Approaching Modern Love with Jewish Wisdom

As Kayla Soroka sees it, finding love has always been difficult, and now with the ever-expanding frontier of online dating and endless apps, many young people are feeling lost. So Soroka, the outreach director of Cincinnati Jewish Experience (stylized as CJX), took matters into her own hands with a new four-part educational series on love and relationships.

“Dating can be very frustrating and anxiety provoking and confusing,” said Soroka. “I don’t intend to solve that. I don’t think we can make it a fairy tale for everybody, but if you’re going into dating in the right mindset then dating can go from frustrating to something that is navigable.”

CJX is a Jewish outreach and education organization that does Jewish outreach and education through classes and trips to Israel and Poland. The Modern Love series’ goal is to bring Jewish wisdom into the dating lives of young adults.

“Torah contains an incredible amount of real-life wisdom, and I think in our typical Jewish education setting we get stories and rules but not the philosophical nuances,” said Soroka. 

The series is divided into four sessions: defining love, determining compatibility, dating best practices, and building relationships/emotional intimacy. The first session was all about defining love, and to Soroka that was one of the keys to the series. 

“Our definition of love has been influenced by Hollywood and that isn’t how things are in the real world, love isn’t something you fall into in an instant,” said Soroka. “From the Jewish perspective, love is something that you choose.”

At one session Soroka explained her theory on there being two kinds of love, the conditional love that she called the “Hollywood” or “Disney’ version that is based on aspects like physical appearance, and how the outward attributes of another person makes one feel. Versus a Jewish concept of unconditional love that is based on making choices with intention to foster the feeling of love. 

“I liked the definition of love we discussed,” said Sam Tyler, one attendee. “That love is the positive emotion you experience as a result of consistently choosing to focus on the good in another person.”

While choosing love – an emotion – may sound like an odd concept, to Soroka it is based on Jewish wisdom. 

“In the Torah, we are commanded to love our fellow Jews, and that is a hard thing,” said Soroka. “How can you be commanded to experience an emotion? The commentators answer that it is not that we feel that emotion, but we make the choices for that emotion to develop naturally. 

The sessions largely focus on dating intentionally and figuring out what you want from a relationship. At one event, the attendees did an exercise to figure out the things they are looking for in a romantic partner by dividing their wants into different categories: intellectual, emotional, and physical. 

The sessions take place at Co-Hatch workspace in Hyde Park and have attracted a diverse group of young adults. Some are already in relationships, some are seeking the advice of someone who has been in their situation before, and others are looking to commiserate about the woes of modern dating. 

“I wanted to interact with other young Jews to see different perspectives because we’re all going through the same thing,” said Morgan Miller. “Maybe we could get guidance from each other, but also from[Soroka], who’s a little bit older who’s already gone through the process.”

The next session on relationships/building emotional intimacy is on August 23

After the sessions, Soroka plans to try her hand at matchmaking. “People are disillusioned with dating, and the apps can be so frustrating,” said Soroka. “And people have been asking me to set them up, so I’m going to do it. Clearly, people want another alternative to dating apps, and if I can provide them with that, it would be so amazing.”