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.

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 threedayrule.com

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 (threedayrule.com) 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 meant2be@jewishjournal.com.


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

LATE-NIGHT LICHTENSTEIN

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. skirball.org.

“TIL DEATH DO US PART … YOU FIRST!”

cal-death-part

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 brownpapertickets.com. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 990-2324. whitefiretheatre.com.

SAT | FEB 25

“BEYOND THE VEIL: LIFE AFTER DEATH”

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. theguibordcenter.org.

INTERVIEW WITH LISA NIVER

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 meetup.com. Capital One Café, 11175 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

SWEETHEART’S BALL & DINNER

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 johnseeman@aol.com.

SUN | FEB 26

KOLLEL YOM RISHON

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.

“TALIYA.DATE.COM”

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.

JEWISH COMMUNITY INCLUSION FESTIVAL

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. jfsla.org.

“YIDDISH SONGS OF LOVE”

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 brownpapertickets.com.

URI CHIZKIA

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. israeliamerican.org.

MON | FEB 27

“JEWS IN THE WILD WEST”

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. koltikvah.org.

TUES | FEB 28

RACIAL & ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

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. tbala.org.

LESSONS FROM 40 YEARS OF WOMEN IN THE RABBINATE

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. kol-ami.org.

THURS | MARCH 2

THE HOMELESS CRISIS IN L.A.: WHERE ARE THE ANSWERS?

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. theexecutives.org.

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 angel@jewishjournal.com 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@jewishjournal.com.

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 meant2be@jewishjournal.com.

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. 

Tu B’Av: Love at first swipe


Eli Wiesel once said in an interview: “In Jewish history, there are no coincidences.” 

That might seem hard to believe in the world of Jewish online dating, where finding the right match is in the hands of an operating system or, with increasing frequency, the swipe of a finger.

The options, including Jewish mobile apps claiming to streamline the dating experience into something flirty and user-friendly, continue to multiply. There’s Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge and Grindr, none of which is geared toward any specific religion or ethnicity. Online dating staples such as Match, eHarmony and OkCupid have rolled out mobile platforms to keep up with the growing demand for convenient and clean interfaces. 

The Jewish dating juggernaut JDate, which had 750,000 active users as of last year, has developed a mobile dating app that extends its website capabilities to the mobile scene (pricing starts at $39.99 per month). Competitors JCrush and JSwipe are both Jewish dating apps that were specifically developed for smartphones and pull in thousands of users a month. 

On this Tu b’Av — the Jewish Valentine’s Day, which this year begins the evening of July 30 — which will you choose? 

Most apps are free or have a discounted trial period, and most mobile apps now employ a “swipe” method, meaning users can swipe their thumbs left or right on their screens to accept or reject potential matches. 

Ryan Bort, on the business news website Quartz, wrote that the swipe method appears to be gaining in popularity: “While mobile commerce is growing at an astonishing rate, the effectiveness of elaborate personal profiles, the bedrock of the appeal of desktop-based sites, has been largely disproven. For older millennials, cultivating a digital persona was a social necessity. For teens and younger 20-somethings, however, one-touch swiping, liking, and commenting is beginning to feel more natural than the more old-fashioned face-to-face courtship rituals.”

David Yarus, 29, founder of JSwipe, said his creation came from a personal motivation.

“As a single millennial Jew, I was using different dating apps, specifically Tinder. I thought it was the sharpest, most efficient, most forward-thinking way of connecting people,” he said. “It was, however, inefficient for someone who was looking to date and marry someone Jewish.” 

Unlike eHarmony or JDate, many mobile dating apps do not have a way to filter a search in order to find a Jewish match. 

So Yarus, who grew up in Miami Beach, Fla., and who has worked with organizations such as Taglit, Hillel and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to help connect Jews around the globe, got to work on an alternative. It launched last year and, as of last month, JSwipe has attracted more than 300,000 users in more than 70 countries. 

“I set off to bring the Tinder utility and experience to the Jewish community,” Yarus explained. “The process was pretty blessed. I had a great team of smart minds from across the app and technology space to design and launch the product. 

“We strategically launched it over Passover over two years ago. We figured that everyone would be home with their family and friends. The app would be a funny thing to talk about,” he continued. “It became buzz-worthy over Passover and then everyone went back to their community — whether it was college, work or a young professional group — and continued the conversation. There was an exciting gust of activity right after launching. It can be attributed to the combination of social media strategy and a clean, user-friendly, fun and safe app that builds community and spreads the love.” 

