many are volunteers who just want to help people get married) who will try to help you find a proper match. If this is relevant, please don’t get discouraged if they don’t find anyone for you right away, and always feel free to remind the rabbi or matchmaker to keep looking on your behalf.
2)If the above is not relevant, (i.e. you don’t live near a Jewish community), or if you want to broaden your options, I would recommend signing up with online Jewish dating sites where you can work directly with matchmakers who will be your agent to find you matches. There may be other sites with matchmakers which you can find with a search, but I know of two – www.jretromatch.com and www.sawyouatsinai.com. The matchmakers, after getting to know you, will search the databases for someone appropriate for you, and will act as advocates for you in your search. Obviously, there are many other Jewish dating sites, which you may already be using, but having someone looking out for you will hopefully make the online dating experience a smoother one.
3)I would be happy to try help you directly. If you are interested, you can email this website directly with your contact information for my attention, and I will, b’li neder, follow up with you.
Good luck, and I hope and pray that you will find your bashert, your soulmate, very soon.
This question is a plea, as much as a question of Jewish law, and deserves recognition at the level of the heart as well as that of the head. So let me “put my cards on the table”, as an advocate for inclusiveness in the Jewish institutional world. In the congregation that I serve, we are visibly and vocally committed to welcoming people regardless of the differences that all too often hinder socialization. As a result, various differently-abled people have joined our congregation. It grieves us to hear the stories of subtle or overt rejection that they have experienced.
Theologically, the Jewish embrace of the differently-abled should start with an understanding of the meaning of being human, as taught in the opening chapter of Genesis. We are created b’tzelem elohim, “in the Divine image”. While there is a legitimate range of interpretations of that phrase, the main Jewish understanding is that it refers to a spiritual, not a physical, likeness that each of us bears to our Creator. Each of us! Male and female (see Genesis 1:27 and 5:2); Each of us! Swift of foot or slow of foot (Ecclesiastes 9:11), fluent of speech or dysfluent (Exodus 3:10), sound of gait or lame (Genesis 32:31-32). All the differences in abilities are matters of blessing. Some of us are blessed with greater bodily-kinesthetic intelligence than others; some, with greater mathematical, or verbal, or emotional, intelligence—but those blessings do not affect the fundamental equality of every human, because everyone, a son or daughter of Adam and Eve, is endowed with tzelem elohim.
Over the past forty years in North American society, signal progress has been made in first tolerating, and then truly embracing, our neighbors coping with a variety of physical and emotional challenges. But we can acknowledge that there is a particular obstacle to be surmounted when the challenge affects inter-personal relations rather than physical coordination. When they do not know that their neighbor is, in the words of the questioner, a “socially isolated Jew with Asperger’s Syndrome”, people are at risk of mis-identifying the source of the difficulties. They encounter the symptoms of inflexible, or stereotypic, or perseverative behavior, and, unthinkingly interpreting them as rudeness, they react defensively, with the result of deepening the isolation of their neighbor still more. The onlookers are wrong to do so, but they need to be helped, not castigated. They are mistakenly applying otherwise adaptive social behavior, in their ignorance of what is actually the case.
As in the early days of the mid-20th century Civil Rights and Feminist movements, the proper tool for combating the ignorance of the majority is “consciousness-raising”. This can take place at the institutional level, such as the “Disabilities Awareness Shabbat” that my congregation programs every year. But it also must take place at the personal level. The individual who deals with Asperger’s Syndrome—or his advocate, if that is appropriate—has a pedagogical task, to do his part to help his neighbor understand him better.
Since the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome has progressed notably in recent decades, it stands to reason that many adults who might well have that condition have never been properly diagnosed, and who are consequently dismissed or even shunned for their behavioral exceptionalities. As a heuristic measure, I would recommend that all of us, when encountering a person whose behavior might fit the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, should entertain the possibility that our neighbor is not simply being socially less adept, but may in fact be coping, unaided by medical science, with a known condition. In the words of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachiah in Pirke Avot 1:6, “When you assess people, tip the balance in their favor.”
In writing these words, I am painfully aware that I have not answered one critical dimension of the questioner’s cry from the heart: the question of finding a soul-mate. I do not believe that there is a panacea for the problem of loneliness, which is, indeed, the very first thing wrong with God’s creation, by God’s own judgment (Genesis 2:18). Socialization groups and special education programs, starting in childhood, the efforts of the Jewish Family Service in communities where one exists, synagogue and Jewish Community Center initiatives all can play a constructive role. A particularly fine program is the Camp Ramah “Tikvah” program for tweens, teens and young adults. Alas, these programs, while critically important, will not work like magic.
But creating places of safety and acceptance, circles of concern, compassion and warmth, are in our power as a Jewish community to effectuate, and therefore, they are our responsibility.
In the words of this week’s Torah portion, “That which is hidden is for the LORD our God; that which is overt is our responsibility, and that of our children, forever” (Deuteronomy 29:28)
How can a socially isolated Jew with Asperger syndrome find a Jewish soulmate?
Finding a Jewish soulmate is always complex. Today many young and not so young Jews have been successful in finding a Jewish soulmate using websites like Jdate. Others have become involved with groups at their synagogue, JCC, Jewish Federation or one of the many Jewish social justice organizations that operate in communities across the country. The question posed here is difficult because biographical details are lacking. I am assuming social isolated means that person does not feel comfortable in the usual social settings that lead to the kind of encounters that which enable people to meet, interact and fall in love. I am also assuming that this condition caused by the person having Asperger syndrome. My hope would be that that the person him or herself could reach out to a local rabbi or Jewish Family Service counselor who could help him/her find ways to meet people in appropriately supportive settings. Perhaps a family member, friend or associate could help facilitate such an outreach. I am afraid that this answer is less the adequate. I do believe it is the responsibility of the Jewish community in line with our commitment to the concept that every human being is created betzelem Elohim( in the image of God) to see that Jewish with special needs are served in proactive ways. We constantly reminded that we have an obligation to the weakest members of the community such as the widow, the orphan and stranger. People with disabilities deserve our deepest concern and our best efforts. We should be grateful for the question and it should inspire us to try to find ways to seek out people who are socially isolated and help integrate them into the community
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