Dating 101: Don’t Give Up

If you saw the men who have been asking me out lately, you would understand why I have not been dating. I seem to be quite popular these days with crossdressing men. Bless them. When one dress wearing man asked me out I thought it was sweet because he said my profile made him feel safe to share. When the second man asked me out, I was fascinated because it was interesting two men in makeup would interpret my profile the same way. When the third man asked me out and suggested dating him would allow lingerie sharing, I was done.

It is hard to put yourself out there, and some days it is simply too exhausting to even bother with. I date because I want to meet someone to share life with. I am seeking companionship, intellectual conversation, and an active and healthy sex life. I like a man who is educated and articulate. He doesn’t need to have gone to school for his education either. I know many people who never went to college and are brilliant. I value opinions and am drawn to people who have faith. Not necessarily religion, but faith. I’d also like him to not wear dresses.

In an attempt to not visit an animal shelter, I decided I was going to write to someone online. It took me a while to find someone I thought sounded interesting, but I did. He had a good face and I felt drawn to him, so I sent him a note. My mom was visiting so I couldn’t make plans, but I decided to get the ball rolling. He responded, we texted for a quick minute, and made plans to meet for a drink. I met him last night and I was happy to see he looked like his pictures, knew how tall he is in real life, and was easy to talk to. It was a good start.

We met for drinks at 5:30, ordered food at 7:00, and were making out to like teenagers by 9:00. It was the kind of date you hope for every time you put yourself out there. He was charming, funny, handsome, and sweet. He is built like a linebacker and I felt like a ballerina when he embraced me. He is a great kisser and as soon as we started making out I regretted having three cocktails as I worried my judgment would be off. Oy vey with the vodka. I opted to not overthink things and enjoy myself because smooching is great.

I went home happy to have met a man who didn’t make my lower back spasm. There are times when I’d rather stick my hand down my throat and remove my own kidney over dating, but then something or someone comes along to show me I must not give up. When you have a bad date it is hard to get excited about dating again, but when you have a good date, it erases the disappointment of the bad ones, especially if he isn’t wearing a bra and panties under his clothes. (Yes, I checked.)

I am lucky girl. I am also 51 years old and dating, which is both sad and entertaining. It is what it is and I am here to tell you not to give up. For every ten nightmare dates you have, you will have one good one. In my case ten is more like fifty, but it just makes the good ones stand out more. Be brave and keep trying because life is meant to be shared. Go on a date! The only expectation to have is that good or bad, it will get you closer to a keeper. Value yourself, don’t overthink, open your heart, and keep the faith.








Pitfalls of Dating German Men

Hayley Alexis at Oktoberfest in Munich

Hayley Alexis has been blogging about Germany ever since she landed in Munich from the US about two years ago. Her YouTube videos about life in Munich have garnered a sizeable following, particularly those about romance in Deutschland.

Like many newcomers, she was enchanted by the type of man who may have justified Hitler’s racist categorization of Germans as the superior race (yes, that was a Holocaust joke). Tall, beautiful, muscular. But unlike Hitler’s Germans, these men are nice, polite, liberal, open-minded and seem to treat women with utmost respect, as equals (although perhaps too equal).

She soon realized that dating German men may be easy on the eyes, but not always on the heart. Through speaking to Hayley and others who have dated German men (not to mention my own experience), I’ve learned that once you scratch the surface of these real-life Ken dolls (oh, come on, let us objectify them for a moment!), the non-German woman may come up against strange behaviors that will leave her scratching her head…and heart.

While these are extreme generalizations (especially since Germans have regional idiosyncrasies), better be prepared before accepting that beer (and not wine, that you will probably pay for anyway).

Be Practical
Yes, the German man can often be like the country’s greatest commodity: machines. This means they run very well, but emotion, sensitivity, and sensuality can sometimes get stuck in the levers.

Hayley, 25, came to Germany after college in Florida for a new experience. Eventually, after “hanging out” with her boyfriend, Mike, for over two years (“hanging out” is often the equivalent of German courtship), they officially became an item.

“We fight constantly because he’s so practisch, ordentlich,” Hayley said over Skype from Munich. “He’s the complete opposite of me. If I put my glasses on the wrong way of the table, he turns it.”

You may notice a small bald spot on the right side of her head. That occurred with one of her German dates. Basically, her hair caught on fire.

“I was staying the night and I said, ‘I hate waking up early in the morning with the lights on.’ So he was trying to be really sweet to me and put candles in the bathroom, and I didn’t want to make any noise, so I bent down and…sizzle….When I told him my hair burnt, he said, ‘It really smells – how are we going to clean this up?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? I have this bald spot!’”

Yes, getting your hair accidently burnt is not practical.

On the upside, they will always be punctual.

You are NOT fat
You know how when a woman asks her beau if she’s gained weight, he’s supposed to say: “You’re perfect.” Well, don’t expect that from a Deutscher, and that’s not because they’re Deutschbags. It’s just not their style. They could be very direct.

For example, one of Haley’s dates told her he didn’t like a certain color on her.

“’What do you mean it’s not the best color on me? Every color is the best color on me,’” she said. “I think German people are very, very nice, I don’t think anything they do is intended to be hurtful or mean…They don’t have a filter to hold back.”

While they can dish it, they often can’t take it (so apologies if you are a German man reading this), maybe because the modern German cannot be “bad” like their ancestors.

“They hate criticism.” And if you make a Nazi joke, they might take it hard. Or for that matter, any joke. They’re not known for their sense of humor and flirtation skills, so don’t expect banter to flow too easily.

One time, Alexis was in line at the supermarket and a man cut in front of her. “And I said, ‘you did that because I’m black,’ and I was kidding. And he paid for my stuff and said: ‘I’m sorry.’”

Patience is a Virtue
Don’t expect a whirlwind romance. German men tend to be quite calculated and patient upon entering a relationship. After all, it took Hayley and her boyfriend two years to be “defined.”

“It takes forever to say, and he finally said, ‘I think I’m finally ready,” she said.

You might also need to be patient because Germans have tons of vacation days, and courtships might be interrupted with their wanderings in India, Thailand or wherever. They might pop in and out based on vacation periods, or when they have a work deadline, or if they are hanging up curtains.

“I’m going to south Africa for two weeks, I’ll text you then,” Hayley recalls one date telling her.

Sex, bitte?
Maybe it’s because they’re like machines, German men could easily switch off their sex drive. Or maybe it’s because German spas are co-ed nudist spas, so they become immune to the bare breast (then again, what comes first, chicken or egg…).

Click to read Orit’s novel, Underskin, an Israeli-German romance.

“I feel like they can, of course, have sex and they like sex but it’s not a necessity for them,” she said. “My ex [German] boyfriend liked it but didn’t need it.”

Sex, like many of life’s activities, should ideally be scheduled. “Organization doesn’t have good sex. Practical isn’t good sex. Structure isn’t good sex, and to be in a good relationship you have to have sex. They’re just not a sexual type of people.”

You could look like a knockout at a club, and German men may not turn their heads, but it’s not because you’re not beautiful.

“When I go out with American guys I feel amazing. Not a date or anything, but when I hang out with Americans, it’s amazing.”

On the upside, you don’t have to deal with catcalls. On the other, they could make you feel like a nympho.

“I met a guy and we met at six at night and were out until six in the morning together, and we were out partying and dancing, and he said he’ll get a cab home, and I’m like, ‘So we go together?’ And he’s like, “No, so you could go to sleep…” And then I felt bad. Am I that much of a ‘ho?’”

Also, go easy on the touch. With their robotic flair, they could sometimes be shy of affection. Pet gently at first, like a lamb.

“I brought this up with my current boyfriend a long time I go, and I said, ‘I don’t think you like me,’ and he said, ‘I like you a lot.’ And I said, ‘You don’t kiss me in public. You don’t touch me in public.” From then on, he improved.

‘Til Death Do Us Pay Rent
Financial stability and safety are supreme values for Germans, sometimes even above relationships.

“I met so many guys that will ask, ‘Why did you break up with her?” And he’ll say, ‘But I got a new job.’ ‘But did you love her?’ ‘Yes, but I got a new job.’”

These means marriage is a contract they will think carefully about entering into. They won’t be dreaming of that fairy-tale walk down the aisle. They’ll be dreaming of DINK—‘double income no kids.’

Wir lieben dich, egal (We love you, anyway)
To sum it up, as I’ve heard from many women and men who field complaints about German men: they’re weird, awkward, but…

“They’re so damn sexy,” Hayley said. “They really are. They’re so mysterious, and I like that. It’s refreshing to have a guy to make you work, and I guess I like the pain.”

But if you meet them on one of their many vacations, they could also be charming, funny, and even horny. Because sometimes they need to be out of Germany to not be so….German.

And when they’re with you, they’re with you. So you know it’s real.

“At first they’re not interested and they’re not sure they want to be in a relationship, but the minute they change their mind, they’re attached and locked in.”

Case in point: Alexis and Mike’s love keeps growing.

Orit is an American-Israeli journalist and author based in Berlin since 2016. To learn more about dating German men, read Orit’s hot new novel, Underskin, an Israeli-German romance spanning Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Like Hayley’s Facebook page.

Dating 101 – Siggy Flicker, Mind Reader

I have had a series of relationships with a series of men who were unkind. Not bad people, just unkind to me in the end. I can draw parallels between all the men I have dated, and in the end the one thing that ties them all together, is that I probably loved them more than they loved me. It is a difficult thing to admit, and I suppose a little embarrassing, but it is true. When I fall in love I am all in, and the men I have fallen in love with have never jumped all the way in with me.

I am not sure why it has been this way, but I want very much to change the pattern. Wanting something however, is not enough to make it happen. I’m trying to date outside of box I have built. Maybe if I date a different kind of man, I will have a different result. That is difficult because we are attracted to who we are attracted to, and while my thing has always been to date Jews, at the end of the day I guess I also like to date an asshole. Jewish assholes are my thing.

I have two dates planned for next week. Both are with Jews. One is with a man I met on, and the other one is with a man I have dated in the past. I have written about him here of course, but I won’t mention who it is because I’m feeling unsure about it and perhaps a little embarrassed to be going backwards. I’m simply trying to stay positive, thinking that the new guy might be great, and the old gay might be misunderstood. It was all rather gross, then my phone rang.

It was relationship expert Siggy Flicker, who I know through my blog. She called to wish me a Happy New Year and see how the holidays were. As we were chatting and catching up, I told her I was searching for something more with someone better. Without her knowing what I was thinking about my upcoming dates, she told me I needed to not go backwards and date new people. Then she said I needed to fall in love with a man who loved me just a little bit more than I loved him.

Really? I have no idea how Siggy went into my head to see what I was thinking, but she called me out on the two things that were troubling me. I suppose that is why she is an expert. We spoke for five minutes and she narrowed it down to the basics in a way that frankly freaked me out. When I got off the phone with Siggy I cancelled my plans with the man I dated in the past, and changed my coffee date with the new guy to drinks. I am going to keep my eyes facing forward.

I am 51 years old and alone. Not because I want to be alone, but because at this stage of my life I finally learned that I would rather be alone than be with an asshole. I’m going to take Siggy’s advice and change my dating patterns. I am going to find someone new and not look back. I am going to value myself, and therefore attract someone who values you me in return. I will take the advice of an expert, instead of guessing on my own. I am jumping all in and keeping the faith.


Keeping the Faith

I am a regular temple goer throughout the year, but there is something about the high holidays that brings me peace I don’t know how to properly articulate. I love my faith and could listen to my Rabbi give a sermon all day, every day, but there is nothing better than Kol Nidre with Rabbi Naomi Levy.  It is a moving service and I feel like I am in the presence of God on this particular day. Perhaps it is because I am surrounded by such a large group and we are all in prayer together, or maybe it is just because my heart is completely open on this day. Open to joy and sorrow, happiness and heartache. It is a day that matters to me.

I am going into Kol Nidre this year with both relief and fear. Relief to unload the weight of so many things on my soul, and fear about what my life will look like without so many burdens pent up inside me. After a year with so many unanswered questions and trials and tribulations, I have no expectations, but real hope when I go to Kol Nidre services. I simply want to be free. Free of my demons, of which there are many, and free of the busyness in my mind that prevents me from sleeping. I want my choices to be unaffected by cancer, and I want my future to become clear. No guarantees, just clarity after foggy days.

I am not the type of person who looks for guarantees in life. Things happen, both good and bad, and I am a roll with the punches kind of girl. I will think about the last year, thank God for holding my hand through all of it, and pray for the strength to be always be brave, even when I don’t think I can. I shall search for forgiveness, knowing it will come. I shall search for clarity, knowing it will come. I shall ask for sleep, knowing it will find me. I shall envision all of our names being inscribed in the book of life, and I will focus on keeping the faith.



Dating 101 – Not OK Cupid

I spent the weekend at home. I was dealing with jet lag and fighting off a cold that was trying very hard to derail me. I drank a lot of tea with honey, soaked in the tub a few times, and basically just rested. When I got an email from OK Cupid on Saturday afternoon letting me know someone was interested in me, I logged in thinking a good man might make me feel better.

That was the only mistake I made all weekend. These are the actual pictures of the man who got in touch with me. They have not been altered in any way, other than to delete his face. Yes, you got that right, they are posted online, for all to see, with his face clearly showing. This man is not shy or embarrassed by who he is or what he is looking for. Good for him I guess that he is so comfortable in his own skin, but surely there is a fetish dating site for him to be searching on.

Needless to say, after one week on OK Cupid, I was done.  Dating is a nightmare under the best of circumstances, and this was almost too much for me to handle. Maybe it was because I was tired, or perhaps because I was sick, but I wanted to scream and think I actually may have. I got up today at 4:00 am and the first thing I did was delete my OK Cupid account. Why didn’t I delete it immediately upon hearing from this man? Because my head exploded and I lost the use of my hands for a short time. That and I threw my phone on the floor and was too tired to go get it.