Yarus, who is based in New York City, said 90 percent of the app’s users are millennials, though the fastest growing demographic is people 35 and older. JSwipe’s design, he said, is a reflection of changing times.

“Millennials don’t have time to log in and craft lengthy messages and search for people. It’s not the way we think, and it’s not the way we are programmed — or wired — to interact anymore,” he said.  

“In the course of a year, we were able to go from a brand that no one had heard of to being a staple brand of the millennial Jewish community,” he concluded. If you’re a single millennial Jew, it’s likely that your friends are swiping, or that your mom is nudging you to join in a funny way. We work a lot and think about de-stigmatizing the swipe dating experience. People are swiping at brunch with their friends or at home with their bubbes. It’s a funny and social experience.” 

Letters to the editor: Brian Williams, Mashadi Jews, Bibi and more


Take Notes, Brian Williams

Mesmerizing interview [with Itai Anghel] — I had no idea (“The Un-Brian,” Feb. 13; appeared online as “Itai Anghel: The Brave Israeli Interviewing ISIS, Kurdish Fighters in Syria”). It is as surreal for the reader to comprehend the humanity and strength in [Anghel] and the people he meets as it was surreal for him to realize that not all Syrians, non-Israelis and Jews were as he thought.

Blows my mind how he manages to talk to ISIS, to Gazans and to Kurds in such a complicated environment. 

He is the best example of a journalist, someone to emulate. Thank you for bringing us these stories. They matter.

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, for they are all that ever has.”

Julie Jo Koehler via jewishjournal.com


Negotiating With Dictators

David Suissa is absolutely right (“Why Bibi Should Give the Speech,” Feb. 13). If U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to placate Israel’s fear of his upcoming deal with Iran, he should have put on the negotiating table also: (1) Iran must publicly retract threats against Israel and stop all future threats, (2) Iran must stop supporting Holocaust deniers, (3) Iran must stop all military support to Hamas and Hezbollah, and (4) stop meddling in other countries such as Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. With that, and eliminating the military nature of their nuclear program, will get Iran the gradual removal of all sanctions, based on verifiable milestones. Obama is afraid that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring up such logical plans during his speech to Congress. The world expects that the only superpower in the world should be able to negotiate from a strong position, and not capitulate to dictators.

Nahum Gat, Manhattan Beach


Belonging

As a member of the Mashadi Jewish community of New York, I read with great interest Gina Nahai’s article about the Mashadi Jews in general, and the ones living in the Great Neck section in New York in particular (“One Nation is Many Nations,” Feb. 6).

Most of us Jews who grew up in Iran never felt a sense of belonging. We were not considered Iranians, even though we were born and raised there.

Growing up I was always told that we were living in Iran temporarily until we could be ready to move to our permanent home, wherever that might be. At the same time, it was always comforting to know that we belonged “somewhere.” That was the Mashadi community. It was comforting to be among others whose families, just like us, cared about keeping kosher homes, strict moral standards and marrying other Jews.

Things have sure changed a lot since our days in Tehran. Our children feel free to meet and marry others, as long as they are Jews. I myself have welcomed three beautiful Ashkenazi daughters-in-law into my family, and know of many Mashadi families with non-Mashadi additions.

As for “preferring” to marry other Mashadis, Nahai put it best herself during the Q-and-A after the showing of “Saffron and Rosewater” in New York, in which a few of her pieces were presented. When asked, “Why is it that the Jewish Iranians in Los Angeles keep to themselves and don’t want to socialize and marry other Jews?” she responded: “Who says the rest of the Los Angeles people are interested in socializing with and marrying us?”

Rozita Basalely, Great Neck, N.Y.


Giving Up the Chase

Great article (“The Singles Crisis: Let’s Support Singles for Relationship Success)! Being single is OK! But, for those who want a relationship and are still single, there is a way out. I myself was never in a relationship until the age of 30, and then decided to meet my limits and myself. It took me three years to finally figure it out. I am now married with two kids … and know for a fact that every one can find their other part if they use their inner courage.

