Jewish, single, and hating it

Revital Vitelzon presents comedy act based on her days as a single religious woman

TEL AVIV - Revital Vitelzon is a religious Jew, and therefore was expected to marry and have children at an early age. The search for a husband preoccupied her for years, and she felt relieved only after she realized her dream and got married.


Now the entertainer is out with a new comedy act based on her experiences from her days as a single religious woman.


Vitelzon says the pressure to get married began around the age of 19 and grew stronger as the years passed.


"There was great joy every time one of my classmates got married, "she says. "But eventually we turned into something out of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ The goal was not to be the last one to get married."


Vitelzon, 25, grew up in the upscale Bavli neighborhood in north Tel Aviv, and before she married and moved out of the city she frequented spinning classes at the local gym more often than she visited holy Jewish sites.


She does not cover her hair, although it is customary among married religious women. She often wears pants, and her skirt is fashionable and ends above the knee line.


Vitelzon's one-woman show, performed at religious singles nights and bachelorette parties, deals mainly with the religious bachelorette's exhausting search for a husband.


She says single religious women are forced to compromise, because once a woman reaches age 24 and is still not married, she is considered problematic, and if she is 27 or over and still unmarried, she is considered a lost cause, an old maid.


"You agree to go on blind dates with everybody, regardless of whether you have anything in common with the intended bachelor," she says. "He's single? Then go out with him! What's the worst than can happen?”


‘If you wear pants, he might not introduce you to his mother’


Vitelzon first began dating regularly at 19, but says the dates were disappointing and drained her mentally.


"At the end of my first date, we had to leave a three shekel tip (about 70 cents)," she says. "I put five shekels on the table to appear generous and feminist. He took two of those five shekels, and I asked myself ‘What's next?’ Is he going to take the teabag, too?"


In her show, titled Queen of the Swamp, Vitelzon talks about the pre-date pressure and the meticulous preparations girls go through to look their best and make good first impressions.


"If you wear a dress, he'll think you're a hardcore religious girl who will want to get married within three months, which is true, but he can't know about it," she says. "On the other hand, if you show up wearing pants, he might not introduce you to his mother."


Vitelzon dated secular men as well, and says it is a whole other world than the religious dating scene. While secular men can go to a pick-up bar to meet women, thousands of single religious men and women from all over make a pilgrimage to the Simchat Torah Synagogue in Jerusalem. But they don't dare make any moves while inside the synagogue.


"When the Sabbath is out, Jerusalem's cellular phone system collapses," she says. "Everybody is calling everybody, asking who was the cute guy in the white shirt? The problem is there are 3,000 men who fit the description, because religious men only wear white shirts. Now you're back to square one."


‘Let me throw plates at my husband’


In her act, Vitelzon criticizes the religious community and the socialization process that imposes strict family values on community members. She says religious women are pressured to first find husbands and have children, and only then can they get degrees, pursue careers, or focus on their hobbies.


"After my engagement, I said to my mother, ‘Here, you got your son-in-law, I don't want to hear a word from you about children,’" she says. "But I know she won't rest until there is a bris."


She says she is glad she has a husband who supports her, because this is uncommon within the religious community.


"Religious society is ambivalent towards women," she says. "On the one hand they tell you to be very assertive at work, but on the other hand career women are not treated favorably."


Vitelzon wants to begin a master's degree in clinical psychology. In the meantime, she works in a store at the Ramat Aviv shopping mall, the epicenter of upscale secular Tel Aviv residents.


She says she comes from a moderately religious family, and does not want to live in a settlement in the territories.


"After having lived in Tel Aviv for 25 years, moving to an all-religious settlement, where everyone knows everyone else, will be suffocating," she says. "Let me throw plates at my husband in my spare time; don't bother me."


פרסום ראשון: 06.13.05, 13:18
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Religious women find dating scene particularly tough
Photo: CD Bank