August 12, 2004
Visitors trolling for casual sex on Craigslist.org last week were left scratching their heads over an unfamiliar reference that has surfaced in a flurry of recent postings.
"I keep seeing this term 'Frum.' Can somebody please clue me into what the hell that is?" wrote Jeff, a 30-year-old regular on the site.
"OK, I give up ... what does 'frum' mean?" huffed another.
To the posters' disappointment, frum (pronounced "froom") is not shorthand for a kinky new posture or adventurous attitude. It's a Yiddish word that technically means "religiously observant," but for all intents and purposes is used by men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews.
Jeff, an events planner who grew up Catholic in the Midwest, said he kept seeing requests from frum men and women seeking frum sexual partners.
"The only thing that was in my mind was 'fru-strated, m-arried?' I had no clue what it was," he said. "I didn't realize it was an Orthodox Jewish person. From what I understand, they're supposed to put a sheet between them when they have sex."
It turns out that the deeply religious have sexual tastes as mundane as the rest of us:
"Single frum guy for single frum girl for fun!" one 24-year-old wrote. "Married, frum guy looking for a frum girl (married or unmarried) for some NSA [no strings attached] fun. We can have good time 'learning' together," a 31-year-old posted.
"Frum married guy looking for frum guy to explore," wrote another, continuing: "I am a frum married 28-year-old guy ... during the summer my wife will be upstate and I am looking to explore having sex with a man ... please be frum."
That's not to say that this frum frenzy hasn't ushered in a whole range of heretofore unimaginable caveats such as "We could do as little as you want," written by a gentle soul seeking a frum woman, and "No Chasidish," written by a 24-year-old married Manhattanite, referring to the ultra-Orthodox denomination whose members wear black hats and suits and sport long sidelocks.
Or, less chastely, a poster seeking "Frum girls gone wild" for an orgy in Brooklyn, or another one advertising a Yahoo group for married frumsters seeking "extracurricular fun."
Though the posters are seeking members of their observant sects to romp in the sack with, none seem to be under the illusion that this is, well, kosher.
"Frum guy seeks frum girl for not such frum fun!" a 32-year-old wrote. And one might question whether picking someone from the notoriously tight-knit community would be a discreet move.
In case there were any doubts, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, confirmed that Jewish law prohibits such shenanigans -- either in the form of extramarital affairs or premarital sexual contact.
"Rabbis have taught that there is a prohibition of all contact of a sexual nature between male and female prior to marriage," he said, referring to Maimonides' encyclopedic code of Jewish law. "But we're not talking here about a man and a woman who are emotionally bonded and have difficulty with a specific Jewish law. We're talking about people who are completely disconnected and lonely. It's sad; it reflects the reality of our time."
Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, director of organizational development for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, added that while traditional Judaism discourages sexual relations outside of marriage, "Historically some were permitted if the relationship was ongoing and committed" in the case of concubines.
"I assure you, they know very well that society doesn't approve it -- that's why they're going to the Net," he added. "If they belong to parts of a classically frum society, they can't exactly go to a party and say, 'Do you want to come back to my place?'"
"That's so funny," said Jessica Ressler, 26, a Modern Orthodox divorce lawyer. "I just posted an ad on there for a nanny. I didn't know they went on there for that."
Of course, it was only a matter of time before a class of frum frauds emerged on Craigslist. But if the missives from Orthodox neighborhoods are to be believed, where there are frum, there is desire.
"Are there any frum men here that want to meet for real?" one single gal wrote. "I am sick and tired of all the fakes here."
Article reprinted courtesy The New York Observer.
Anna Schneider-Mayerson is a writer living in New York City.