Dan Timor via jewishjournal.com


Spreading the Love

David Yarus, Founder of dating app JSwipe via jewishjournal.com


More Thanks Are Due

We are deeply grateful to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal for highlighting our efforts at Kfar Zeitim — an Israeli boarding school for Charedi boys that combines Torah education with vocational skills training (“Will Israel’s Achievement Gap Stall the ‘Start-Up Nation?’ ” Feb. 6). We would like your readers to be aware that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles leads the way in support for Kfar Zeitim. Through its farsighted vision, Federation has fostered Kfar Zeitim’s success. Its leadership in supporting this project has led to the expansion of this program. We are now replicating Kfar Zeitim’s approach in five other schools around Israel.

Edith Everett, Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, President

Five questions you may want to ask yourself if you are single


Are you afraid of getting close? Do you follow a pattern of backing out of relationships once they get serious? If so, chances are that your relationships are fine, but you have difficulty with intimacy and attachment. Don’t give up the relationship; get help to give up your fear. 

[The singles crisis: Let’s support singles for relationship success]

Are your relationships like a roller coaster? Do you follow a pattern of getting super excited about someone you are dating, only to suffer huge disappointment? If so, you would do well to understand that you have a tendency to idolize your date and then suffer the inevitable disappointment when the bubble bursts. Your deflation does not mean there’s a problem with the relationship.  

Do you practice love by smothering? Do you find that people back away when they start a relationship with you? Perhaps you are squashing and overwhelming your love interest with your intensity. Twenty texts a day is exhausting and risks alienating the one you are so keen to draw close. Respect your partner’s space. 

Do you find it hard to fall in love? Do you meet lots of lovely people, but feel there is no spark or emotional draw? It could be that you have difficulty bonding. There may be nothing you can/should do to change that, but do not withdraw from a relationship when you have the issue. Learn how to connect meaningfully with another person.  

Are there actually two of you? Some people are conflicted and are actually looking for incompatible qualities in a partner. If so, what you need is bigamy! Otherwise, get real. Work out who the “real you” is and focus on getting that one married. Finding a partner often means giving up on unrealistic dreams. Good news: Once you wrap your brain around it, you can enjoy a long, happy relationship.

How we met: Love stories for Valentine’s Day


This Valentine’s Day, I am beginning a new series asking happy couples the age-old dinner-table question: How did you meet? I believe that, for those looking for love, there is nothing more inspiring than a real love story.

Ellen Abramson-Cohen and Jonathan Cohen 

Ellen is from New Jersey. When she was 14, she met a boy at summer camp named Jonathan. Jonathan was cool while Ellen was nerdy. Ellen spent her summer in love with Jonathan but he spent his summer in love with someone else. But they became friends and stayed in touch after camp ended.

When Ellen was 17, Jonathan invited her to Long Island for a visit. They watched “Caddyshack” and had “relations.” After that date, Ellen headed to Brandeis while Jonathan went to Buffalo State. They went on their second date two years later, while both were home from college and shared additional “relations.” Cut to more than 20 years later, Ellen was in Los Angeles working as a schoolteacher when a friend insisted she join Facebook.

Two days later, Jonathan sent Ellen a friend request. She accepted and he told her if she was ever back in New York City, where he now lived and worked as a TV news assignment editor, to let him know. Ellen got on a plane, and 25 years after their second date, they had their third. 

They caught up with one another, and Jonathan mentioned he was born at Doctors Hospital, which used to be across the street from Gracie Mansion. Ellen was born in the same hospital. Their birthdays are only 18 days apart. 

They had a great date.  After that, Jonathan went on a camping trip with friends while Ellen still had a couple of weeks of vacation in New York. He texted her nonstop. Jonathan was now the smitten one and couldn’t stay away from Ellen, who told her mother she was going to marry him. Her mom laughed and said at least Ellen could tell her kids she lost her virginity to their dad.   

Ellen asked Jonathan if he would ever consider moving to L.A. He said no way. Ellen returned to L.A., and they stayed in constant contact.  

Over the High Holy Days, Jonathan came to visit. Ellen was closing escrow on a condo. As they walked through together, Jonathan mumbled, “I could live here.” He returned to New York City, but came back for Thanksgiving. They watched Ellen’s beloved Giants lose their game, and Ellen paced in disappointment as Jonathan got down on one knee, holding his mother’s engagement ring. She didn’t see the ring and yelled at him to get up off the floor. 

He said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Ellen replied, “Do you have something to ask me?”  He asked her to marry him, and she replied, “Duh.” It was beshert. Thirty years after meeting at summer camp, Jonathan and Ellen wed along the banks of the Hudson, followed by a reception in L.A.  Jonathan moved west, and they live in the home he once visited, giving up his New York life for the woman he loves. He changed his career to real estate, and his life began again, 30 years after meeting his bride.