Dear Lord. I am 51 years old, cute, funny, successful, independent, kind, loving, supportive, open to love, and a great woman, yet this is what is available to me to date in Los Angeles? I will remain hopeful, because that is who I am as a human being, but to say this man did not crush my spirit a little would be a lie. In an attempt to shake it off and embrace the midlife crisis I am currently going through, I chopped off all my hair. A bit rash I suppose, but it’s just hair and it will grow back. At the end of the day I will be fine, because I am always fine. When it comes to my dating life however, today it is a bit of a struggle to keep the faith.

Dating 101 – Baggage

Men often say women have a lot of baggage and they don’t want to deal with any drama. I read as much in countless profiles of men dating online. They are very specific about not wanting to deal with the damage of all the men who have come before them. I get it, but if men think it is only women who have baggage, they are delusional. Men are also scarred by previous relationships and it is funny when they insist they are not. Men not only have baggage, but it is much heavier.

I have spent the past week speaking to a man from Santa Monica. He is 61, divorced with 2 kids, and painfully fragile. We didn’t have any interactions that did not include him telling me he did not like what I was saying. If I said something sarcastic, as I am known to do, he would say “I don’t like that.” He spent a lot of time telling me what he didn’t like, what he wouldn’t do, and letting me know he was desperate for acceptance and kindness. It was sad and exhausting.

We spoke and texted for little while, then in what would be our last conversation, he had what can only be described as a nervous breakdown. We were chatting about relationships and sex. I asked him if he was still sexually active, which I think is an acceptable question. We are adults, he is 61, and I thought the question in the context of our conversation was fair and appropriate. He didn’t think so and started to scream at me that he doesn’t answer those questions.

One might of thought he was rude, or perhaps assume he’s dealing with sexual issues, or conclude he has been treated unkindly, but either way it was weird and his reaction was disproportionate to the situation. He was angry, confused, flustered, and embarrassed. This is a man who is carrying around so much baggage he is weighed down and simply walking around in circles. It was strange, then funny, then really quite sad. Needless to say, we won’t be speaking again.

Relationships are hard and more complicated at age 51. Everyone is coming to the table with history, and with history comes baggage. I don’t expect someone to not have needs or reactions based on their past, but I do expect someone to not yell at me, and certainly not approve or disapprove of everything I say. To this man who felt he could yell at me, I hope you take a moment to step back and reevaluate what it is exactly you are doing in terms of your dating style.

I would recommend you focus on your kids and work and not date right now. You are emotionally not ready. The truth is that any woman who is willing to date someone at your level of pain, is equally as unavailable. You’ll end up having a relationship that is unsatisfying for you both. There is nothing wrong with having baggage. We are adults and that is life, just be careful how you pack it. I am continuing to date, doing a little unpacking of my own, and keeping the faith.

Dating 101: Ex marks the spot

I do not have relationships with my exes. I think it complicates things, and have never really understood how people do it. Important to note I define an ex by the presence of love. I have dated men who I cared about and thought that I loved, but there have been very few men who I have really been in love with. Soul cradling love that makes you see the world in colors you never knew existed. I have loved like that twice in my life. Once with my ex-husband, and once with the Englishman.

There are degrees of love I suppose. Differences between loving someone and believing they were your soulmate. A bashert. Someone you feel was placed on earth by God to be your person. My ex-husband is the first man I ever loved. I can remember looking at him when we first started to date and thinking he would be the father of my children. Our courtship was fast we were engaged after only weeks. We were young and in love and I thought we would be married forever.  We weren’t, but we have a child, and so he is my bashert.

Our son is magnificent and truly equal parts of his dad and me. He looks like his dad, but his personality is all me. He has my sense of humor and his dad’s desire to do right by the planet and others. I will always love my ex-husband because he is a part of my child and if I didn’t love him, then what does that mean about the parts of my kid that are just like him? We don’t have a relationship, and haven’t for years. He has a horrible wife who never quite forgave me for being the mother of her husband’s only son.

I feel sad for her and also for him. They blocked a lot of great things for my son by our strained relationship. I’m not blaming them for everything, because I had an equal hand in it, but when push comes to shove and blame must be assigned, my hands are clean. The end of a relationship is tragic for everyone involved and whether you are married or dating, kids are often hurt by the loss. I loved the Englishman in a soul crushing way, I also loved his children as if they were my own.

His oldest child is a remarkable person who has no idea how great she is. His youngest child has the heart of an angel and made me smile every moment we were together. We were building a life together and our children were like siblings. I thought he was the man I’d grow old with.  We spoke of the kids growing up and going off to college, and we would move to England and drink lots of tea. It was great and while we certainly had our share of relationship troubles, he was my person. You can imagine my surprise when he not only broke up with me on Facebook Messenger, but was cheating.

After we broke up I did not see his kids. There were a series of miscommunications, and one day contact just stopped. Not only between me and his kids, but between our children and each other. These two young people, who had woven themselves into my heart were gone. It was heartbreaking because I loved them. Still do. It is strange to have spent the last year in London as I thought I would be living here with him by now. I am not sad to not be with him, but sad for what was damaged.

The Englishman and his children mattered to me. I trusted him with my heart and more importantly, with my son. He broke that trust. Not only broke it, but then shit all over it. He is now living with the woman he cheated with and I hope he is happy. She clearly was able to give him something I didn’t and that is okay. I wanted him to be happy when we were together and I want that for him now. Just because he is unworthy of me and my son doesn’t mean he is unworthy of other things.

I have not seen him in over four years, but today I am flying back to Los Angeles from London and it turns out the Englishman is on my flight. Oy to the vey! He sent me a text last night when he heard we were on the same flight. It was somewhat ominous and threatening to me, but it turns out he thought he was being funny and breaking the ice. Um, no. My heart felt hurt and I did not sleep in anticipation of my flight. I prayed I would not see him. Which is very sad to me.

My heart has healed, and life has gone on, but I can’t help but wonder how things could have been and should have been different. I wonder if he ever really understood how much I loved him. I wonder if he ever really loved me. He couldn’t have known how much I loved him or wouldn’t have done what he did. He could not have loved me, or couldn’t have done what he did. What he did damaged not only me, but our children. My son was a baby when I got divorced, but he watched this break up and what it did to me.

At the end of the day none of it matters. We were together for a short time, a long time ago, and I am fine because I am always fine. In the interest of full disclosure, it is 8:40 am and I am having my second Cosmo. I feel nervous, anxious, sad, tired and ultimately sick as I am dealing with some medical stuff and am emotionally and physically drained. I would have given anything to not have had to deal with this today. Life is funny though and can throw you a curveball.

My father used to tell me I was a wonderful human being. As sit here getting drunk in anticipation of seeing someone I probably won’t see, I believe him. I loved the Englishman in a way people dream of being loved. Our not being together is not a reflection of me, as much as it is a reflection of him. He is blessed to have been loved by me and I am blessed to know I can love like that. My son is picking me up at the airport and I can’t wait to see that beautiful boy. Life is grand, love will be found, and I am keeping the faith.









Online Dating 101 – Oh. My. God.

My dating life has always been interesting. From my first date with my ex-husband, to all the men who have wandered into my life since, it has always been… interesting. I don’t know if that’s because I’m interesting, because I really am, or perhaps it is simply because I am brave and willing to put myself out there. But interesting is a good thing.

Until it isn’t.

This week my dating life was interesting for a lot of reasons, but I am left exhausted and wanting to get another cat.

I went back online this week, because how else do you meet anyone? I looked around on and JDate, and was not even a little surprised to see it is all the same people, with all the same photos, saying all the same things. I updated my profile, and put up new pictures, because it has been several months since I was dating online. I don’t think the majority of men got the same memo. Would it kill them to change it up a bit? Ugh. I am back where I started. Whatever.

I got a notification on Wednesday that I received an email through one of the dating web sites. I was happy that he wrote a proper note and didn’t send a passive aggressive wink or simply “like” one of my pictures. I logged in to my account and found the following message, which I have read at least a dozen times to make sure I understood. Important to note I’ve blurred his picture and name, but he wears glasses, is losing his hair, and his name sounds like Barvey.

You really must read it a few times to get exactly how gross this email is. He is 66 years old and his photo is as creepy as his note is. I think it may be in my best interest to get another cat and call it a day on my dating life. I will never understand how someone could possibly think this email is cool to send to a stranger. In what world does this man think this is okay? He is repulsive, and I am offended by his note. It has also somehow managed to hurt my feelings.

Of course, that is silly, because I don’t know him, and he is just a freak on the internet, but it is sad to me. I suppose I could adjust my thinking, view it as funny, and wish this man luck on his search for the woman who will float his boat. But I can’t get there. There is no world where his note to a stranger is acceptable, and there is no world where I would find it funny. Dating is tough, but I am tougher. Usually. It is taking a minute however, to shake this one off. Barvey is a pig and now blocked.

My dating life is always interesting and occasionally sad, with just a pinch of pathetic thrown in this week for good measure. I told my son I was going to die alone with 18 cats. He told me if I have 18 cats I won’t be alone. Why stop at 18 is the bigger question.

I am going to services tonight to pray the stink of Barvey’s email off of my dating life. As we enter the month of Tu B’Av, the holiday of love, I remain hopeful. My remarkable Rabbi, Naomi Levy, will bless me, and that blessing will guide my search. I am blessed to have a lot of love in my life, and am certain I will meet a man to share my journey with. Anyone with the name Harvey is now sadly out of the running, but he is out there and there’s a chance our paths will cross, so I am keeping the faith.





Jonah Goldfinger’s past profile on JSwipe. Screen capture courtesy of Jonah Goldfinger

JSwipe: Navigating love via online apps

Any single man or woman who tells you they’ve never used a dating app while on the toilet is a liar.

JSwipe is the app of choice for those looking for a Jewish partner, but there are plenty of other swiping apps, including Bumble, Raya, The League and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Tinder. They allow us to swipe right or left on prospective matches in waiting rooms, at red lights, on bad dates (uh-huh) and, yes, in the lavatory. Basically, anytime we’re bored, we swipe. (Does anyone read books anymore?)

It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning of online dating, there was JDate, and Jewish singles saw it and it was good.

In those innocent, pre-smartphone days, you didn’t log on simply because you had nothing else to do. It actually was a chore to find an online date! It required considerable time and energy.

So you did what everyone else did: You searched for your soul mate on the office computer when nobody was looking.  And you’d have to remember to keep the JDate browser open next to an Excel file that you would click over to when your boss walked by. JDating could simultaneously get you a life partner and cost you your job.

And not everyone had pictures up with their profile! Seriously! Because that often required a scanner that often required a trip to Kinko’s to scan the photo on a 3.5-inch floppy disk that often required uploading it to the internet back at the office computer.

But most striking back then was the stigma associated with dating online. Should an online couple actually go the distance, a friend might ask the obvious question: “How did you two meet?” To which the following dance usually followed:

“Well, we have these common friends …”

“And then I saw her at this party.”

“But he didn’t talk to me until …”

So you met on JDate?

“I mean, yes. Technically? But …”

Not anymore. Today, it’s basically assumed you met via a common right swipe. It’s gotten to a point where we singles feel compelled to clarify if we didn’t meet via an app: “Yeah, we met at a party. No, we weren’t swiping at the party; he actually came over to me! Yeah, I thought it was totalllllly weird but I went with it …”

It’s easier than ever to connect. Take out your phone, swipe, connect, text, go out, swipe again. Thank goodness JSwipe logs old conversations in the app; otherwise, we’d all unknowingly go out with the same person again.

So it is, as Tu b’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, approaches that the question inevitably pops up yet again: Are we singles inundated with too many options?

“The problem with JSwipe and all the other dating apps is the Jelly Theory,” my JSwipe date said between sips of tea at a Coffee Bean one spring afternoon last year.

“The Jelly Theory?” I replied.

“Yeah. See, these sociologists brought out all these different flavored jellies to sell at a farmers market. And they found, when faced with more flavors, more people would stop and look but fewer would buy. But! When they brought out fewer jelly flavors, fewer people looked but actually more people bought jelly! Fewer options equals more buying. There are too many dating options thanks to all these apps. Which is why nobody is settling down anymore.”

One coffee date and we never went out again. She was right, in fact. I had too many other options.

But since when is having options a bad thing? Marriage is a lifestyle choice, not a necessity. And nobody other than maybe our Jewish parents is putting a gun to our heads. So why can’t we be as picky as we want to be? And who cares if I sample every Jewish jelly in America, even if that means I never, ever, ever buy one?

Two months later, I right-swiped on Lisa.

I wasn’t in the bathroom but I was, indeed, incredibly bored. I was sitting at a poker table at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, having a bad run of cards. Tired of folding one hand after another, I finally opened up JSwipe on my iPhone and started swiping. Twenty minutes later, I cashed in what was left of my chips and went to meet my date down the Strip at the Wynn.

She was a pretty jelly. And she was a smart jelly. And funny. She laughed differently and talked differently, and she admitted that, like me, she was bored on this Vegas trip and this was something different. We went out again the next day.

“You know,” I said to Lisa while we watched a basketball game on date No. 2, “no matchmaker would ever set the two of us up on a date.”

“Totally. If it wasn’t for JSwipe, we’d probably never meet.”

And she was right. Lisa was four years my senior. She lived in Canada, while I lived in L.A. We wanted different things. Aside from being Jewish, we had very little else in common. But we were bored, in Vegas, and we had this amazing app at our fingertips ….

I had done enough JSwiping and tested enough jellies to know that this was someone I wanted to be in a relationship with. All of our options made me and her better consumers. My palate is refined. I know what I want.

One year later, I’m happy to say that Lisa is still the jelly to my peanut butter. Now, I just have to find something other than swiping to do when I’m bored. Can anyone recommend a good book?

