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September 6, 2023 10:28 am

Sex Before Marriage Off Limits to Orthodox Jewish Woman in New Dating Memoir

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avatar by Alan Zeitlin


A wedding ceremony, illustrative. Photo: Jason Hutchens via Wikimedia Commons.

When actor Steve Carell starred in 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, many laughed. His character was so dorky that no woman wanted to sleep with him.

What’s not so funny is that there are some Orthodox Jews who have decided not to have premarital sex, and have stayed true to their beliefs despite never being married.

Few would want to talk about this, but Sarah Lavane has written a courageous and poignant book called “Unmatched: An Orthodox Jewish woman’s mystifying journey to find marriage and meaning.”

While she does place blame on some of the pathetic and inappropriate men she’s dated, she also places some blame on herself. Such honesty and insight are rare, and this book is not only a page-turner, but it should also be read by all Jewish singles, regardless of whether or not they are religious.

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In life, we all have standards and rules that we don’t want to break. But when we don’t get our desired result, we often throw them out the window. Some will view the author as a hero for sticking to her Torah-given principles, and some will see her as a fool, who might have sooner found her husband if she loosened up a little.

As someone who has written numerous articles on Jewish dating, I have been privy to many examples the author uses in her book, from people telling her she is too picky, double standards for men and women, and, at times, complete insecurity or insanity.

One of her best lines in the book is the following: “We too often compare ourselves to those who are more fortunate than us and express envy, when we should compare ourselves to those less fortunate and express gratitude.”

It is dizzying to read about so many dates, and had I not lived on the Upper West Side for 15 years, I might not have believed many of the stories in the book. But I have and I do.

How did the author have the chutzpah to write this memoir?

“Believe it or not, I chose some of the least embarrassing stories,” Lavane told me in an interview for The Algemeiner.

“There were many more stories I chose not to share. But I felt it was important to write these stories in as modest a way as possible, to bring awareness to the issues. We all — whether we’re a dater, matchmaker, or just Jewish society — make mistakes in this respect and [I wanted to ask] how can we all do better — [and] be more respectful and more empathetic to each other? Also, for singles who regret some of their mistakes, it can be comforting to know they’re not alone. … I was afraid and felt very vulnerable putting this story out there. But after seeing all these amazing reactions, thank God I now have no regrets.”

Despite financial pressure, societal pressure, and the pressure of carnal desires, Lavane explained that “none of those reasons would compel me to marry someone I didn’t really want to be with.”

She also believes that being in love in many cases is just lust.

“Unmatched” is a book that is humorous and profound, with levity and gravity. At times, it forces you to think about yourself, while at others, it allows your mind to wander. The scenes are so vividly written, you will feel like you are on these dates (and be angered by some of these men). Lavane is somewhat bitter, as she should be, but she is still happy for others who got married; she stays an honest and reliable narrator.

All yeshiva principals should read “Unmatched,” and instead of another useless geometry class, they should host a class about how men should speak to women, without being inappropriate or wrapped up in their insecurities.

“Unmatched” is one of the best books on Jewish dating you will ever read, and will force you to look at single people in a new and more compassionate way. The author seems deeply affected by her parents, and I could have done with some more stories about her parents, and a few less dating stories.

But as you read the book, it’s impossible not to root for the author to finally find her match.

“Unmatched” should certainly be turned into a movie.

The author is a writer based in New York.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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