Ellen has her favorite picture of Jonathan from summer camp on her desk, and students often ask if he is her son. She tells them he is her husband, and the kids are surprised by how young he is. It took them 30 years to get to happily ever after and prove you should never give up on finding your own love story.

If you have a love story to share please email Ilana at angel@jewishjournal.com.

Navigating the dating game


Technology has revolutionized the dating world, but sometimes it’s better to go old school — especially if you’re on the older side yourself. 

Just ask Judith Gottesman, a former geriatric social worker who’s been running her matchmaking business, ” target=”_blank”>SawYouatSinai.com, said she sees a trend where older men tend to go for younger women. However, this scenario can have its own set of drawbacks. 

Older men “much prefer to use a home landline than a cell phone,” she said. “If there’s a 50-year-old man and he’s dating an age-appropriate woman, he’ll pick one night out of the week to sit down, listen to his answering machine, and call her back. If he’s dating a 30-year-old woman who’s texting and on her cell phone all day, she’ll say, ‘Why didn’t he call me all day? Why isn’t he texting?’ ”

Though the dating pool is more limited when singles over the age of 50 look for companions in their age groups, there is additional freedom when it comes to certain areas.

“When having children is not an element of marriage anymore, or you already have them or are not planning to have them, people aren’t hung up on the details they are hung up on when they’re in their 20s,” Salkin said. “Maybe you’ll look at someone with slightly different religious and family backgrounds.”

Those who use matchmakers to navigate the scene say it suddenly becomes much simpler. One Los Angeles resident named Jeff, who is in his 50s, utilized the assistance of Orly Hadida, aka Orly the Matchmaker, a Beverly Hills-based professional who’s been listed in the Guinness World Records as the most expensive matchmaker in the world. He said, “You don’t have to go to bars or do the pickup lines and everything else. She interviewed me, got my background information and did a lot of pre-screening. She tries to match you with somebody you’re looking for and vice versa.” 

Hadida, who is in her mid-50s herself, said that singles over 50 want camaraderie and monogamy, which is what Jeff (who requested that his full name not be used) was seeking.

“When you’re in your 20s and 30s you want to party and travel and don’t take things seriously,” he said. “When you’re in your 50s, you’ve been married and have kids and want companionship.”

Dee Gaines, who has a doctorate in neuropsychology and clinical psychology, and lives in Beverlywood, echoed those sentiments. She started 3InLove, a matchmaking service for older singles that incorporates the Torah and kabbalah’s marital values. 

Dee Gaines started 3InLove, a matchmaking service for older singles.

She said that as people age, they “go through the process of thinking about where they want to put their efforts for the rest of their lives. They ask themselves, ‘What do I want to accomplish with the certain limited time I have?’ They’re interested in settling with a partner they can share a routine with.”

Gottesman added that because health issues come up as they get older, individuals often look for partners who take care of themselves. 

“People want to find someone who is healthy because they lost a spouse who was unhealthy and they don’t want go through that again,” she said. 

Lifestyle compatibility over 50 is about more than health, though. It’s also about money and whether or not people are still up for adventure. 

“Some individuals don’t want a partner who can’t keep up with their lifestyle,” Gottesman said. “If they’re not retired, they want to be with someone who is also not retired. They want someone who has an active, productive life as well. That can be tricky because some people retire early and others never want to retire.”

In their 20s, singles are more flexible. They’re willing to modify how they function and negotiate on certain issues. Jenny Apple, who sets up Jewish couples throughout Southern California, said it’s not as easy to set up those over 50 “because they’re set in their way of life. It’s harder sometimes to get them to appreciate the value of being set up with another quality individual.”

Jenny Apple, California matchmaker

It’s not about being stubborn though. Apple, 31, from the Beverly Hills area, said it’s more about the baggage that comes along with being a certain age. 

“Sometimes it’s understandable. You have children or a sick parent to take care of, and you don’t want to uproot them. That’s a challenge, and a personal life decision, but people … have to weigh the factors,” she said. “They have to say, ‘Is it more important for me to have a partner in life or to be comfortable with my environment?’ ”

Aside from enlisting the help of a matchmaker and setting up an online dating profile, Gottesman recommends that singles who are 50-plus treat dating like they did at any age. That means getting out and mingling.