The essential values of khastegari remain entrenched in Persian-Jewish life in Los Angeles, with parental involvement replacing dating apps and bar scenes in the dating lives of many young Persians. Illustration by Shirin Raban

Khastegari: The Persian-Jewish version of meet the parents

Shannon Delijani was 14 years old, enjoying a cousin’s wedding ceremony, when an older Persian man spotted her, sat down next to her and started telling her about his son: He’s tall, he’s a doctor, he owns his own house …

“I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, this is happening,’ ” said Delijani, now 21. “I had heard about this but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Unsure how to react, Delijani complied with the man’s request for her phone number and full name. When he finally asked her age and she told him, he gazed pensively into the distance. After a long pause, he patted her on the shoulder and conceded, with great disappointment, that she was too young for his 27-year-old son.

Delijani and other Persian Jews know this matchmaking ritual as khastegari, a word that loosely translates to “proposal” but denotes the elaborate Persian courtship custom that precedes the formal offer. What sets khastegari apart from ordinary matchmaking among Jews is the overt, active role families play in arranging matches for their children, sometimes meeting the potential suitor before the couple even plans a first date.

In its most traditional form, a suitor — the khastegar — and his family visit a young woman’s home to evaluate her family over tea and pastries. If the families approve of one another, the couple gets their blessings for a first date or even an engagement. Sometimes the children have a say in the selection; sometimes they don’t.

Several generations and one American migration later, the essential values of khastegari still are entrenched in the landscape of Persian-Jewish dating in Los Angeles, with parental involvement replacing dating apps and bar scenes in the dating lives of many young Persians. The custom is a source of amusement for many young women, who have coined the slang verb “khastegared” and trade stories with friends about awkward encounters like Delijani’s.

For her part, Delijani said she doesn’t mind when adults try to set her up with their relatives. She said every time she tells a non-Persian friend about the custom, they ask if her mom can set them up, too.

“Everyone always complains about not being able to meet people [to date], but here we have this built-in system for meeting someone,” Delijani said.

She’s not exaggerating when she says built in: It’s not rare for single Persian Jews to throw implicit “khastegari parties” with the intention of letting friends scope out potential marriage partners.

Delijani attributed the roots of khastegari to the centrality of family in Persian-Jewish culture, which makes parental involvement a major factor in shaping their children’s lives.

Shaina Pakravan, a master’s candidate at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, created a short film called “Roksana,” based on her mother’s and grandmother’s khastegari experiences. The film, which won a 2015 Short Short Story Film Festival award, follows a young woman with obsessive-compulsive tendencies as she sits awkwardly through a first meeting with a potential suitor and his parents.

Pakravan, 25, said she rarely sees formal khastegari rituals among her own generation. Still, she said, Persian culture’s communal nature persists in the United States despite the influence of American individualism. Meeting a potential spouse’s family still factors heavily into the course of Persian dating, as young adults know how big of a role their in-laws will play in their married lives.

In a sense, Persian Jews marry families, not individuals.

Afshin met his girlfriend of seven months, Arezou (their names have been changed to protect their privacy), through a modern twist on khastegari, as a pair of cousins decided the two might make a good match. One of Afshin’s cousins called Arezou’s parents for their blessing to arrange a date, then called Afshin’s parents for their permission, and somehow Arezou’s number made its way into Afshin’s phone.

They did make a good match, and after a first date at a Santa Monica bar, Afshin said he was surprised by how easy it was to connect with Arezou based on shared cultural background and values, as vetted by their relatives.

“Persian-Jewish women’s mental algorithm might be stronger than, like, dating apps,” Afshin said. He thinks it is the primacy of marriage in Persian culture that lends Persian women their sharp instinct for matchmaking.

“In American culture, if you want to stay single, that’s an acceptable lifestyle choice,” Afshin said. “In Persian-Jewish culture, if you want to stay single, then there’s something wrong with you.”

The tight-knit nature of the Persian-Jewish community provides the intimate knowledge of who’s who that strategic matchmaking requires. Coupled with the fact that Persian Jews tend to travel in familiar circles, khastegari can happen anytime, anywhere — even on Tu b’Av, a Jewish holiday of love, which starts on Aug. 6.

“Ashkenazi women are not going to do matchmaking in the parsley section of Elat Market,” Afshin said, referring to the kosher Persian supermarket on Pico Boulevard. “When they go to Whole Foods or Ralph’s, they’re probably not going to bump into a bunch of people they know.”

Among the qualities matchmaking mothers look for are a similar degree of Jewish observance, an education level and profession that match the caliber of one’s own family, and, above all, a solid family reputation in the Persian-Jewish community. Stains on a family history could be a deal breaker, Afshin said. People talk.

In traditional Persian circles, if a woman dated a man for too long and the relationship fell apart, she was marked as damaged goods, said Homa Halimi Nassirzadeh, a Persian-Jewish marriage and family therapist.

Nassirzadeh, who was courted by a number of khastegars when she was young and single, said she appreciates that modern life in Los Angeles has dissolved much of the intimate knowledge Persian-Jewish families have of one another. She said it’s good for kids to approach the dating scene without too many boundaries — save, perhaps, that they date someone Jewish.

Nassirzadeh said she finds that some of the Persian parents she counsels are apprehensive about today’s upside-down approach to dating, in which children introduce their parents into the equation only after their relationship has gotten serious.

“The biggest struggle for my generation is to shut our mouths,” Nassirzadeh said. “My advice to parents is usually, ‘Leave your kids alone and let them live their own lives.’ ”

Shirin Kohan, 32, said she feels strongly that a relationship between two adults is none of their parents’ business. She thinks some of her Persian peers mistake parental control for parental care.

“I think ‘khastegaring’ is the first step where marital problems begin,” Kohan said. “If you’ve started allowing other people into your relationship from the beginning, it’s a step in the wrong direction.”

Kohan noted that khastegari generally involves a man and his family soliciting a younger woman’s family, which she said objectifies women by denying them agency apart from their parents. The language surrounding the ritual suggests the same: The khastegar is the only named actor, whereas a female subject is only implied.

Delijani said it is not unusual to hear of Persian adults keeping an eye on girls in elementary school as potential spouses for their teenage sons, focusing specifically on the girls who come from prominent families.

“[Khastegari] is dehumanizing,” Kohan said. “It’s unhealthy and I don’t think it’s working in California in this day and age.”

To young Persian Jews like Afshin and Arezou, however, khastegari is a valuable tool to meet a compatible partner, no better or worse than a dating app.

“It feels natural [with Arezou] because we have a common cultural connection,” Afshin said. “I can’t say that it isn’t organic. It is.”

Khastegari is yet another iteration of the eternal contests that play out in Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities alike — tradition vs. modernity, parental oversight vs. independence, and arranged vs. spontaneous dating. It’s another gray area where Persian-Jewish families can negotiate the lines of assimilation and identity.

“[Khastegari] is just part of being a first-generation insert-something-here American,” Delijani said. “Everyone has to deal with these cultural clashes. But at the end of the day, these are our traditions.”

New car gift. Clipping path included.

My Mid-Life Crisis

A few weeks ago I decided to buy a new car.  I have had my car for 10 years and even with 115000 miles logged in, she had plenty of life left in her. I am not really a car person, but it was time for me to do something special for myself, so I went with a new car. I found the perfect little car and ordered it exactly how I wanted. I hit a rough patch with the first car salesman I met, but I was set on getting a new car, so when the dealership called to right his wrong, I appreciated the effort and listened.

After going back and forth on the car, I eventually decided against it. I figured the glitches were a sign I wasn’t supposed to get it. I was going to set the car aside for a bit and revisit it another time. Then on Thursday I went to see my doctor, and two and a half years after my cancer diagnosis, there is a little situation that needs to come out. I cried for five minutes, then I sent an email to the owner of Keyes of Van Nuys, Mr. Howard Tenenbaum, who had reached out the week before.

I let Howard know what I needed to be able to pull the trigger on the car. I heard back from him the same day, letting me know he took care of everything. The Sales Manager, Lewis Cook, went above and beyond for me. He worked with my schedule and budget, making it a priority to show me the customer service Keyes strives to provide. I was treated with respect and kindness, and left the lot on Saturday with my new baby. She is beautiful and made me happy on a sad day, which is good because I ain’t got time to be sad.

Louis Venegas the Finance Manager walked me through the process quickly and with expertise. Lewis Cook kept an eye on my signing of the papers and ensured I got VIP treatment. Even Howard came in to thank me for my business. It was a great experience and I will now remember the day because of the car, not because of the medical update. The gentlemen of Keyes were wonderful, having no idea what I was going through, simply wanting my experience to be a good one. Bravo.

Tomorrow I will hit the ground running on my medical situation and get it sorted. There will be tests, and surgery, and God willing many more anniversaries to celebrate. I am fine and my life is blessed. If you pray, throw my name in if you wouldn’t mind. I will keep you posted on what is happening. I am looking forward to driving to my appointment tomorrow in my fantastic new car. It is important to look cute while you kick some ass, and I look super cute in my super cute new car.

Please note I reserve the right to continue my midlife crisis after I deal with the current pain in my ass. Surely a new car won’t be the only thing I do. Maybe I’ll jet off to Australia for dinner. Again. Maybe I will change my hair color. Again. Maybe I will adopt a dog! Maybe I will find the man of dreams. Maybe I know him already! At the end of the day I feel good and my life is blessed. I am thankful, grateful, hopeful, and keeping the faith.


Dating 101: Soulmates

According to Wikipedia: a soulmate is somebody with whom one has a feeling of deep and natural affinity, love, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, and  compatibility. A related concept is that of the twin flame or twin soul – which is thought to be the ultimate soulmate, the one and only other half of one’s soul, for which all souls are driven to find. Another theory of soulmates, presented by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, is that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them.

Some people believe souls are literally made and/or fated to be the mates of each other, or to play certain other important roles in each other’s lives and according to theories popularized by Theosophy and in a modified form by Edgar Cayce, God created androgynous souls, equally male and female. Later theories postulate souls split into separate genders, perhaps because they incurred karma while playing around on the Earth, or “separation from God”. Over countless reincarnations, each half seeks the other. When all karmic debt is purged, the two will fuse back together and return to the ultimate. If that is true, then we each get only one.

There is just one person out there who is destined to be our soulmate. When you think about how many people there are in the world, how are we ever expected to find that one person out of billions? Are there different levels of soulmate? My son’s father is not the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with, but we have a remarkable son who completes my life, so could it be my son is my soulmate and that is the great love of my life? Can you go through life constantly searching for a person you will never find? Could it be they got tired of searching for you and are with someone else who is perhaps good enough? What if you panic and don’t realize you actually found the right one?

Is finding an almost perfect match a more realistic look at love? If you do find an almost match, do you shut off all parts of you that look? Do you keep one eye open just in case? I always believed in the theory of a soulmate, but to be honest I never took the time to look up what the true meaning of it was. Now that I have, I’m thinking it may be near impossible to find. I will keep looking of course, but I must say it is a little discouraging. Searching for love is draining, and waiting for it to find you, is exhausting. When you add in the desire for a soulmate, where do you draw the line between a perfect match and a good enough one? What is

At the end of the day I put faith in God there will be guidance on the path to my Beshert. I pray that not only will I have the strength to keep looking for him, but that he won’t stop looking for me. Just as important, when I do find him, I pray I am not too scared to actually see him. May I please be brave enough to not sabotage things because I am spooked, and not spook him so badly he becomes uncertain. Through good dates and bad, a broken heart and a heart that sings, I remain hopeful that each day brings me closer to what I want and deserve. My fingers are crossed, my heart is hopeful, and I am keeping the faith.

The author’s uninvited visit to a bat mitzvah included a trip to the photo booth. Photo courtesy of Louis Keene

I crashed a bat mitzvah party four years ago. I still haven’t mailed the gift

On my nightstand is a modest pile of books that I have not read and — if everything goes according to plan —I will never need to read. I have found that a short stack of literary dread is all it takes to threaten me into unconsciousness, night after night. A furtive glance at the spine of “War and Peace,” for example, is usually enough to tuck me in.

Contributing about an inch to this tower is a paperback volume by the humorist David Sedaris, which the author signed when his tour stopped in Madison, Wis., in 2013. That I dare not begin the book has less to do with its formidability as a text than its true ownership. The inscription begins “To Sophie.” I can’t read it.

I did not know Sophie in 2013, nor did she know me. To this day, we have never met. But I owed her a present, so I handed Sedaris a fresh copy of his book during a signing event and described the situation. He opened the book, then paused.

“What do you say to someone,” he asked me, “on their bat mitzvah?”

Jewish culture isn’t nonexistent in Madison, where I lived for two years post-graduation, but it’s fair to say it lacks the vital presence of larger American Jewish communities. There is no kosher deli. There is no Schechter school. JSwipe is a wasteland. And the righteous path is beset on all sides by mountains of cheese — biting cheddars and decadent Goudas and the G.O.A.T. goat cheese — which have curdled in the state of Wisconsin with that forbidden enzyme, rennet.

So, I did not anticipate a religious experience on my first date with Lily, a co-worker I had asked out earlier that week (and whose name I have changed). Lily was Chinese-American and — at least for now! — unaffiliated; our Saturday evening date consisted of bouldering, then burritos. We got along fine, if not famously, talking about our ambitions and regrets over dinner. She had gone corporate instead of enlisting in Teach For America; I’d chosen the consulting life over less lucrative creative endeavors. We both wanted big weddings and 11 children, and we were both 23.

We hadn’t planned anything after the Mexican food. It was our first date; we were probably going to just walk along the promenade until we fell in love or got bored of each other. But a fate more concrete — and more romantic — appeared on a small sign in the window of a performing arts center, announcing the bat mitzvah of a young woman named Sophie.

I knew what we were doing next.

“Have you ever crashed a bat mitzvah party before?” I asked.

“I don’t know what a bat mitzvah is,” Lily responded.

It would have been true to call it a religious experience. But I told her it was a rite of passage with an open bar. She was sold.

