As somebody who interviews people all day most every day, it is pleasure to have others ask me my opinions of things. And when the questions become social and philosophical, I often cite George Gilder (author of Men and Marriage) that the most important question every society must answer is what do you do with the men. In particular, male sexual drive must be channeled into the marital bottle (to quote Dennis Prager).
Yes, I fail to live up to my own admonition as I am 38 and never married. But I still hold by the ideal, even if I haven't lived up to it.
I was reminded of this matter by a remark by rabbi David Wolpe at Friday Night Live at Temple Sinai in Westwood December 10. He pointed out that the service and its programming afterwards were aimed (and sponsored for) people aged 21-39, and while the synagogue did not want to discourage people older than that from attending a religious service, it did request that such persons at least bring a younger friend. And that afterwards, people older than the targeted demographic should leave so that programs aimed at people 21-39 could be enjoyed solely by that age group.
Rabbi Wolpe noted that the synagogue had received numerous complaints about older men trying to "socialize" with the young women, and that such men should have the dignity to remove themselves before they were asked to leave.
Applause immediately rippled through the synagogue, most of it from young women. At the same time, I sensed that many of the older men in the shul were offended.
I wholeheartedly agreed with rabbi Wolpe's sentiments but did not applause because it is against Jewish custom to applaud during a religious service (and because I think that as a journalist, I should be removed and reserved and monk-like, to quote J.J. Goldberg of the Forward).
I was sitting by one man who was near 50. He leaned over to me and said, "Does this mean we should leave now?"
Miffed, I replied, "I'm 38. I'm staying. This service is for people 21-39."
Have my sins written themselves on my sagging features so deeply?
During the socializing, I spoke to a couple of men in their 40s who were furious at rabbi Wolpe's remarks. They were furious that he had emphasized older men trying to socialize with young women. Such remarks were sexist, ageist, exclusionary and all sorts of horrible things.
A couple of women in their 30s told me that the rabbi's remarks were rude. Still, overall, I sensed widespread approval of the rabbi's remarks.
As I said to one man, men do tend to be sexually predatory. Men are far more likely to hit aggressively on women than vice versa.
What I did not say but passionately believe is that people should have enough dignity that they do not try to attend events explicitly designed for another age group. As I hit my 40s, I'm not going to be attending Friday Night Live anymore (please God, I'm going to be married).
Over the past couple of years, I've noticed an increasing number of older people, folks going into their 60s and beyond, coming to Friday Night Live and trying to hit on the young women. It's not right.
It's one thing to lie about your age on JDate (which I think is wrong), but it is even worse to invade religious services explicitly targeted at a group of people who tend to have little to do with organized Jewish life (young singles).
Friday Night Live used to be filled to overflowing with people 21-39. As the old people have moved in, the young people have fled. There are plenty of Jewish events for people over 40. Why not leave FNL alone?
For my sins, I've been exiled from four of my favorite Orthodox synagogues. Do I hang around these shuls? Do I try to walk in and see if anyone catches me? Do I harass them? Do I speak ill of them? Do I start campaigns against them or their rabbis? Do I threaten to write letters to the Jewish Journal against them (as I heard people threatening to do Friday night against rabbi Wolpe)? No way. (Well, I did sneak in once to a shul that had banned me (I write about that in my memoir). I got caught and vowed that I would never do it again.)
A confession: I have gone to several UCLA Hillel day of learning events (during Passover) explicitly aimed at people 18-30 (while I've been well into my 30s).
All my life I've been excluded from homes, organizations and the lives of people I wanted to be close to, because of nasty things I've written and said. I enjoy saying what I think, and I hope that I am willing to pay the price. I'd like to think I have some dignity, and when I am not wanted by someone or something, I stay away (unless my writing or other responsibilities oblige me to investigate).
Now, I have been clueless many times in not reading the signals of those who think I'm creep. I have been pretty aggressive with hitting on women (particularly in my younger days). Yet, I want to believe that my recognition of these flaws in my character better enables me to appreciate the wisdom of rabbi Wolpe's remarks.
Despite the rabbi's words, there were over a dozen men well over 40 walking around the FNL program after services. How are they going to feel when they eventually get tapped on the shoulder and asked to leave?