“If you just stay at home and don’t try to meet anybody, you’re not going to find that he or she will just knock on your door,” she said. “You should go to singles events or volunteer somewhere you care about.” 

Gaines and her partner at 3InLove, Trudy Green, are working on putting together singles events for the older population over the next six months. She said she continues to focus on people of this age for many reasons. 

“The 50-plus community is a wonderful population to work with,” she said. “There is such wisdom and knowledge that comes out of this group.”

The singles crisis: Let’s support singles for relationship success


We are now facing a genuine singles crisis. Lara, a successful 37-year-old chemist from San Diego, is concerned that her dream of marriage and a family will elude her. She rarely meets anyone for more than a few dates, and her only serious relationships have been long-distance ones. Jeremy, a 42-year-old good-looking accountant from Boston, has dated more than 200 women over a 25-year period and has just broken up with his fiancee after panicking for fear he had chosen the wrong one. For many singles, the best chance they have of coming home to someone else is if they have just had a burglary. Tens of thousands of Jewish singles in the United States are struggling to form and secure lasting relationships. Many are distressed and demoralized, further pressured by worried parents and grandparents. Jews, it seems, are not marrying. The former British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has noted that nonmarriage is now more of a challenge to the viability of our community than interfaith marriage. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Jewish marriage rates in the U.S.have fallen to a new historic low. I cannot imagine another cause of this magnitude that would receive such a tepid response.

[Five questions you may want to ask yourself if you are single]

Many singles experience a huge amount of pain and frustration as they struggle for years to achieve their most important objective of getting married and having a family. The deep sense of frustration many singles experience is compounded by a community that they feel judges and blames them. A communal rabbi recently provided me with his verdict: “I’ve come to the conclusion that most singles don’t really want to get married, or they’d find a way.” Knowing that this rabbi had a child with educational challenges, I responded: “Like telling a child with dyslexia that the reason they are struggling to read is because they cannot be bothered, for if they cared enough, they’d figure it out.” It’s true, some people are single because they do not wish to be married, or are disinclined to make an effort — which is their prerogative. However, the vast majority of singles I meet try enormously hard to find a life partner, throwing toward that effort inordinate amounts of time, effort and money. To tell these people that they don’t want it enough is ignorant and hurtful. They need our understanding and support, not our judgment and criticism. Blaming singles for their struggles just adds insult to injury. As Bella dePaulo, an expert and author on the topic who teaches at UC Santa Barbara, has argued, disparaging singles — what she terms “singlism” — is about the only form of discrimination still deemed acceptable in our postmodern era. 

What many singles need most is not someone else to meet, but to meet him or herself.

The truth needs to be told: Singles are generally trying their level best to succeed in relationships, but it’s not working out for many of them. So what to do? Let’s start by understanding the issue. Finding the right person is half of the dating challenge; being the right person is the other half. As a relationship coach, I am often asked, “Can you suggest someone nice?” as if meeting someone “nice” is likely to make the difference. The person who asks has almost certainly met dozens of “nice” people, so meeting one more is unlikely to resolve the issue. Many singles — and those whom they turn to for advice — are unaware that, most likely, some internal barrier is holding them back. Simply meeting a bunch of new people won’t wish that away. Arranging social events and providing matchmaking or dating services, while necessary, is nowhere near sufficient. Many people who attend singles events, though grateful for the opportunity, return home disappointed that it did not result in a meaningful chance at a relationship. Matchmakers, whether formal or informal, will tell you how frustrating it is making suggestion after recommendation only to be told that something or another is wrong, or doesn’t work. For someone who is struggling with some internal barrier, attending another singles event or being introduced to one more date is typically just another chance to experience failure. 

What many singles need most is not someone else to meet, but to meet him or herself. Most of the singles I meet are highly successful and attractive people who are high-functioning in pretty much every other aspect of their life, but for some reason are falling down in this most crucial pursuit. What they need are the awareness and skills to successfully manage the internal resistance or limitation that is holding them back from enjoying relationship success. As long as the issues that are at the heart of the relationship struggles remain unaddressed, continued disappointment is far too likely. 

