A Kosher Dating Odyssey, by Van Wallach: Adventures in Online Dating

A Kosher Dating Odyssey: One Former Texas Baptist’s Quest for a Naughty & Nice Jewish Girl ($12.95, 204 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-132-3), a humorous memoir about the special challenges of dating when you’re an ex-Baptist Jewish intellectual single guy.

** Click the cover image to order online **

**Also available in KINDLE**

“The perfect mixture of self-deprecating humor and introspection.”

—Hilary Daninhirsch, ForeWord Digital Reviews

“A humorous exploration of cross-faith dating, A Kosher Dating Odyssey is a strong pick for any humor, memoir or relationship collection.”

—Midwest Book Review/Small Press Bookwatch

“Van Wallach’s candid memoir, A Kosher Dating Odyssey: One Former Texas Baptist’s Quest for a Naughty and Nice Jewish Girl is at once a sentimental education and a search for an intimate, fulfilling spirituality that will resonate with readers. His often amusing story is also uniquely American, shaped by the competing yet complementary forces of a multicultural journey from South Texas by way of France to the East Coast.”

—Cora Monroe, Associate Professor of French, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

“A big fat schmear of self-awareness on wry … Wallach’s ‘date or die’ persistence to find his b’shert deserves kudos. Between the Cuban yarmulkes, the Brazilian caiprinhas, and the West Village heartaches, this globe-trotting, found-again, smart but short Jew manages to put the ‘sch’ back into ‘Men.’

“A rich book bigger than dating. A heart-felt search for roots, faith, soul and connection …

“Through an online Odyssean-style search to find his Jewish match, Wallach somehow manages to carve deep self-esteem out of multiple rejection. How refreshing! How revealing! But thank God he finally found her. Otherwise, he’d still be a menace online!!

“A heart-felt book that makes a gal reconsider her worst brush-off lines.”

—Pamela Bloom, author of Brazil Up Close and The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul and Change the World

“As you might expect from a guy who has evolved from a Southern Baptist to a New England Jew, Van Wallach delivers a witty and unique tale of spiritual and romantic searching. But there’s nothing more universal than love, and just about everyone will identify with his clever yarns spanning everything from the down-home to the erudite. With his ever-present and self-effacing sense of humor, Van ‘looks for love in all the wrong places’—and some of the right ones.”

—Stephen Hughes, Voice Artist and Writer

“In its own charming, awkward, and unwittingly honest way, A Kosher Dating Odyssey explores the complicated overlapping layers of finding Jewish identity, surviving decades of dating with an intact sense of humor, and whether the Internet helps or hurts our chances of finding true love on the flat screen. You would hardly think these topics would come together as seamlessly as they do. This is the brilliance of Van Wallach. Without adding even a sprinkle of gut-wrenching drama, overwrought navel-gazing or excessive self-pity—all of which would be perfectly justifiable—Wallach wins over the heart of his reader the same way he eventually gets the girl. By getting up to the plate over and over, and swinging the bat, figuring a home run is inevitable. You just can’t help but root for the underdog, and secretly, see some part of yourself in every line.”

—Monica Day, Founder, The Sensual Life; Host, “Essensuality: An Evening of Erotic Expression,” and Creator, “The Essensual Experience: A Journey of Authentic Sensual Expression”

A Kosher Dating Odyssey tracks the progress of the author’s jolting changes in belief as he enters the world of dating pre- and post-Internet. Van Wallach is the product of a small-town Texas upbringing, a Princeton education and years of New York City and posh Connecticut living. The stories of his pursuit of romance–from Brooklyn to Brazil and beyond–provide a wry, revealing, and distinctly male perspective on Jewish online dating.

Raised a Southern Baptist, Wallach found himself drawn to his parents’ Jewish heritage and the women who embodied it. To meet the special challenges of online dating, he took a marketer’s approach to packaging his unique background into a memorable screen name and profile. His book explores the highs and heartbreaks of dating the “smart, vulnerable and shtetl-lovely” Jewish women he met and adored after he left Texas. As he follows his muse far afield, he analyzes Jewish body image (his and hers), calculates ROEI (Return on Emotional Investment), identifies the sexiest Jewish movies (hint: his three favorites all have subtitles), engages in edgy encounters with “the competition” in the quest for a fair maidele’s hand, and contemplates the role of Jewish faith in times of difficulties. Part memoir, part how-to, and partly just off-the-wall, A Kosher Dating Odyssey will appeal to anyone who is interested in journeys of both the spirit and the flesh.

Says Wallach, “My oddball background—from Texas to Princeton to New York, Baptist to Jewish—gives me an original perspective on both the dating scene and spirituality. I’m from both the Southwest and the Northeast. As a journalist/essayist, I’ve already written several articles and posts about my journeys and experiences, so I thought, why not pull existing and fresh material into a book? You don’t have to be Jewish or even single to appreciate my stories, which aim to amuse, but also to tap into something universal about the search for faith and love.”