To her credit, Lily cared enough to find out more, and I filled her in under the guise of establishing deep cover. As we scrambled back to our apartments to dress up, I peppered her with the basics: Sophie had turned 13, and thus was celebrating the onset of Jewish adulthood and accepting the burden of the faith. She likely had read from the Torah earlier, in temple; she definitely had made a speech. The speech was either “just beautiful” or “actually very original.”

Once we were there, figuring out who Sophie was would be easy. Verily, a girl cannot become a woman without her friends and family signing in the margins around her blown-up photograph. That’s straight out of Leviticus. (Sorry, I don’t make the rules.)

So, we strategized, once we find the board, we can find out what Sophie looks like and quickly round out our backstory. I would be there to pick up my younger brother — a name we would pick off the board. Also, Lily and I were dating now and she wanted to convert. (Whoops! Spoke too soon on that one.)

There was only one person we needed to avoid at all costs, the only person who knows everyone at a bat mitzvah: the mom. (Yes, I understand this operation is like three-quarters of the way to “Fauda,” but aren’t most Jewish gatherings?)

We headed back to the arts center. There was, indeed, a bar, and it was, indeed, open to the ballroom-size crowd gathered to celebrate Sophie. I got a whiskey and Coke; Lily skipped the Coke. The bartender pointed us to the poster board, which, in what will go down as a first in Jewish history, had no picture on it! Fortunately, it still was easy to spot Sophie: Only one girl gets to wear a red dress.

Getting the hang of things, Lily found disguises for us — pink plastic hats, neon necklaces and shutter shades — and we got our photos taken in them by a hired professional whose work we never saw. We got another round at the bar. Pushing our luck, we waded onto the dance floor and got down like the embarrassing older brother and his girlfriend we were. A decade after my own coming of age, I still had no reservations about grinding to R. Kelly jams.

We were falling in love and getting bored of each other all at once. We also were drawing too much attention, and shortly the jig was up. As a Taylor Swift anthem I had never liked this much before blared over the speakers, our hostess greeted us — warmly.

“It’s enough for you to drink our alcohol,” Sophie’s mom said, smiling. “But do you think you could take off soon?”

Bashful and a little tipsy, we nodded and headed for the door. Lily never got to see them lift the chair.

It’s tempting to be cynical about the put-ons of bar and bat mitzvahs, and of Jewish traditions in general. Every bat mitzvah girl has a poster board. Many will wear a red dress to the party. And a few have a mom you want to avoid. (Kidding!) And yet each coming-of-age celebration — not just the party, but also the Torah reading, the speech, even the oversized suit you bought in some yenta’s backyard that she says you’ll grow into — is a joy apart.

Especially on a first date. If this was the only Yiddishkayt Lily ever saw, Sophie’s family painted a better picture than any elevator pitch I could have given. And Sophie’s mom didn’t stop us from ducking in the photo booth on our way out. Lily and I kissed on the fourth exposure.

We should have brought a gift.

A few weeks later, I was back in the same building listening to David Sedaris read from his diary. I didn’t bring a date to the event — actually, Lily and I never went on a second one — and there was no open bar. Sedaris’ reading was just beautiful. Or was it actually pretty original?

I decided I would buy Sedaris’ book for Sophie. How I would get it to her I’d figure out later.

When we met afterward, Sedaris didn’t know what the proper congratulations were for the occasion. But he managed to come up with the right thing to say. To Sophie, his inscription reads. I’m so happy you’re Jewish.

The book, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” idles on my nightstand for now. I’ll be sure to bring it to the wedding.

Louis Keene is a contributing writer for the Jewish Journal. He tweets @thislouis_ and he emails at

Dating 101: The Politics of Love

I have been dating George for six months. We spend a lot of time together and have settled into a comfortable space. He makes me laugh and I feel protected, valued, cherished, respected, and entertained. He is kind and gentle, yet not at all a pushover. He is a good man, which I noticed immediately because one often takes notice of things they have never encountered before. I like him very much.

George and I don’t fight. Not to say we don’t disagree on things, because we do, but there is no yelling, disrespect, regret in what we say, or how we say it. There are a lot of things that are new about this relationship. I thought the biggest obstacle would be that George is not Jewish. Turns out that isn’t actually a deal breaker. He has come with me to Shabbat Services, met my Rabbi, and embraced how I embrace my faith. I am Jewish enough to carry my faith on my own, which is an empowering feeling as I always felt my partner needed also be Jewish.

So here is where we stand:

Kindness                 Check

Chemistry                Check

Sense of Humor     Check

Respect                   Check

Handsome              Check

Tall                           Check

Blue Eyes                Check

Thinks I Rock         Check

Religion                   All Good

Politics                    Oy Vey

I am a person who likes to talk about politics. I am fascinated by what is happening in America and enjoy not only the banter that politics inspires, but learning about how the political system works. It is a truly unique time for this country and I want to talk about it. Not just politics, but the news in general. From the alleged treason of Donald Trump and his family, to the senseless killings of African Americans by law enforcement, to people who sold pot being in prison next to people who sold heroin, I want to not only talk about it, but try to fix it. Whether writing about race relations, calling my Congressman to have my voice heard, or advocating for medical marijuana, it all matters to me.

It has forced me to look at my relationship in a way I never have before. I have to decide what is important and why I think it is important. Does it matter that I be with someone who thinks exactly like me? Am I holding my partner up a different level of scrutiny than I do my friends? Do I value someone who treats me well?  Is not talking about politics a deal breaker? Can I only love someone who thinks the exact same way as me?  At the end of the day it forces me to think about what I want, what I deserve, and what I am afraid of. Am I simply using politics as a way to run away from someone wonderful because I’m scared?

Rachelle Friberg is a friend of mine. I have never met her in person mind you, but she is my friend. She is a lovely young woman who reached out to me on social media after I wrote a series of blogs about a random encounter with Sarah Palin. She was hosting a radio show and asked if I would come on and talk about it. While I am sure there are many republicans in my life, she was the first one who was really out there with her politics. She is proudly republican. She is also young, educated, religious, and close with her family. With the exception of our political affiliations, we are actually quite similar and I like her very much. We have been friends for several years and she is my go to republican.

I asked Rachelle a few questions because I value her opinion on politics. She’d be a great politician and perhaps after her career as one of the best school teachers this country has to offer, she will run for office. Rachelle has always been a republican. Both her parents are republicans. She used to consider herself a conservative republican, but her views have shifted a little over time. While she still considers herself a fiscal conservative, which I suppose I am too, she considers herself more of a moderate when it comes to social issues. She has coined herself a “common-sense republican”, which I love.

I asked Rachelle if she would date democrat and it was the first time she’d ever been asked the question. She never gave the topic much thought. When it comes to dating or being in a relationship, she looks at the individual and could care less whom the guy she’s dating voted for in an election. If the chemistry is there, why would she let political differences stand in the way of her having a committed, lasting relationship? She expanded by saying having differences in beliefs whether it comes to something as important as politics, or as trivial as what kind of pizza toppings you prefer on pizza (ham and pineapple is her winner), can be a good thing in that you’ll never run out of things to talk about. Healthy debates can be a good thing and can add an element of fun to a relationship.

When we spoke about President Trump, Rachelle shared that this was the first presidential election since voting in her first election at age of 18, she didn’t vote for the republican nominee. When it came to voting day, she could not vote for an individual whom she felt did not represent her as a republican or her values. That said, she said since President Trump won, and is now president of the United States, he is her President. She respects the office of the land and believes we live in the greatest country on earth. She believes it is her duty to stand by her country, but she wishes he would stop tweeting already.

At the end of the day Rachelle does not think political affiliation of your significant other should determine whether or not you can jump all in. If you have chemistry, who cares whom they voted for? Would it make it easier if they vote the same way as she did? Probably. But Rachelle reminded me nothing comes easy without hard work and grit. Relationships can be messy, but they are also amazing testaments to the value that comes with loving someone through the good and the bad. Sometimes the best relationships come from the most unexpected circumstances. You’ll never know unless you take a leap of faith.

Rachelle made me see things differently. If she can date a democrat, then certainly I could date a republican! In a final attempt to get her to get me to walk away from George, I asked my lovely Christian friend if she would date a Jew. Her answer was really surprising to me. It was a tough question for her. She is deeply rooted in her religion but it is not the be-all, end-all of a relationship for her. She would date someone who practices a different religion because love is love and she understands how special and rare it is to find someone. Oh. My. God. I might actually be in love with Rachelle. She is a wonderful human being.

As I write this I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing. Am I trying to push away a man because of politics? Am I so certain I have yet again picked the wrong person, I am willing to get rid of him before my heart is hurt? Am I brave enough to jump in and fall in love with a man who makes no sense anywhere but my heart? It is all rather complicated and I suppose that is the thing about love. It is not relationships that are complicated, but rather love. Love is also grand and I have been searching for it for a long time. The possibility of finding it is terrifying. Not sure what I’m doing, but I am certain politics shouldn’t play a role in love.

George is a lovely man but the simple truth is that not only is he a republican, but he voted Donald Trump. At the end of the day that is something that has me stuck. This man has been gentle with my heart and inspired me to view things differently, but how can I respect someone who not only voted for, but continues to support Trump? It may simply be impossible. I hope to have a happy ending one day, and whenever that is, and whoever it is with, I will be grateful, afraid, excited, and as always, keeping the faith.


















Dating 101: Politics and Religion

I have been dating “George” for several months and for the first time in my life I am not in a rush to define it. He calls me his girlfriend, which is lovely. We are in an exclusive and committed relationship that matters to me, but I am not searching for labels or declarations. That is new for me because as a hopeless romantic I am so hopeful that my view of relationships has been distorted.

I have loved men who were unworthy of me. By unworthy of course I mean they should never date. Ever. I have not been interested in men who were probably good for me. I have cried more tears than anyone should, yet I am certain I will find love. I will meet someone wonderful who gets, deserves, and appreciates me. We will build memories that are happy rather than sad. It is just a matter of time.

When it comes to George, I have never been treated so kindly by a man. He is sweet, attentive, supportive, and lovely. He does not look like anyone I’ve ever dated, and he is not Jewish, which is how I have always rolled. He is a republican, which is how I never roll. We have nothing in common and were raised very differently, yet we are in a relationship and it is all really quite nice.

I am at a point in my life when I understand how hard it is to simply have nice. Nice is a wonderful word to describe a relationship and I don’t think people understand how important it is to have things be nice. To be clear it is not boring, just nice. We are respectful of each other’s opinions and communicate without fear. I enjoy his company and how he treats me. Most importantly, he makes me laugh.

There is however, one unsettling thing. When we talk politics, I find myself wanting to punch him in the face. We are on different pages and it makes my lower back spasm. The truth is no matter how much George thinks he is a Republican, I think he may actually be Independent. Perhaps I am one too! He believes his views are patriotic, but they are actually not at all in the best interest of the country.

I like him, but politics are a road block. I used to think I could never date a man who wasn’t Jewish, but it turns out dating a republican is much harder. It could just be me getting nervous that everything is good and therefore I’m finding things to sabotage. It could also be that I’m simply not able to date someone so different on two very important subjects of politics and religion.

It is hard to know if I am making the right choices. On Friday night George came with me to Shabbat services. He held my hand while I prayed, participated in the traditions, and met my Rabbi. It is great that he is open to my faith and will celebrate with me. I appreciate it, but we will undoubtedly speak about the political drama of the week, and I will struggle to not punch him. Oy vey.

At this point in our relationship I need to either jump in or get out. I want very much to set aside politics and focus on the nice, but I am not sure I can do it. I am open to all perspectives, but am struggling with politics, which is strange because I was certain it would be religion that got in my way. George is not a religious person. He believes on God, but does not practice any faith.

That makes things surprisingly easy. I am a practicing Jew, but I do not need him to practice with me to be satisfied in my faith. It is enough that he supports and respects how I practice Judaism. Having him at services with me was lovely. He was comfortable and open to all of it. This is a wonderful man who checks a lot of my boxes. I want to make it work, but will I be able to?

Can you fall in love with someone who is fundamentally different from you? Can you build a life with someone who’s political perspective changes how you view them? Should you invest in someone who you want to change? I adore this man but politically we are beyond not being on the same page, we are actually reading different books. It seems silly, but is a real struggle.

The internal battle I thought I would face over religion never happened. Instead my struggle is political, but love should never be political. Should it? I believe people should think, feel, and believe whatever they want. I also believe in love, and love is grand. The most important thing in love is respect, so can I love someone who’s views I don’t respect? It is all rather complicated.

The problem is that I have written here many times that love should not be complicated. My past relationships have always had something that was complicated, and the complication ultimately ends things. I am in a relationship now where the complication has been front and center from the beginning. There are no surprises. I knew what the differences were right from the start.

Time will tell if this complication brings us closer together or tears us apart. George is of the belief it makes us interesting as a couple. He is also a republican, so what does he know? Oy! It has been a wonderful weekend with George. We went to temple, hung out with my son, and enjoyed our time together. As for the future, he might be my bashert so I am putting politics aside, and keeping the faith.












Dating 101: Fingers Crossed

I have been quietly dating a lovely man for a few months. He is a wonderful father, grandfather, and son. He is kind, smart, funny, generous, gentle, and respectful. He treats me with a tenderness I have never experienced in a relationship before. He extends the same respect to my son, which I appreciate and admire very much. We have a wonderful time together and I feel nervous, but content.

We don’t have a lot of things in common, and are politically on opposite sides of just about everything, but he allows me to have my opinion. He also allows me to spend a lot of time trying to change his opinion. He is open to change and growth and knowledge. I adore this man am quite certain that if I can get out of my own way, we will be important to each other in a lot of different ways.

I have had a series of complicated and difficult relationships, and while my relationship with George is complicated in some ways and difficult in others, it is also easy, calm, nurturing, and fun. We laugh at many things, including each other, and I feel blessed to have stumbled upon this man. He is unlike anyone I thought I would ever date, but has all the qualities I was looking for in a man.