A man approached me in a restaurant: “I’m looking for a beautiful, good Jewish girl; what advice can you give me?” In response, I quipped: “Try starting by being a beautiful, good Jewish boy!” So many people would have you believe that their problems are outside of themselves, and that if only Mr. or Ms. Right would show up, wedding bells would ring. If only it were so. Some of the people I work with have dated hundreds of people, and it is implausible that all of them were unsuited. We need to use education and coaching to encourage people to be Mr. or Ms. Right. Singles should know that while, of course, we don’t blame them for their difficulties, they can play a crucial role in improving their own chances for success. 

When I first discovered this issue, I contacted two of the most important relationship organizations in the English-speaking world and asked them what they could offer singles. The response: “We are a relationship organization, so we focus on people who are in a relationship.” In other words, if you are married and your relationship gets into trouble, you have a relationship problem. But if your issue is that you are having trouble getting into a relationship in the first place, you are fine, because your relationship is not in crisis. This would be hilarious if it were not so tragic. 

Determined that something had to be done, I became a relationship coach. I completed a doctorate and published a book on coaching psychology. Together with my brother Zevi, I established Jewish European Professionals, to provide high-quality events around Europe that would not only enable Jewish singles to meet, but also would provide valuable relationship education and coaching. Ever modest, I now provide relationship coaching under the banner of “The Singles Guru.” My practice and research with dozens of singles suggests that most people who are struggling to succeed in relationships are being hindered by a single key issue, of which they are generally unaware. With raised awareness of the nature of the issues and with support to devise personal strategies to cope with them, many people would be able to dramatically enhance their chances of relationship success. My learning from this journey is now the subject of my recently published book, “Relationship Coaching.” 

People are often unfairly labelled “commitment-phobic.” Jonathan, a 39-year-old graphic designer from London, had a history of entering into relationships and breaking off when things started to get “too” serious. Then he started dating Debbie, who everyone insisted was ideal for him. Jonathan, however, was experiencing his usual misgivings: “There are some things about her that bother me; I can’t go through with this.” The reasons were flimsy at best, and by Jonathan’s own estimation, Debbie more than met his key requirements. Jonathan questioned, if she was so perfect for him, why is he so resistant to marrying her? Debbie was ready to quit, having put up long enough with Jonathan’s endless prevarications. 

I helped Jonathan understand why he felt compelled to withdraw from suitable relationships — it is called “avoidant attachment orientation.” For various reasons, a person may develop an unhealthy relationship orientation, which sometimes manifests itself in an extreme fear of attachment. People who are fearful of attachment are ambivalent, desperately wanting closeness on the one hand, but afraid of it on the other hand. Thus, their relationships exist in a manic state of drawing close and pulling away. To their partners, this type of person appears highly inconsistent and unreliable, seemingly unable to stick to a relationship without escaping, often for contrived reasons, behaving as what psychotherapist Randi Gunther called a “relationship saboteur.” Jonathan was caught up in this cycle and was unaware of the madness that is running amok in his mind. 

Until a person is aware that this is happening, they are largely powerless to help themselves. However, once a person becomes aware, the matter often can be easily addressed. On their next date, Jonathan required three attempts over an hour and half, but he finally did propose! They are now happily married with a child. The problem for most singles is not that they are picky — they are stuck. If we are serious about making an impact on this issue, we need to help them become unstuck. It’s that complicated and that simple.


Rabbi Yossi Ives is an experienced relationship coach based in London, focused on helping singles find relationship success. He is the author of “Relationship Coaching” (Routledge, 2014) and is the co-founder of JEP, a European singles organization. Ives wrote this piece while visiting L.A. to set up a singles project in the United States. He can be reached at yossi@singlesguru.co.uk.

New Jewish dating app keeps the campfire burning


For many Jews, nothing cooks up piping-hot nostalgia quite like reminiscing about summer camp. Adults who recall those times may think back to pounding on tables during birkat (grace after meals), intense and often heated Maccabiah competitions or “color wars” and musical theater performances. 

For some, that list might include memories of meeting that special someone. For the rest, it might not be too late, thanks to some help from the Internet. 

RamahDate, a specialized online dating platform that Camp Ramah and matchmaking powerhouse JDate are working on together, will launch in May. It will give alumni of the Conservative Camp Ramah movement — campers and staff — the opportunity to mingle online and possibly even quiet the kvetching of frustrated Jewish mothers. 

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, the National Ramah Commission’s national director, told the Journal that parents of Ramah alums have been adamant for years that the experience of camp shouldn’t stop after camp. 