Van Wallach is a writer in Connecticut. A native of Mission, Texas, he holds an economics degree from Princeton University. His work as a journalist has appeared in Advertising Age, the New York Post, The Journal of Commerce, Newsday, Video Store, The Hollywood Reporter, and the Forward. Van has been a regular contributor to the Princeton Alumni Weekly since 1993. He contributed a chapter on home-video economics to the second edition of The Movie Business Book. A language buff, Van has studied Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew, although he can’t speak any of them. His travels have included Australia, New Zealand, the USSR, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Brazil, Israel and the usual parts of Europe. Click here to visit Van’s blog.

A Kosher Dating Odyssey is available in 5×8 paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon Japan.  Wholesale orders can be placed through info@coffeetownpress.com and Ingram. Libraries can also purchase books through Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Services.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Glorified and Sanctified

Recently I heard about the death of a woman I once knew named Adina. She had been one of the very first women I dated after moving to New York in 1980. I found a paid death notice in a newspaper from several years back, saying she succumbed to diabetes and breast cancer. She was fifty-one—younger than I am now.

Adina and I had a tumultuous relationship, thanks to our wildly different social backgrounds and degrees of sophistication: suburban Long Island versus small-town Texas, intense Jewish education versus no Jewish education. Still, we had a connection: we were writers and Jewish and on the prowl. Adina played an influential role in my life at the time.

Shlomo Carlebach at BJ, 1982

Our shared practice of Judaism provided many of my favorite memories of our times together. We joined her friends to hear Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach sing during Purim at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side, a favored hunting ground for singles. I attended a seder with her family on Long Island on the snowy Passover of April 1982. With Adina’s encouragement, I visited Israel in May 1982 and wrote about the experience for the Forward newspaper.

The little markers of memory accumulated over the months. I have photos of Adina at B’nai Jeshurun and with her friends Rena, Rochel and Marilyn. She sent me postcards from her trips to Israel and Peru. We called each other “Y.D.,” short for “Yiddish dumpling.”

For what turned out to be our last date, I stunned Adina with tickets to what I called “Bereshit,” the Hebrew name for the book of Genesis—we saw her favorite music group, Phil Collins and Genesis, perform at Forest Hills Stadium in August 1982. That was the end. She called it quits after that.

Other relationships would follow (By year’s end I was dating Calypso, whose story you will find if you keep reading), but as time passed I thought fondly of Adina. We parted in frustration, not anger. Four years later, on a rainy evening on the Upper West Side, we ran into each other again. We immediately had a long catch-up coffee klatch in a diner. Adina had left journalism to study social work, while I was several years into a stint as a globe-trotting freelance writer. Freed from the anxieties of stillborn romance, we shared a warmth and were happy to see each other.

“Don’t be a stranger,” she said in her distinctive, cigarette-raspy voice.

We never saw each other again. The next year I met the woman I would marry. The new flame burned bright and I fed it all the oxygen I had. Old flames flickered and went out.

Long after my divorce in the new millennium, I became curious about Adina and uncovered the death notice. I mentally overlaid my life on top of her last years and wondered what type of friendship, if any, would have resulted from contact. Maybe nothing, but I like to think we would have stayed connected this time as friends with common interests in Judaism, journalism, travels to Latin America and, well, life. I had changed since we dated—becoming more at ease with myself, more Jewishly literate, comfortable in groups. In any case, I found myself aching and sorry that we had had no contact for those last twenty years. I never had a chance to say goodbye to Adina.

That’s one missed farewell in a digital world that logs birth and death regularly. I would never have known about Adina’s passing without the Internet. Online, the once-hidden and unfindable becomes common, jolting knowledge. Through Facebook, I read daily about the illnesses of friends’ families, with prayer requests and mentions of deaths of parents, siblings and, most grievously, children. On Facebook, I learned that the son of one friend from Mission, for example, was killed in Afghanistan, bringing the war to me in a terribly personal way. We’re in our fifties and older; passings happen and the pace quickens with age.

I learned about Adina’s passing at the exact same time I was experiencing something entirely new in my Jewish life—a shiva call to a house of mourning. I had attended Jewish weddings and funerals, but had never visited a family sitting shiva, or mourning of a death.

“Not even your grandparents?” somebody asked after I mentioned this anomaly.

“No, not even my grandparents,” I said.

But a death occurred in a family close to me, an uncle of my girlfriend, and I wanted to pay my respects. I had no idea what to expect, although I knew of the traditional rituals of covering mirrors and tearing clothes.

So I visited some people I knew, the relatives of the elderly man who had died. I gave them my condolences. Some wore small black ribbons. I recognized the rabbi who conducted the service, which consisted of prayers I had heard many times before and could read and mostly say in Hebrew. This included the Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. This prayer does not mention death but rather magnifies and sanctifies the Name of God. It begins,

“Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.”

As I looked around the room, I thought about how ancient tradition and ritual created such emotional support at a time of ultimate loss. People are not left to flail on their own in the darkness; they—we—have a way to mourn that links them to generations past and future.

The moment seemed right and as we prayed I said the Kaddish for my late friend. I had finally found a way to say goodbye to Adina, Y.D.

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