It is new, exciting, comfortable, and connected. I don’t know where we will end up, but being on this road with him has brought me happiness. I have been writing about my dates and relationships for years, always being clear that I only date Jews and Democrats. I am now dating a man who is not a Democrat or a Jew, and I am counting my blessings.

Time will tell what we become to each other, but we are both happy and hopeful. It is strange to be dating a man who is not Jewish, but I am working through it. It is frustrating to date a man who is not a Democrat, but he is working through it. It is unusual to be dating a man who takes such good care of me, so I am crossing my fingers and keeping the faith.

Talia Goldstein, founder of Three Day Rule. Photo from

Matchmaking as an entrepreneurial labor of love

Many women are adopting the same outlook in forging their careers as they are in finding their bashert: Never settle. Los Angeles resident Talia Goldstein is one of them, as that mindset led her to both her husband and her entrepreneurial path as founder of the dating company Three Day Rule (TDR).

Armed with a degree from Tulane University, Goldstein landed coveted associate and segment producer positions at VH1 and E! Entertainment. However, her observations about singles and desire to be of service to others paved the way to TDR in 2010.

In the beginning, her company focused on producing singles events. She got the inspiration for the name from the ’90s movie “Swingers” and its characters’ discussion of the “Three Day Rule.” “Guys thought you had to wait three days after getting a girl’s number before you called her. We definitely don’t believe in that rule anymore, but we still love the name,” Goldstein said.

In 2013, she reinvented TDR as a full-service dating company ( which covers nine U.S. cities. TDR now has 39 employees, including 32 matchmakers nationwide, to help “hundreds of clients” a year, Goldstein said. Currently, 70,000 people are in TDR’s database.  

Goldstein’s parents’ happy 40-year marriage influenced her business model. Her American-born father was doing his medical residency in Israel when he met her mother, who is a social worker. “They instilled in me the understanding that being judgmental may prevent one person from making a meaningful connection with another,” said Goldstein, who is 37 and grew up in Orange County.

Anybody can enroll in Three Day Rule’s database free of charge. In 2017, TDR expanded to include yearlong VIP nationwide matchmaking packages with two hands-on matchmakers and personalized concierge services ($35,000) in addition to its basic packages, starting at $4,000 for three months of matching in one’s city of residence.   

TDR was one of just a few dating companies to secure “Series A” funding in 2016, bringing in $1.2 million when venture capital investment for dating companies fell overall. To get there, however, Goldstein faced judgmental thinking from investors.

“I was pregnant both times I set out to raise capital,” she said. “The first time, I hid my pregnancy under trench coats and ponchos. Business advisers warned me that (financiers) saw pregnancy as a red flag. Later, I decided not to hide my second pregnancy, as I felt my company had such excellent metrics and traction that it would not make a difference.”

But it did. Male investors told her that they preferred to wait to commit until she had her second baby. Days after leaving the hospital, she finally closed the deal with nine investors.

“I hope this mentality will change, as women should not have to decide between starting a family and becoming an entrepreneur,” she stated.

TDR matchmakers develop a customized plan for clients who have been dating for years, had bad experiences with dating sites, or are newly divorced or widowed. While she believes online dating can be effective, she found daters spend an average of 13 hours a week online.

“If you have a full-time job and a full life, finding the time to do it effectively is hard,” she conceded. “When you factor in that other people are busy, it makes sense that one may not get the replies online he or she may be hoping for. This can make the process demoralizing.”

Phil Wallace, 35, of West Los Angeles, a longtime online site user, said he was pleased that TDR communicated with women on his behalf. He said his dating life has blossomed since his enrollment, with four excellent prospects.

“I didn’t have to worry about them not looking like their pictures. [Goldstein] had met with all of them in advance. Deal-breakers were addressed ahead of time, so there were no sudden, shocking revelations that made me question my date’s character,” he said.

Adelle Gomelsky Kelleher, 37, who was matched with now-husband David Kelleher, felt relief that “someone who had more networking and resources than I did was out there looking.” She used a popular Jewish dating site, but was frustrated with constantly seeing the same men whom she had met at Jewish singles events. At the same time, she found her perceptions of what made a man an ideal candidate shifted.

Gomelsky Kelleher said the process enabled her to relax and enjoy her dates more while also getting her to look beyond first impressions of a possible match to “how I treated all people overall.”

Goldstein pointed out the “mental checklist of wants” is a common mistake among daters: “She may indicate she wants a man with dark hair who is 6 feet tall. But by putting up these filters, she may miss out on somebody who happens to be 5-10 and blond, who could have been her soul mate.”

Goldstein’s business model contrasts with others that match only paid members. People with limited budgets still have a shot at being paired with a paying member if common interests, values and preferences line up.

The old adage goes that you can’t win if you don’t play. Even rookies may get lucky during their first times at bat. Allie Jablon, 41, who avoided online dating because of its “impersonal” nature, was introduced to her husband within a week of signing with TDR.

“Having [a matchmaker] who gets to know you before you are introduced to men is much more productive and fulfilling in my opinion,” said the Hollywood resident. “Where online dating can feel like a job to some, dating should be a joy, not a job.”

My Favorite Englishman

I have been travelling to London for the better part of a year. The property consulting company I used to rent a house, is a couple of lovely gentleman who have taken very good care of me. If anyone is looking to buy or rent a home in London, let me know and I will make an introduction. They are wonderful and over the past few months, one of the men has become rather important to me. He is my favorite Englishman and there is nothing I don’t like about him.

From his three piece suits, to always blowing his nose into a handkerchief, he is very proper. He can drink like a sailor, and speak on any topic with authority. I am not sure if this is because he is well versed on a variety of subjects, or rather because he is such a snob his dismissal of things makes him sound like he is dismissing from a place of knowledge, not boredom of something he has no interest in. He is funny, charming, smart, handsome, and simply lovely.

On Saturday night he took me out for my birthday. We went to The Ivy Club, which was terrific. They made a particularly good Cosmo and the wait staff were perfect. On the way to dinner however, my friend said he brought me to this particular location because I am a snob. Well, um, no. We go to fancy places because my friend is quite fancy. It is both ridiculous and insanely funny for him to think it is me who insists on where we go. The truth is he is a bit of snob.

He has impeccable taste and has never taken me anywhere that wasn’t fabulous. When I am in London I tend to stay within a 3-mile radius of home because everything I need is here, but he has shown me London and I have fallen in love with the city because of him. I have fallen in love with him too. He has made coming here a pleasure and taken the sting out of being away from my son for such long stretches.

If my friend could see himself as I do, he would be in love with himself too. I don’t think he has any idea how wonderful he is, which I suppose is part of his charm. He is accomplished, successful, and painfully unaware of his appeal. I want him to not only be happy, but find his happily ever after. I am going to introduce him to the woman he is going to marry. I am sure of it and so the search has begun. I am going to find a girl who is worthy of something special and will appreciate how amazing he is.

My Englishman and me have absolutely nothing in common, and on paper we don’t really make sense, but we have settled into something important and fun and rather entertaining. I am certain he has never met anyone like me, and I have only read about men like him in classic literature. There is no deeply woven story here, I just really wanted to share this man with you. That said, should you be a single woman living in London, between the ages of 27 and 35, let me know.

Sometimes it takes someone to see you a certain way for you to see it in yourself, so to my lovely friend, I see you and you are smashing. You are going to trust me and go out on dates with who I set you up with because you love me too, so you will believe it can happen. I am heading back to LA tomorrow and will be back in London next week to begin my matchmaking services. I will not only be in search of the perfect Cosmo, but also the perfect girl.

It has been a long five weeks and I am ready to go home and see my son. I will be celebrating my birthday in Las Vegas with Celine Dion and I am so excited I might bust. To my lovely friend, thank you. Thank you for always taking care of me and making sure I have some fun while here. I look forward to dancing at your wedding one day. By dancing, of course I mean I will also be giving a speech. When it comes to your search for love, my advice is simple, keep the faith.

Barbara Azrialy and her boyfriend, Lewis Rosenthal. Photo courtesy of Barbara Azrialy

A fresh start in their 70s

fell in love with my boyfriend, Lewis, and he with me, impulsively and ferociously, figuring everything would work out in time. He sold his house in Florida, moved himself and his two cats in with me in Los Angeles in January 2013, all within four months of our meeting. And yes, we met online and knew we were very different from each other; but we were so in love that nothing mattered except that we wanted to be together.

We’re older than most “second-chapter” couples — in our 70s. He had been widowed for less than a year after a 22-year marriage. I had been divorced for 41 years.

Sure, I had read his postings: He was passionate about opera, golf and European art and was looking for a once- or twice-a-week relationship. I was still teaching, listened only to rock ’n’ roll and was a political junkie. He doted on Maggie and Gracie, his two cats, and I was not a pet person. But we both had grandchildren we adored and valued friends.

So, after conversing through emails and phone calls, we decided to meet. We liked each other’s sense of humor. He thought it was clever that I called him “Kareem” because he spelled Lewis like the former UCLA basketball star, Lew Alcindor, who played for the L.A. Lakers under the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And I liked that he was independent because, in my decades of being unattached, I often traveled and went to plays and movies solo. I laughed off his coming out to meet me, thinking nothing really mattered anyway unless we had chemistry. “If I can’t look at you and think I can kiss you, it won’t work.” Yeah, maybe we’d have one good date, we’d wish each other well, and he’d return to his Boca Babes in Boynton Beach.

Boy, was I wrong!  When he walked into my condo, amid the 20 phone banking volunteers for Obama who I hosted four nights a week, I thought how nice that one of them had brought me flowers. I asked his name so I could apply a name tag so he could start making phone calls, but he replied, “No, I’m Lewis. Kareem. Your date.” And without skipping a beat, I looked at him and replied, ‘Yes, I could definitely kiss you.’ ”

And from that moment on, our dates never ended, and we fell madly, happily in love even though his best friend had put a hex on our relationship, not wanting him to move away from Florida. He showed me his grandson’s grandparent booklet, in which he had given advice, “Never make a hasty decision.” And my own adult children asked if I was insane to let him move in so quickly.

And now, it’s been  4 1/2  years of living together, along with the cats. His family pictures intermingle with mine, his Shakespeare and Scrabble books are side by side with my Oprah magazines. And all of his friends and my friends know one another.

And I wish, oh, how I wish, I could say we live in a state of bliss. But reality sets in. Life experiences set in. The ways we’ve done things for decades have set in. And so we see our differences, and we deal with them.

He uses enough spices on his food to qualify our place as an Indian restaurant; I cook blandly. He believes all clothes can be worn no matter how old, how stained, how shredded. I throw my clothes into a Goodwill bag as soon as a button goes missing or a spot won’t come out in the wash. He watches hourlong dramas; I’m a sitcom maven and relish “The Bachelor.”

So, now, do I dare change this wonderful mensch, who I love? After all, there are the expressions: “You can’t change anyone but yourself.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” Right?

Well, let’s just say, sort of. You see, a year ago when I was buying a new car, my Kareem told me he’d pay the difference if I’d get a bigger engine. I quickly told him, “No problem. I’ll pay it myself if you’ll just let me go through your clothes and give away 10 pieces that are torn, old or stained.”

And he said OK.

So now, let me end this little romance ditty because I’m off to Goodwill again. Negotiating may not mean change, but it works for me. And his shirts and pants are ripe for the taking.

Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at

BARBARA AZRIALY is a volunteer, writer, retired special education teacher and grandmother living in Westwood.

Gerard and Teri Sulc. Photo courtesy of Teri Sulc

Meant2Be: A joyful Jewish love story

I’m so in love with my husband. What a magical, mystical journey it was to find each other. We each wandered through our metaphorical desert for more than 40 years, finally meeting a decade ago. Now, we’re about to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.

My husband, Gerard, is from Jewish, French immigrant, Holocaust survivor parents. His father and mother, Joseph and Lydia, arrived in the United States after World War II. Gerard was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the ’60s in the Fairfax District among the Orthodox rabbis at Poinsettia Park, where he worked out as a gymnast.

Gerard remembers how the rabbis would lift him to reach the high bar. One day, a rabbi showed up at Gerard’s house with a radio, which the rabbi had promised him if he mastered a trick. “This is for Gerard,” he said. It became a big part of his Jewish education, learning that the rabbis cared about him.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in an American-Jewish family. My parents, Richard and Lee, were born here. My Russian-Polish grandparents came to the U.S. before the Holocaust. My mother emphasized Jewish philosophy more than ritual, although lighting Shabbat candles and singing the blessing remains a favorite childhood memory.

Like Gerard’s, my formal Jewish education was spotty. We weren’t regular temple-goers, but Judaism was a defining part of my parents’ values. I have a vivid memory of my mother teaching me all the Yiddish words to “Tumbalalaika.” My father, a professional musician, gave me piano lessons.

As I grew, I yearned for the perfect someone to share my love of Judaism and a full life of Jewish celebration. After years alone, in walked Gerard. The magnetism between us was overwhelming.

We met, at John Pisano’s Guitar Night in Sherman Oaks, brought together by a friend, Larry Stensvold, and music. He heard the vibration between Gerard and me, but it was the Jewish connection that was deeper than the musical one. Meeting Gerard was like coming home to my ancient soul mate.

Early in our relationship, Gerard began asking me questions about Judaism. As an adult, I studied and learned more about Torah, Jewish practices and synagogue music. One day, Gerard asked me, “I remember there was one holiday when my Grandpa Jacques took me to shul and the Jews were dancing around with an apple on a stick. What holiday is that?”

It must have been Simchat Torah.

Gerard learned about God from his Grandpa Jacques, who told him the story of his “God of Abraham.” The Nazis were going door to door in the building where the family lived in Paris, looking for Jews. Grandpa stood in front of his family’s front door, spread his arms wide and prayed: “God of my father, God of Abraham, they won’t come in.” The Gestapo skipped their door.