“Mothers and fathers have been asking me for the last seven or eight years, ‘My son or daughter didn’t meet anyone at camp, so why can’t there be some sort of online dating?’ ” Cohen said. 

But many did meet spouses through camp, a shared experience that creates a powerful bond. Cohen claims that Ramah can identify at least 700 such couples — and more than 300 Ramah marriages are registered on ramahmarriages.org, complete with touching stories of how the couples met.  With others undoubtedly uncounted, Cohen said he firmly believes there are well over a thousand couples who met at Ramah. 

Lauren Ross, a 41-year-old social worker at a Denver public school, met her husband, David, a piano teacher, while staffing together at Camp Ramah in Ojai in the early ’90s. They eventually got married on the picturesque Ojai camp and now have two children together. 

“David and I have a lot of similarities because of the camp experience,” Ross said. “It’s definitely something that came up.”

Sarah Shulman, the education director at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge and newly appointed camp director at the soon-to-be Camp Ramah in Northern California, met her husband, Nate, while staffing together at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado five years ago. 

“It’s not always easy to find people who share common values and interests and that are also Jewish,” Shulman said. “It wasn’t always easy to meet people who wanted to spend their summers like I did. When I met Nate, I was baffled and in awe of how much we had in common. I just thought, ‘He’s a teacher who’s Jewish with incredible outdoor adventure skills. This guy exists?’ I heard about people getting married based on Ramah. It wasn’t until I became one of those people that I understood how that really happens.” 

Marriages that originated in camps long have been a source of pride for Ramah leadership. Campgrounds are covered with plaques inscribed with the names of couples who met at camp and who often have their wedding ceremonies there. And while there’s long been interest by some in creating an online meeting place to give adults an opportunity to engage with other alums who share their core values, the question for people like Cohen was: Would people actually use it? Not to mention, initial research indicated that implementing such a site would cost the nonprofit National Ramah Commission $150,000. 

Things started to move ahead after the formation of Reshet Ramah, the camp’s alumni network that took shape in 2012, thanks in large part to $1.8 million in grants from the Avi Chai Foundation and the Maimonides Fund. The newly formed organization set out to strengthen and connect an alumni network of 200,000 and initiate a variety of new programs based in Jewish engagement for adults of all ages. According to Cohen, Reshet Ramah estimated there to be a subset of 15,000 singles under the age of 40 among its network. 

Cohen and his cohorts at the New York-based National Ramah Commission had previously worried that online dating and its reputation would scare off users. But now, JDate reports that half of married Jewish couples meet online; all involved agreed that this hurdle had been cleared and that the only hurdle remaining was financing the project. 

Laura Belinfante, National Ramah Commission’s program marketing manager, saw working with JDate as a no-brainer.

“It’s a reputable, proven model. I knew it would be great for us to have the JDate name behind the project and that it would help make our product more reputable,” she said. “Once we got on the phone and they became aware of how many alumni we had and that they’d have direct marketing to those people, from their end, it was just like, ‘OK, great.’ ” 

According to Belinfante, the partnership with JDate will alleviate much of the upfront financial burden. Its engineers, project management and customer service teams will be the ones essentially creating the service. 

Ramah users will simply subscribe to JDate and provide their Ramah background with such pieces of information as camp attended and years at camp. Then, Ramah users will receive a badge that will be featured on their profile. They then have the option to interact with all of JDate’s 750,000 active users or only with fellow Ramah badge holders. It will operate like any other online dating filter service.

“We felt that it was important to make the registration process distinguished from the JDate process. Other than that, it’s the same. We wanted to stand out and make alumni feel like it was a little different,” Belinfante said. 

Sarah Koppel Smith, a 26-year-old geriatric social worker in New York who met her husband at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, is excited about the possibilities. Smith believes in the mystique of the Ramah romance and points to values that were largely learned and honed at Ramah as the foundation of her relationship. 

“It’s more than just a camp. It’s a way of life,” she said. “I think it’s something really special to be with someone who also went to Ramah. I’m really excited for my single friends! I hope it works!”

Negotiations with JDate also resulted in an agreement to donate 70 percent of Ramah users’ initial subscription fees to camp scholarships. 

“We want to make this appealing to alumni. They can get a service and can be donating to an organization they obviously care about through that service,” Belinfante said. “They’re able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

As the May launch date approaches, Belinfante and her colleagues at the National Ramah Commission are working diligently with JDate to get the website up and running and are planning launch parties in at least four Israeli and North American cities, Los Angeles likely being one of them. 

Rabbi Joe Menashe, the executive director of Camp Ramah in Ojai, expressed to the Journal his admiration for Ramah’s forward thinking and commitment to its vast network of alumni. 

“The Ramah movement now welcomes over 10,000 campers and staff a summer, and why should we limit the potential to find our beshert to only one camp limited by one’s year?” Menashe said. “We’d be ignoring our mission if we did not take advantage of technology to facilitate [campers’ and alumni’s] connection more easily and naturally around the world.”


CORRECTION 2/5/15: This article originally stated that Ramah users would have to provide the names of their camp counselors in order to subscribe.

The 5 biggest mistakes women make in their JDate online profiles


I am back on JDate! (And just in case you’re a Jewish single woman — or the mom/grandmother/parole officer of a cute single Jewish woman looking for a fun, slightly neurotic and mind-numbingly sexy man … my JDate screen name is VICTORSTUART.)

OK. That was terribly gratuitous of me to immediately pitch myself for dates at the top of this article. But hey, I want to find a wife! (The screen name again … VICTORSTUART.) 

So, over the years as a periodic JDater, I’ve read many intriguing, thoughtful and fun essays. But I’ve noticed some things you women write that I think may be hurting your chances at finding your bashert (which, in Yiddish, means “destined” — the person you marry … and more than 50 percent of the time, end up bitterly divorcing).

As a way of giving back to you amazing JDate women, I’ve come up with a list of five things you should probably not write in your dating site essays, if you want the very best chance at landing love.  

1. “I am as comfortable in a little black dress as I am in jeans.”

Whaaaat? It’s sweet and cute that you think this is important to a guy. But sadly, guys don’t give a rat’s ass what you’re comfortable wearing.  

I’ve NEVER had a guy friend say to me, “Vic, this girl I met is totally hot, funny and smart. But I had to end it because, OMG, she’s totally uncomfortable wearing a little black dress.”  

Final word: If you want to add some humor to your profile, write: “I am as comfortable GETTING OUT of a little black dress as I am GETTING OUT of jeans.”  If you write that, I’m in!

2. “I love eating at fine restaurants.”

Oh, really? So, you’re one of those rare women who prefers not eating out of city garbage cans on Cahuenga Boulevard. 

Sorry, ladies. When a guy reads, “I love eating at fine restaurants,” what he’s really reading is, “I love spending a lot of money.” Your love of the finer things doesn’t make you special.  It makes you EXPENSIVE!

Final word:  Unless you write, “I love TAKING my JDate guy to five-star restaurants and PAYING the bill,” It’s best not to mention “fine dining.”

3. “I am not looking for a hookup.”

If you write that you’re not looking for a hookup, the only thing a guy’s caveman brain sees is … HOOKUP!  

So, your well-intentioned goal of keeping those “hookup” guys away may actually be attracting them!  Yikes!  Also, FYI, I’ve never seen a woman write, “Looking for a hookup — casual sex in the backseat of my Prius, under a restaurant table at Norm’s or at a freeway rest stop anywhere off Interstate 5.”  If you don’t want to have sex on a first date, don’t have sex on a first date. 

Final word:  Are you writing your “hookup” declaration for the guys? Or are you trying to convince yourself you don’t want sex on a first date?  Is this a case of, “The lady doth protest too much?” Hmm.

4. “I looooooooove traveling.”

Countless JDate women write ad nauseam about how much they love globetrotting. Some women proudly list every single country they’ve conquered the way some guys keep a list of every woman they’ve slept with. 

Here’s a reality check for you insanely over-the-top travel-crazy women who get hot just flipping through a Fodor’s Travel Guide. Every department store in America has a luggage department. Most people enjoy traveling. Yes. It’s fun.  But your travel bug doesn’t make you especially unique.  

If you have an awesome travel story that says something about you — share it!   Or write about places you’d love to visit with the guy of your dreams. I want to fantasize about going with you!

Final word: If you are a woman, we get it. You love to travel. Briefly mention this in your profile essays in a meaningful way, and then travel on.

5. “I have no baggage.”

So, what that really means is you don’t know you have baggage. Scary. Just like traveling the world, traveling through life requires baggage. As your potential traveling partner, I want to know that you know you have baggage. It means you’re real. And being a gentleman, I want to help you carry your baggage.  

Final note: There’s no need to try to appear perfect. