Live From New York — It’s Friday Night
Susan Josephs says that she and her friends actually avoid Congregation B’nai Jeshurun’s weekly 1,000-person draw — a prime singles opportunity on New York’s Upper West Side.
“It’s like Vegas,” the Manhattan-based writer says of the Shabbat hot spot. “The buffets are so enormous…you can’t really eat anything.”
Many Jewish women who faithfully attend our closest equivalent — Sinai Temple’s monthly Friday Night Live — might cringe at such complaints lobbed at an abundance of riches. However, depending on whom you speak to in New York, dating amid the nation’s greatest concentration of Jews can be exhilarating…and a double-edged sword.
Originally from San Diego, Josephs says that you can’t miss the dramatic contrast between the West Coast and Manhattan.
“There’s this awareness [even among non-Jews], down to doormen pressing elevator buttons on Shabbat,” says the articulate twentysomething. “My Jewish friends from California are overwhelmed by New York.”
“It can be tiring keeping up the social scene,” says Adeena Sussman, referring to the constant treadmill of Shabbat dinners and face time at places such as The Jewish Center or Central Park West-adjacent Ohav Zedek, which regularly attract hundreds. And as if young New York Jews are lacking in large-scale venues, Partnership for Jewish Life (PJL) will open Makor — an ambitious six-story cultural hub near Lincoln Center — next month. The brainchild of Rabbi David Gedzelman — formerly a Los Angeles-area Hillel director — Makor will house screening rooms, galleries and a live music cafe, in the hope of capitalizing on Manhattan’s 100,000 Jews between 22 to 35.
On the trappings of singledom in Manhattan, Josephs maintains that the borough’s ubiquitous Jewishness — apparent from Washington Heights down to the Lower East Side — can actually be a detriment in the dating department.
“In New York, people become extremely particular because there’s a sense that it’s so nuanced that…maybe there is someone out there tailored for them,” she says of her peers, who seem to suffer from a too-much-of-a-good-thing complex.
Josephs and Sussman also share a disdain for the time share, a popular diversion that draws young Jews to the beaches of Fire Island and the Hamptons every summer.
“You actually feel pressured to always be social,” Josephs says of sharing a house with up to 12 people. “You can do your own thing, but that’s not really the norm…. If you’re in a house for 48 hours, that becomes really uncomfortable.”
That said, Sussman holds high praise for the Upper West Side, where the 28-year-old business consultant alternates between three shuls every week: “You can be a Jewish chameleon [shul-hopping] and no one will ask you a question” regarding denomination.
Raphi Salem, the twentysomething brain behind Worldwide Jewish Web (www.jewishweb.com), has enjoyed living single since relocating to the Big Apple from Boston two summers ago.
“I’m now vice president of my synagogue…I’m running my own company,” says the entrepreneur, who met his girlfriend in Manhattan last fall. “Things have been going much better.”
As for Josephs, she is avoiding beach-rental destinations such as Sag Harbor and Amagansett this summer and will remain in the City, where she is enjoying less blatant single fare.
“There’s something else to focus on,” says Josephs of municipally sponsored happenings, such as Lincoln Center’s outdoor concerts and Shakespeare in the Park. “And you can meet people organically.”
Surprisingly, Josephs has even been toying recently with the idea of moving to Los Angeles: “All that space makes you want to be more Jewish, makes you want to seek it out. You don’t take it for granted.”