With all that Gerard’s family endured in escaping the Nazis — Gerard’s mother hid in a Catholic camp; Gerard’s father, in a forest —  in the U.S. they weren’t eager to focus on their Jewishness. They were struggling to raise a family in a foreign land and learn English. There were Passover seders and Chanukah candles but not a formal education or regular shul attendance.

Despite our music connection — Gerard and I both play guitar, and we teach music and play and sing together on the first Saturday of each month at sing-along night at Henri’s in Canoga Park — Gerard wanted to connect more with his Judaism. My way of relating to the traditions fit for him. I continue to teach him about home rituals. We don’t do all the prayers, but we tie a little bow around each week together with Friday night Shabbat candles, “A Woman of Valor” and the Kiddush.

When we were visiting his mother’s grave early last year, I read “A Woman of Valor.” Then, I told him that traditional Jewish husbands recite it for their wives every Friday night. “Why don’t you let me read it to you?” he asked, and he’s read it to me every week since then.

He makes me feel so loved. My girlfriends are jealous. I’ve given their husbands copies of this poem from Proverbs and suggested they honor their wives with it.

Traditions keep our Jewish marriage strong. We passed the ultimate test last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Gerard embraced me through treatment. He helped me become stronger and healthier than ever.

I am blessed with the most devoted, caring, loving husband. Our sharing of prayers and stories in the Torah every week connects us closer each day. My heart is bursting with the peace and joy of a Jewish woman, completely fulfilled and in love.

Dating 101: George

I have been dating a new man for 6 weeks. We met online, chatted for a couple of weeks before meeting in person, and are now falling into something comfortable. We have practically nothing in common, and he is unlike anyone I have ever dated. He is a father and a grandfather, not Jewish, and a Republican. He works in law enforcement, and has a world view that is different than mine. We debate politics, speak about faith, and feel connected without words, which has value.

“George” is a lovely man and my long time readers will understand why I have called him George :-). I have struggled to write about this man.  Not because there is nothing to write about, but rather because I have doubted myself for dating a man who is so different from me. I define myself as a Jew, and have written for years about my search for a Jewish man. I do not often write about politics, but when I do, it is often about my difficulties in respecting the Republican party.

How do I tell my beloved readers, people who have become invested in my search for love and happiness, that I am dating someone who is the opposite of everything I told them I want? It then felt strange that I was concerned about what other people would think of me, when I have built a career on not caring what anyone thinks of me. At the end of the day, after much soul searching, it turns out my search has never been for one specific man. It has been a search for happiness.

I am a list maker. I like to not only make lists, but cross things off those lists. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when a list has been completed. I have made a couple of lists about George. The list is long, and while one or two things may never be crossed off, the rest of the list is not only getting longer, but the checks are adding up. I keep adding things to perhaps make me walk away from the Republican goy, but instead he inspires check marks.

George takes care of my heart. He is thoughtful about things I had no idea would matter to me. He makes choices based on what I want, what I need, and what he feels I deserve. He puts me first. He has a genuine interest in my happiness on a level I have never experienced, except when offering the same care to men who did not appreciate it, or ultimately deserve it. George treats me in a way I have craved, but thought was perhaps only in the movies or imagined in my mind.

There are no uncomfortable silences. There are fair and interesting discussions. There is a desire from both of us to not only understand what is being said, but be kind when faced with differences. There is a meaningful and decent tone in the way we engage with each other, which is refreshing. I like this man and that is huge because rather than worry about whether or not I can love him, I am enjoying the simple pleasure of liking him, which I suppose is the moral of this story. I like him.

In the search for love we need to enjoy the story, rather than rush through to the ending. George is an interesting man and our story is a good one. I have no idea what the ending will be, and that is okay. In a time when I am working on being brave, our story has been a revelation. The bravery is coming not from searching for love as I originally thought, but instead in letting it find me. I am writing a new story for myself, trying to convert a Republican to a Democrat, and keeping the faith.

Calendar: February 24 – March 2, 2017

FRI | FEB 24


Come see the exhibition “Pop for the People: Roy Lichtenstein in L.A.” during this special night. See more than 70 works that make up this exhibition. Curator-led tours are scheduled for 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Afterward, enjoy a full cash bar, music in the courtyard and dinner available for purchase from Mandoline Grill and the Hungry Nomad. Exhibition swag at no charge. 5-10 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.



Peter Fogel presents his first multimedia solo show, “Til Death Do Us Part … You First!” In this comedic performance, a mensch baby boomer searches for his bashert, finding her after he is dumped on Valentine’s Day. 8 p.m. $23; tickets available at Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 990-2324.

SAT | FEB 25


Explore beliefs about life after death through two panel discussions moderated by the Rev. Gwynne Guibord. Panelists will discuss how different faiths understand life, the afterlife and how their beliefs about death and dying are reflected in their rituals. The morning session will include Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, along with the Very Rev. Canon Mark Kowalewski and Imam Ahmed Soboh. Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh viewpoints will be represented in the afternoon session. Space is limited. 10 a.m. Free; registration required. St. John’s Cathedral, 514 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles.  (323) 325- 5412.


cal-niver-travelLisa Niver, a travel expert, writer and on-camera host on “We Said Go Travel,” an online community of 1,600 travel writers from 75 countries, will be interviewed. Niver has visited more than 95 countries, and will talk about her favorite experiences and offer tips and expertise on a variety of travel topics. 11 a.m. Free. RSVP at Capital One Café, 11175 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.


Whether single or in a couple, come enjoy an event for folks 50 and older, featuring Tommy Tassi & the Authentics, who will perform hits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  There will be a huge dance floor, dance hosts, ice breakers, line dances and more. More than 200 guests are expected. Dinner, dessert and beverage bar, featuring beer and wine. 7:30 p.m. $25. Stephen Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. Email

SUN | FEB 26


Get a taste of Kollel Yom Rishon presented by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future-REITS and Shaarey Zedek Congregation. Rabbi Hershel Schacter, a noted talmudic scholar, will teach the Inyanei Rosh Chodesh. Then the dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and published child psychologist,Rona Novick will give a talk called “Building Resilience in Ourselves and Our Children in Challenging Times.” 10 a.m. Free. Shaarey Zedek Congregation, 12800 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village.


cal-finkelDirector Taliya Finkel turns the camera on herself and her journey through the world of internet dating. Finkel goes from date to date in Tel Aviv, experiencing the many bizarre aspects of dating in the modern age in this comedy with a feminist tinge. Rated R. 11:30 a.m. $5. Congregation Beth Shalom, 21430 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita. (661) 254-2411.


In celebration of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, enjoy activities such as arts and crafts, karaoke, gymnastics, music and dancing, farm activities, games and more. Hosted by HaMercaz-LAJAC Partners. Glatt kosher food available for purchase. Noon. $10 per family; $5 per individual. Vista Del Mar, 3200 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. (866) 287-8030.


Renowned L.A. Yiddish folk singer Cindy Paley will perform an evening of Yiddish love songs. Guest artist Menachem Mirski (from Poland) joins Isaac Sadigursky on accordion and Miamon Miller on violin. The Yiddish songs from the beginning of the century follow the theme of love and courtship. Audience participation is encouraged. 2 p.m. $15; $18 at the door. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Also 7 p.m. Feb. 27; address provided upon RSVP. Tickets available at


Israeli comedian Uri Chizkia is sure to make you laugh. 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $60. Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles.

MON | FEB 27


Learn about how Jews were able to succeed in the Old West using their Jewish values. Each participant will receive a copy of guest speaker David Epstein’s book “Why the Jews Were So Successful in the Wild West … and How to Tell Their Stories.” 7 p.m. Advanced RSVP, $36; $72 on day of event. Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670.



Every community, family and individual has a unique perspective on identity, and Jews are no different. This program for adults and teens on the multiplicity of Jewish identity will feature Joshua Silverstein, an award-winning actor, comedic writer and a bi-racial Jew. Sponsors include Temple Beth Am, Be’chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”) and Beth Chayim Chadashim. 7 p.m. Free; RSVP requested. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353, ext. 215.


This panel event will celebrate the award-winning book “The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate.” Moderated by Rabbi Denise L. Eger, founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami and the outgoing president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Guest panelists include Rabbi Karen Bender, director of spiritual life for the Los Angeles Jewish Home in Reseda; Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller; and Rabbi Wendy Spears of Woodland Hills.  All four women are local contributors to the more-than-750-page anthology. 7 p.m. Free. Congregation Kol Ami, 1200 N. La Brea Ave., West Hollywood. (323) 606-0996.



Join the Executives Speaker Series Breakfast, featuring Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commissioner Wendy Greuel and Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing . 7:30 a.m. Members $25, $30 at the door; nonmembers $35, $40 at the door. El Caballero Country Club, 18300 Tarzana Drive, Tarzana. (818) 774-3332.

My unwanted adventure

Based on our ages, her long-lived parents and the fact that women tend to live longer than men, my wife should have outlived me by 20 years. Sadly, fate had different plans, and I found myself, suddenly and unexpectedly, a widower. Looking back to the days and weeks following Liz’s passing, I don’t know how I survived my shock and overwhelming depression.

With the passage of time, the shock dissipated and, with the help of many friends, especially compassionate female friends, the depression became more manageable. It was time to embark on something I thought I would never again experience — a re-entry into the dating scene, which I christened “My Unwanted Adventure.”

Finding intellectual, emotional and physical compatibility in a new mate after so many years appeared to be an incredibly daunting task. Even though I’ve worked for what seems like forever to stay in good shape, what would it be like to take off my clothes for the first time with another 60- to 70-year-old? Yikes!

Although I prefer the old-fashioned ways to meet other singles, most of my dates during My Unwanted Adventure have been via the internet, which begs for answers to the following: How do I construct an appealing profile? How do I send out appealing messages to desirable women? For the former, I asked some women friends with lots of common sense to vet my profile. For the latter, I tried to devise catchy openings to my messages. I’m not above employing puns: “When I first read your profile, it was love at first site.” 

The internet social scene is full of surprises. The women I’ve encountered included one who asked me for thousands of dollars on our third meeting; another who told me how her daughter and son-in-law, acting as sleuths, discovered that two men she dated had criminal records they hadn’t divulged; and another who, at the age of 61, was contacted and dated by men in their 30s.

Adding to the continuing adventure, many untruths find their way into online profiles. Lying about one’s age is probably the most common. But I have encountered other quite frequent but unanticipated untruths. One example is a woman’s marital status. The possibilities include widowed, divorced or never married. Surprisingly, some senior-age women who fall into that last category write “divorced” instead, because they fear — probably correctly — that being “never married” in one’s 60s will scare off many men.   

As a longtime college professor, it is in my DNA to try to help people become smarter, or at least better educated. I have thoughts I hope will be helpful to women seeking dates online.

Arguably the single most important items in a woman’s profile are her pictures — we men are visual beings. Simply transferring 20-25 pictures from Facebook to a dating site is not the way to go. I can guarantee that men are not interested in seeing your dogs, cats, children, other relatives and friends, or your flower arrangements. All that we are interested in is you, preferably both a facial close-up and a full body shot. If you fail to provide the latter, then many men will wonder what you are trying to hide. Also, it is well worth your time, and perhaps money, to have professional-looking photos. Casual, sloppy “selfies” do no good and may well do harm. When I see such photos, I wonder if the person taking them is really serious about finding a partner or is just playing (narcissistic) games.

Many profiles begin with a list of meaningless adjectives (e.g., “My friends tell me I’m attractive, kind, trustworthy, happy …”). It makes no difference what your friends may think of you; all that matters is what your prospective date thinks. Rather than mere adjectives, better that the words in your profile focus on a variety of activities you like to engage in, along with some qualities you are looking for in a mate. Should a physical (sexual) component of a relationship be important to you, words along the lines of “I am affectionate and enjoy physical as well as emotional intimacy, and am looking for a like-minded partner” should get your point across.

Reputedly, there are many more widows than widowers in the U.S., with a similar gender imbalance among divorcees. However, women are typically more skilled at building a support and friendship network then are men, who seem to have more need for traditional, exclusive partnering (count me as one). Although some women bemoan the number imbalance, I think the fact that many more senior women than men prefer to remain single goes a long way toward balancing the playing field. This field is one big game and I do not know where My Unwanted Adventure will take me.

Ben Zuckerman is a UCLA astronomer.

Dating 101: Snakes & iTunes

My dating life is interesting. By interesting, of course I mean slightly more pathetic than interesting, but still interesting. I truly have to laugh at the absurd things that happen to me, otherwise I would cry. Cry and scream. Cry and scream and adopt a cat. By cat of course I mean a dozen cats, two dogs, and perhaps a parrot. One I could train to laugh every time I said “I have a date”.  I am good at a lot of things, but detecting crazy in men is not one of them. I suppose in the big scheme of things this is not a terrible gift to be saddled with, but some days the inability to see exactly how insane a man is exhausts and depresses me.

I was chatting on Match with a man from Beverly Hills. He works in mining, was sweet, and if you took out one contact lens and squinted with your other eye, looked a little bit like Kelsey Grammer. We were texting back and forth as I am in London, and made plans to go out when I get back. He asked me to tell him something interesting about myself every day that I was in London. Seemed like a cute thing to do. I told him I was Canadian and had a Canadian flag tattoo. He told me that he had a very large penis, that he refers to as “snake”, and you can see it even when he is wearing a suit. You can’t make this stuff up people.

I marveled that of all the things he could have told me as we did the dance of introduction, he opted to tell about his genitals. I told him I thought it a was strange and disrespectful choice. He told me he meant no disrespect and was simply sharing. I reiterated it was offensive, and he told me I had no sense of humor, sent him mixed messages, and should “fuck off and die”. He then proceeded to tell me I would remain alone because I hated men. Dear Lord. I don’t think I hate anything, other than Donald Trump as President, so his outburst was hilarious. The snake charmer was anything but charming and I was in shock.

