It’s a spicy MatzoBall!

Jewish Angelenos looking for something to do on Christmas Eve need look no further than a singles party that has become a national sensation — the MatzoBall.

Returning to Los Angeles for the first time in years, the event will take place in Hollywood at the historic Avalon on Vine Street. 

“We provide an opportunity for young urban Jews to meet in an environment that is conducive to building a relationship,” MatzoBall founder Andrew Rudnick said during a phone interview. “The MatzoBall is notorious for that because the people are there because they want to meet another Jewish person, and they have the opportunity to do it in one of the hottest venues in the city, as opposed to going to just another nightclub.”

This year’s event will welcome Jews ages 21-35 to the Avalon, while an older crowd (approximately in their “40s and 50s,” Rudnick said) will gather in Bardot, the upstairs area of the Avalon.

Los Angeles has not hosted a MatzoBall in about 20 years, according to Rudnick. That’s because JDate hosted its own Christmas Eve singles party, Schmooz-A-Palooza, and the two entities had agreed to support each other and not hold events in the same city. 

These days, JDate is focusing its attention on its online activity and has foregone holding a Los Angeles event, leaving MatzoBall with the opening to do so, Rudnick said.  

“JDate has pulled out of doing events. … They are supporting me now. … They are turning it over to us [to] handle, and we are turning it into a MatzoBall,” he explained. 

Both parties take place from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and tickets are $30. 

This party, which has become a Jewish tradition across the country, actually has its roots in a disappointing Christmas Eve evening had by Rudnick, 50, many years ago. The then-single bartender was living in Boston, enjoying a night off from work, when he attended a party for “Jewish single kids who had nothing to do because it was Christmas Eve.” But drink lines were too long, the lights were too bright, and there was little mingling between the sexes  — almost as if there was a mechitzah in the room, Rudnick said.

“It didn’t lend itself to lowering your inhibitions and letting loose and having fun,” Rudnick said, recalling the awkward party. “It felt like prom, with girls on one side, guys on one side.”

Then, inspiration, as it sometimes does in desperate situations, struck.

“I thought to myself, the hottest nightclub in town is closed tonight. If this group was at that club, it would be a whole different experience — they would be engaging [in] a whole different way,” he said. “Sparks would be flying.”

In 1987, Rudnick formed the Society of Young Jewish Professionals, the organizational force behind the MatzoBall parties. Today, these soirees take place in nightclubs across America, including New York and San Francisco. There are also year-round events and travel opportunities. 

Now a resident of Boca Raton, Fla., Rudnick is living proof of how magical these events can be. In 1997, he met his wife, Catherine, at a MatzoBall in Boston. The two have been married for 17 years. Together they have three children.

“That was it,” he said, recalling that fateful evening. “I saw her, and I knew.” 

Tiles on the Isle

In 1927, William Wrigley Jr. prompted the Santa Catalina Island Company to invest in the creation of the Catalina Tile Factory after discovering clay deposits on the island. While the operation lasted only 10 years, it turned out tiles and decorative ware that were cherished by collectors.In 1997, 60 years after the factory closed its doors, Cynthia Seider brought back the art of tile painting to Avalon for a cause that she cherishes.

A board member with the Los Angeles Sephardic Home for the Aging (LASHA) and chair of its youth-supported program, The Next Generation, Seider was instrumental in developing a fundraising project to establish a tiled garden for the residents, visiting families and caregivers at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda.

“Cynthia gave us the idea, and she’s really worked hard on it,” says Rae Cohen.With the help of fellow LASHA board members like Cohen and Rose Benon, Seider lugged several boxes of tiles, paint and brushes to Catalina.

“Knowing that Catalina has been a very special place for many in the Sephardic community, I thought it was apropos to kick it off there,” says Seider.

With tables set up in the Pavilion Lodge’s courtyard, people of all ages came to support the cause. They painted pictures of the beach, the sun and the Casino.

“The little kids did their handprints, painted boats. They painted anything they thought of,” says Cohen.By the end of the event, the Sephardic community had donated the first 75 tiles to the garden project.”We’ve had several painting parties since Catalina with different themes,” says Seider. “When I look back at the thousand tiles that we’ve completed to date, our Catalina project really stands out.”

After three years of planning and fundraising, the garden’s naming and groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Sun., Sept. 24.

For more information about LASHA, The Next Generation or the groundbreaking ceremony, call (818) 774-3330. – Adam Wills, Associate Editor