He was texting nonstop, then started to talk about my son, who he knows nothing about. Well that’s no fun, so I blocked him on my phone, blocked him on Match, and sent them a screen shot of his text telling me to die. This is a guy who has put his picture online, given me his phone number, then threatened me, all because I told him it was disrespectful to talk about his penis with a stranger. His name is David and he’s 48 years old with glasses, so if anyone comes across him run because he is unstable and dangerous, with or without his snake. As of this morning Match had not suspended him. Dating is strange to be sure, but this is terrifying.

Cut to James, also from Match, who also happens to do something with mining. He is originally from Brazil, and is looking for love after having his heart broken. We exchanged a few emails, then exchanged phone numbers and started to text rather than call as I am in London. He wrote to say he was going to Boston and would let me know when he had arrived. He did as he said he would, and when I asked him how it was going, he told me he got an iPhone. I am a diehard Apple person, so I congratulated him on stepping into the light. I asked what he was up to on a Sunday in Boston, and he told me he was downloading an app he needed for work.

He then told me he did not have his credit card and could I buy him an iTunes card and send it to him by email. Really? Yes. Really. I’m not sure how he bought the phone since he said he left his credit card at home, but I’m guessing details are not important to James. Details or the truth. When I told him he was insane to think I would send him anything, he stopped writing. Not a word since I said he was creepy and I would report him to Match. It makes me sad because there are women who will fall for things like this and in an attempt to not be lonely or feel desired, will buy into this type of scam. James should be arrested, not dating.

Cut to today, when James wrote to tell me I misunderstood him and he expected more from me. He doesn’t know me, so I’m not exactly sure what exactly he was expecting, or what was disappointing. He said he wasn’t asking for money, just asking for an iTunes card to get some apps, for his work, so he could give a great presentation. He said he has a daughter, and friends, and a boss, and family, so why ask a woman he does not know? This is insanity and makes me sad for people who are dating from a place of deep loneliness, as I am sure money is being sent and snake selfies are being taken. It is very sad and frightening.

I looked this morning and the profiles for both James and David are now hidden from the Match website. I am not sure if that was done by them or Match, but they should be looked at more closely. These men are predators and ruin it for others who are online genuinely trying to meet someone. I invite Match to get in touch with me at and I will give them the details of these two loser who are polluting their website and good work. Dating is scary in general, but when you do it online, there are risks involved that perhaps women don’t think about. It can be creepy, but if you want to find someone, a necessary evil.

I date not because I love to date, because who would love something so revolting? I date because I would like to share my life with someone, and dating is how I will meet that person. I am hopeful, which is truly the most important thing to have when dating, because without hope you’ve got no shot in hell of ever meeting anyone. Please just be careful out there, and I don’t just mean the ladies. There are women online who are scamming people just as often as men. Do not send anyone any money, do not tell anyone where you live, meet in a public place, and don’t let anyone pick you up at home. You cannot be too careful.

It is sometimes hard to trust people you know, let alone strangers, but you really must try to be aware. If you come across people you sense are dangerous, tell someone. Write to the dating site you are using and tell them. You owe it to yourself, and also to the other people who will innocently stumble across these people. If you’re wrong and they are not dangerous, just crazy, still better to have said something than to be quiet. James and David are bumps in the road and I will not be scared off by a couple of idiots. I will be cautious and I will be brave because my bashert is out there and he is keeping the faith.

Meant2Be: Answering the call

My mother called me at 9 last night, which was midnight at her home in Canada. I missed her call and she didn’t leave a message. She called again at 10, but I didn’t answer in time and it went to voicemail. This time, she left a message saying she couldn’t sleep and thought I’d be up for a chat. I didn’t call her back as it was now 1 a.m. at her place and I didn’t want to wake up my sister.

At 10:30 p.m., she called again. She was worried about me since I didn’t answer her calls. I missed her call for the third time as I ran out to my car to get a folder I needed for work, and for some reason I didn’t take my phone with me. Her call was on the final ring when I got back and I missed it again. Ugh. I was worried about my mom now, so I decided I would call her back even though it was so late.

I called and when she had not answered after two rings, I decided to hang up before I woke up anyone. Less than 10 seconds later, my phone rang. I answered and rather than saying hello, I asked my mother if she was OK. It wasn’t my mother but rather my sister. She was groggy and spoke softly as she asked me if I was OK. She said she heard the phone ring, missed it and was scared since I was calling so late. Oy vey

So now I’m awake and worried about my mother, my mother is awake and worrying about me, and my sister is awake for absolutely no reason. I was restless and could not sleep.  I thought about my mom being up. I slept with my phone in my hand just in case she called again. I kept checking the time to see if it was too early to call. At 5 a.m. L.A. time, I called my mother, and when she answered we both spoke at the exact same time. “Are you OK?”

We laughed and it was a sweet moment. I am 50 years old and my mother worries about me in the same way I worry about my child. I will always be her baby, and phone calls in the middle of the night will always be scary. Calling your child and them not answering also is scary. I thought about all the times my son has not answered. I thought about my mother, who has four children, and all the unanswered calls she has had. I spoke with my sister. We talked about calls in the middle of the night when you have kids. Together we had a moment of clarity about our mom and wondered if our kids would be in their 50s before having the same clarity about us.

I called my son and, of course, he didn’t answer my call, which was hilarious. And by hilarious, I mean not funny. When my boy got home from work, I told him about the phone call fiasco and he tried to look interested. He wasn’t. I am certain that one day he will call his kids, they won’t answer and he will call me to tell me he is sorry for every time he didn’t answer my call.

I made him promise that when the day comes that his kids don’t answer his calls, he will call me to say sorry. I might have to call him a few times to remind him, so hopefully he will answer the phone. It turns out your relationship with your mother makes sense when you become a mother. I don’t like phone calls in the middle of night, unless it is good news, so I’ve got my ringer turned up, and I’m keeping the faith.

Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at

Meant2Be: Sleeping together

At age 60, I’d given up hope that I would ever find my bashert, or even sleep with anyone again, as I was so set in my ways.

Because I’d lived alone for so long, I slept anxiously. Discerning sounds of a neighbor laughing out loud from a murder in progress was a survival skill. When my allergist told me I was inhaling mites from my pillows, that was the last straw — and the last down I ever deliberately inhaled. 

Dangers during hours meant to be restorative undermined any sense of security. Was there no sanctuary for the informed?

I baked my bedding daily in the dryer to suck out bugs, had foam wedges to protect me from gravity, never drank after 6 p.m. so I could sleep through the night. Sippy cups, Tempur-Pedic pillows, lavender eye masks, knee dividers — worlds of merchandise cost me the money I hid under my hypoallergenic, latex mattress, as well as the intimacy I so desired. 

Then, I was stunned to discover a doting daddy,  a doll of a nice Jewish Ph.D. amid the wonders of cyberspace. On our first, four-hour date, he was slipping me the crispiest bits of his chicken, the nicest slice of his pie. He liked me, too! 

Within weeks, our waking hours couldn’t contain our enthusiasm. It was time to take the next step and sleep together. Not to have sex, just to sleep.

“I’m shy,” I said, “ …  about moving too fast.”

“Me, too, but our being together feels inevitable.”

“To be honest, I sleep in baggy, cotton stuff.”

“So do I,” he said.

“I’m a pillow-holic,” I giggled.

“Me, too,” he cried. “I have six.”

“I like ’em soft.”

“I like ’em hard.” 

“I’m a morning person.”

“I’m … a night guy.”

“I’m a light sleeper.”

“I snore.”

“I have ear plugs.”

“I … have a sleep apnea machine!”

 How could such daytime complementarity exist with such nighttime incompatibility? For two insomniacs with so much more daytime magic to explore, spending the night would be our Everest.

We embarked on the climb equipped with cotton T-shirts and shorts, and 2,000-thread-count sheets and crept onto his wall-to-wall, extra firm, California king. We had a lot of adjusting to do in the cuddle phase. Living alone, I hadn’t realized how bony I’d become. My ribs couldn’t tolerate his arm, my neck his shoulder, for more than a minute. My arm on his chest inhibited his rest, my leg over his made him claustrophobic. 

On the third night, deliriously tired, I ear-plugged and blindfolded myself into sensory deprivation as he read under the prison floodlight sweeping his half of the acreage. With my manly bedmate on watch, I slept deeply — until he turned off the light and his breathing degenerated into snoring, punctuated by snorts of near suffocation. 

Instead of being irked, I felt I had to stay awake so he wouldn’t die on me.  I discovered that if I made successive kissing sounds I could stop his snore sequence and get intermittent rest.

We awoke and debriefed.

“Boy, do you snore!” I said.

“Well, you make these weird little sucking noises all night.”

Despite it all, we fell joyously in love. And within a year, he’d given up his sprawling king for his queen.  

Things got harder as he got comfortable in my home. The sweetest man by day, by night, Stan was a sociopath. Gentle Jekyll would hide nocturnal Mr. Hyde until, drowsing into bed at 2, he’d head butt me comatose in his try for a goodnight kiss, clap my eardrums to bursting in his attempt to clasp my face to his, or kiss my eyeball, widened in panic, before it could flinch.

It’s a rodeo some nights, as I’ll roll him bucking onto his side to pin down his lurching legs, or he’ll fling his pillows from the bed, pull mine out from under my head, and roll over in the covers exposing me to frostbite. Or fling an arm and leg atop me and pin me to the mattress like a mummy, gazing at his digital clock as it clicks past my sleepless hours. 

But there is so much to be grateful for.

Even unconscious, my man’s talented. His animal impersonations — trumpeting elephants, growling tigers, hidden kittens! He can honk like a donkey, or a flock of geese. He can whistle for a New York cab with one nostril stuffed. His coughs could open in “La Boheme” at the Met.

I love to touch his sleeping hand and have it clamp onto mine like a Venus flytrap, until it’s nearly gangrenous; the way he reaches for me, making out with a pillow until he locates me amid the covers.  

Two years married, we awaken amazed by the creature comfort in which we live. My free-floating anxiety sinks in his ocean of devotion. There’s nothing that can warm my hands like his, my feet like his, my heart like his. Ours is a love for which it’s worth losing sleep.

Melanie Chartoff has acted off and on Broadway, and starred in many TV series. She appears in the upcoming film “Alexander IRL,” opening Oct.17.

Meant2Be: Why we both cried over his first love

When I first met my husband, we were both in our 40s and full of stories of the lost and found loves that preceded finding each other. I was mostly the one with the found loves; his were mostly the lost. When he told me the woeful tales of the women who hadn’t noticed him, who didn’t want him, who ditched or disappointed him, I told him he needed a new PR department. From my perspective, he was wickedly smart, handsome, had a gap-toothed smile that telegraphed how incredibly genuine and sweet he was. And come on, he was a successful doctor.  

Eventually, the sad stories stopped. Only one remained, the one about Peggy Buckley, the Irish Catholic girl he met in college who was the single exception to his roll call of disastrous romantic life. Theirs was a mighty attraction and they would have married but the pope said ‘no.’ So did the rabbi, Peggy’s parents and my husband’s parents. 

I, too, had my share of romantic woes. I’d loved and lost, loved and won, loved and checkmated but the good news was he and I … oh, never mind!

Eleven years ago, we’d been married for a decade, and my husband popped into the kitchen and said brightly (a little too brightly), ‘Today is Peggy’s birthday!’ ”

 “Why don’t you find her?” I said, thinking that talking to Peggy again might give him some closure. Thus he dutifully contacted her college alumna association and placed a call to her in Boston. 

“So, did talking to Peggy help?” I asked after the hour they spoke. 

“Yes!” He was jazzed. 

I didn’t say, “Maybe now you can concentrate on how much you love me?”

A few weeks later, he was asked to fly to Boston on a business trip. He made a reservation for two at the best restaurant in Boston. 

He called later and told me he sat at the bar and spotted a beautiful young woman with short, dark hair who looked exactly like Peggy. It was only after awhile in this dreamy state that a middle-aged woman tapped him briskly on the shoulder and said, “Hey! Didn’t you see me walking back and forth?” 

He finally got to talk to Peggy about those days of confusion and longing. He asked if she ever came to enjoy sex. If she thought about him, and all the questions we’d like to ask our old flames who’ve left skid marks on our souls. 

After dinner, they took a walk. Peggy had married a Jewish man, after all. Apparently, she was over my husband and also over the pope.

At last, mystery had a face and the face had wrinkles, 30 extra pounds and unbecoming shoes. Five more years passed. Cut to Thanksgiving 2012. 

We were hanging around the house. My husband had never learned to use Facebook, so I showed him how to search for friends. Naturally, he looked up Peggy Buckley. 

A screen appeared with a year-old article about her from The Boston Globe. My husband stared ahead in stony silence. It took me a minute to understand why: We were reading Peggy’s obituary. It spoke of her extraordinarily loving heart and her service to her community. She clearly was a terrific woman. Now, that beautiful, if unwilling girl, was gone. 

But in an instant, she became newly alive to my husband. The mourning began. He was crying. He talked to a therapist. He emailed old friends. He retold the Peggy stories and included some I’d never heard. When he said, ‘This is ridiculous, she wasn’t in my life. Why am I so upset?” I told him the truth: She’d always be in his life; she was an important figure to him. It moved me to see the depth of heart he was capable of. 

But then, I realized I wasn’t doing very well myself. What could the loss possibly be to me? I couldn’t concentrate, became withdrawn, then I, too, began to weep. That really made no sense. Peggy was his youth, his frustration, his football games. Peggy was his story.

I realized that in a life littered with despicable prom dates, disinterested coeds and haughty nurses, Peggy was the first person who truly got him, got his humor, his shyness, his slightly offbeat ways. I was grateful to her for loving him.

Meanwhile, he was walking around the house singing, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” … specifically the line that goes: “But I always thought that I’d see you, baby, one more time again … ”

Finally, it came to me; on a soul level, Peggy was a kind of sister to me. She made a lonely college kid happy; she centered him, helped make him real in his skin. I was bereft because I’d lost a “sister wife” who I’d never have the chance to meet. This was my loss, my Peggy Buckley story. We two were the women who saw the magic in this person who needed our love and who loved us both. 

Thank you, dear Peggy. Rest in peace. 

Barbara Bottner is the author of more than 45 books for children (some she illustrated), has had short stories published in national magazines and articles appear in the LA Weekly and Miami Herald, and has written for television.

This column is part of our new series, Meant2Be, stories of love and relationships. Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at

The love of your (Modern Orthodox) life

Dating has always been hard, especially when religion comes into the mix. Today, apps and websites such as Tinder — created by Jews — and JDate — created for Jews — can help only so much. 

And for religious Jews, there can be even more roadblocks. They may face the added pressures of getting married in their 20s, trying to find a partner who is on the same level spiritually, and ensuring that, going forward, they are going to build a Torah-centric home together. 

Stories about single, religious Jews and the issues they must deal with are rarely depicted on television and in the movies. That’s why Leah Gottfried decided to create the web series called “Soon By You,” which follows the lives of six Modern Orthodox singles. (The title takes its name from a phrase wishing singles good fortune in dating.)

“We want to show the world that Modern Orthodox Jews do exist, and that we’re normal and go through the same thing as everyone else,” said Gottfried, who also plays a role in the series. “We may have different traditions, but that’s what makes us interesting.” 

The first episode of “Soon By You,” available for viewing on YouTube, follows David, a rabbinical student in his mid-20s who is living in New York City. He’s running late for a blind date, but when he gets there, it starts going surprisingly well. He and his date, Sarah, an artist, connect instantly, and sparks are flying between them. 

Then, David realizes that he’s at the wrong table. He goes over to his real date at the restaurant, and Sarah’s date shows up, as well. When it’s clear their actual dates are completely wrong for them, the two keep sneaking off to the bathroom to speak with each other. 

The episode was originally a short film that won best short at the Washington Jewish Film Festival. It was the Audience Award winner at the NewFilmmakers New York film festival and winner of the JFilm Robinson International short film competition. On May 22, it screened as an official selection at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. 

Gottfried and her team are collaborating on “Soon By You” with the Jewish Entertainment Network (JenLA), a nonprofit group for Jewish professionals working in L.A.’s entertainment industry. They’re raising money through the organization’s website to support five more episodes of the series’ first season. Right now, they’re nearly finished editing the second episode. 

“The episode takes the comedy to a whole new level and we introduce more characters,” Gottfried said. “We’re finding our voice and continuing the story.” Gottfried, 25, who lived in Los Angeles for six years when she was a teenager and attended Valley Torah High School, is now working on the show in New Jersey. She attended Yeshiva University in New York City, where she founded the film major program. Now, she owns a production company called Dignity Entertainment, which puts out music videos and feature films. 

“ ‘Soon By You’ is my first personal passion project,” she said. 

Danny Hoffman, who plays David and co-produces the series, said “Soon By You” is a lighthearted look at what can be a distressing phase of life for some people. He wanted to be involved because he strives to provide entertainment for the world and give some insight into the Modern Orthodox lifestyle. 

“This can serve as an introduction to that sect of Judaism, with the main lesson being that for the most part, ‘We’re just like you,’ ” he said. “Our religious priorities dictate a large portion of our lives, true, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not completely comfortable or involved with the secular culture of our surroundings, which is the impression they may get from the popular depiction of ultra-Orthodox Judaism.”

Another one of the actors and producers, Jessica Schechter, has been in the Modern Orthodox dating scene for the last 10 years. 

“It’s been quite a journey with a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve learned and grown so much from each of my experiences,” she said. “It’s so important to be able to find the humor in it all and I think that’s what the show is for a lot of us. The stories are inspired by true events but they have their own sitcom spin.”

Schechter said that being able to work on a project that carries meaning for her and allows her to be religious has been especially rewarding. 

“It’s the ultimate dream to be able to act in a project that resonates so deeply for me, is so much fun, and is being generated by a religious creative team so I never have to worry about it conflicting with my religious observance,” she said. “It’s honestly a dream come true to be a part of this amazing show.” 

Ladies: It’s not you. It’s the ratio.

When journalist Jon Birger worked in the newsrooms at Fortune and Money, he noticed that most of the guys either had wives or long-term girlfriends, whereas most of the women were single and “had dating histories that made so little sense to me,” as he put it in a recent interview in Los Angeles.

His new book, “Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game,” attempts to address the question of why it seems so hard for women in their 20s and 30s to find a life partner. The answer? There are significantly fewer men on the market. 

Specifically, Birger found, significantly fewer college-educated men than college-educated women. He cites U.S. Census data and other publicly available sources indicating that among college graduates between 22 and 29, there are about four women for every three men. And between 30 and 39, there are five college-educated women for every four college-educated men. 

As Birger points out, this wouldn’t be a problem “if we were all more open-minded about who we were willing to date and marry.” But in a world where college-educated men and women are more likely to live in the same neighborhood and congregate at the same bars, the imbalance Birger explains in “Date-onomics” has significant implications. Particularly in big cities where the imbalance strongly favors men (such as Manhattan and Los Angeles, where there are 39 percent and 24 percent more women than men with college degrees, respectively), guys tend to play their market advantage by keeping their options open, he argues.

In an interview with the Journal while in town from New York to promote his book, Birger suggested some solutions to the gender imbalance, offered some practical advice for women and discussed how demographics have even influenced the dating markets of Orthodox Jews:

Jewish Journal: For a female college grad in her 20s who wants to find a husband in today’s dating market, what’s one suggestion you have based on your research?

Jon Birger: If marriage is a big priority for you, I guess I might suggest getting serious about dating younger instead of putting it off until you’re in your mid- 30s. And the reason I say that is, every year the dating math is going to get more challenging. In the book, I liken it to musical chairs. In the first round of musical chairs, only the kid who’s not paying attention doesn’t get a chair, but by the last round of musical chairs, you have a 50 percent chance of losing, and something similar happens in dating. If you start out with a dating pool of 14 women and 10 men, once six women and six men pair off together, the ratio among the remaining singles becomes 2-to-1. Every time two people pair off and pull themselves out of that lopsided singles market, the math gets more challenging for the women and better for the men. 

JJ: Is there a point where physically relocating can improve a woman’s odds? 

JB: Clearly, a woman who doesn’t put a maximum priority on marriage is probably not going to pick up her whole life and give up her job and her friends and family just to move someplace where the odds might be better. But if it’s a situation where maybe she was thinking about moving anyway and, as your question kind of assumes, marriage is kind of a really high priority for her, yes, I can see moving to Denver, Seattle, Silicon Valley — because the dating math is more appealing there. One smaller move they can make, it’s not even a move … in general, suburbs tend to have less imbalanced sex ratios among college grad singles than urban centers do. So if you’re online dating, even just expanding your geographic search to include outlying areas, that’s an easy way to take advantage of more favorable sex ratios. 

JJ: Are there any macro solutions to this imbalance?

JB: No. 1 is a long-term solution. It’s getting more young men, more boys to go to college. That won’t solve the dating problem for people who are single in their 20s and 30s now, but it’s not a good thing either for the dating world or for the economy, frankly, that boys aren’t going to college in the same numbers as girls. There’s a lot of research, neuroscience, showing that boys’ brains mature at a slower rate than girls’. Both intellectually and socially, they lag about a year behind girls, and there are some countries where both boys and girls start first grade later than they do here in the U.S. Interestingly, in those countries, the college gender gap is more narrow, and that tells me that if you give the boys a little more time to catch up, they will. So, one idea here would be to basically “red shirt” boys. This is something that would have to come from the parents because under Title IX, public schools could not say boys are starting at 7 and girls are starting at 6. 

JJ: Can you explain the so-called “shidduch crisis” in the Orthodox community?

JB: Each one-year age cohort in the Orthodox community has about 4 percent more people than the one that preceded it. That only matters because within one part of the Orthodox community, what I call the “yeshivish” community, some people call it Lithuanian … there’s a traditional age gap at marriage, so you’ll have 21- or 22-year-old men marrying 18- or 19-year-old women. … As a result, there’s about 10 to 15 percent more women who are entering the matchmaking process than there are men who are entering the matchmaking process. And the “shidduch crisis” basically refers to these excess women who are unable to find marriage matches, and within the community it’s become a source of great angst, particularly for the young women and their parents. 

JJ: But this “crisis” doesn’t exist in the Chasidic Jewish community, right?

JB: Their tradition is, while everybody marries young, they marry people their own age. Eighteen-year-olds marry other 18-year-olds, so even though they have a very high birthrate, too, you don’t have this demographic mismatch of lots of 18-year -olds trying to find matches with too few 21- or 22- or 23-year-olds.

JJ: You suggest in the book that the “marriage ultimatum” can be a useful tool for women, particularly in this imbalanced market. Can you explain that?

Birger: It’s kind of mean for a guy to be dating a woman in her late 30s for two full years without actually marrying her. I interview a really smart young matchmaker in the book … she has a line, she calls guys like these “time thieves,” and she’s right. For a woman in her late 30s or early 40s who really wants to have kids, and she hears her biological clock ticking, letting these relationships drag on without getting a ring, it feels counterproductive. 

From the guy’s perspective, in business and politics, you hear all the time, “You should never make a decision sooner than you have to.” And that’s actually good life advice, but when you apply it to dating from the perspective of a man, a man might conclude, “Well, I’m going to keep my girlfriend as an option while continuing to survey the market, because I don’t have to make a decision.” What an ultimatum does is force him to make a decision and it creates artificial scarcity in an otherwise abundant marketplace. Essentially, it makes you want more of what you fear you may lose. So, I think ultimatums work in business, they work in all kinds of life contexts. It does seem as if the women who are firm are more likely to be successful in getting the guy to settle down. 

Don’t make me shlep my heart: Breaking down the Jewish dating scene

Dating. It’s like going out for ice cream. That’s right, ice cream, the official food of heaven (idk probably). Sometimes you’re craving a certain flavor, sometimes it makes you sick, other times it’s too much like “Whoa these are the size of your scoops, how does anyone ever finish that?” That last one wasn’t even a metaphor, it’s just something that is said every time my family gets ice cream.

Similar to dating, you, naturally, want to try the flavors before you commit, you want to know that the “ice cream” is right for you, but instead of the end result being mint-chocolate chip, it’s a human being spending the rest of your life with you – same thing though, right?

As a twenty-something, “going out for ice cream” has been something that has crept into my mind more than once. Maybe it’s all the rom-coms (that I don’t watch), perhaps it’s all the engagement pictures flooding my timeline (congrats, btw, entire world) or, at the end of the day, maybe it’s hearing my grandma’s voice at every family gathering, “Jon, excuse me, Jon, how are the women? When are you going to bring a girlfriend home? Can you pass the potato salad?” And then I start messing with her out of frustration, “What do you mean grandma? This is my girlfriend, do you not like her? Is something wrong with her?!” (Pointing to a plate of cheese and crackers). IK I’m embarrassed for me, too.

The point is, I’m not worried about dating or relationships or eventually getting married, and you shouldn’t be either. The way I look at it is if I find the right person, great, and if not, I’ll be able to catch up on A LOT of TV shows. Win/win I’d say.

No, the thing that is more frightening to me is something I came across the other day. 

A statistic that read, “There’s an 84% chance that if you’re 21 & older, you’ve already met the person you’ll marry.”

Now, I saw this on Twitter, which in all fairness is the same place where you can find endorsements for Donald Trump, so keep that in mind. But naturally I started freaking out.

I started recounting all of the people I’ve met up to this point in my life. There was that girl from the grocery store…my prom dates…Robin Roberts from Good Morning America. Wow am I going to marry Robin Roberts? Should I tell my parents? I mean there’s an age difference but idk. Could I handle the spotlight? I already have enough stress in my life between watching people’s Snapchat stories and finding what songs to listen to on the way to work, and that’s when it hit me.

I have to date Jewish.

I just have to. You have to. We all have to.

And it has nothing to do with religion. I like to consider myself a pretty open and tolerant person. In fact, I’ve dated Non-Jews in the past, and it was great. I went hunting, I introduced someone to bagels & lox (changing their life forever), I was on time for things, and I didn’t have to constantly Wiki what Larry David was up to. No, it’s not a religious thing. It’s a laziness thing.

Falling in love takes a lot of work – and who has time for that these days with Netflix and those electronic soda machines at restaurants (they’re tricky). These days we have to be careful as far as what we use our cognitive resources for.

Meeting new people, no offense new people, sucks sometimes. You have to do things like introduce yourself, and say where you went to college, and pretend to laugh at bad jokes. No thanks. It’s like the longest, worst icebreaker ever…and you know what they say about icebreakers. They should be illegal and whoever initiates them should go to jail for longer-than-eternity without access to the new Full House spinoff if it happens. 

So, how does this all tie back to dating Jewish? Great question, the three people who are still reading. It’s quite simple, actually. It’s just easier, and isn’t that what life is about? Isn’t that the reason why Google exists? 

Now, I’m not a scientist or God so I’m not sure why, but this is the way it is.

If you’re Jewish…chances are you already know 85% of the other Jews in your community (but as high as 100% if you leave the house. ever). You probably have a similar sense of humor and an understanding of the various Judaic holidays  – or you at least know that Yom Kippur means, “I better eat a lot the night before.” Regardless of who you go on a date with, you most likely awkwardly danced with them during the bar/bat mitzvah circuit days, and you probably remember, yet never talk about it. You’ll know all the same lingo, like, “Stop kvetching!” or “Oy vey!” or “Jon Savitt is so funny!” Your parents definitely somehow know each other. Literally, I don’t know how, but they will know each other – which is great because it will save a lot of stress in the future. And, finally, you either went to summer camp with one another or have mutual friends who did, so yeah, they’ll know your level of color war competitiveness. 

The Jewish dating scene can be both a blessing and a curse. But with increasingly busy lifestyles for college grads and beyond, you can’t deny the clear benefits: History, brisket, and a much less awkward intro to the family.

But I’ll never join JDate.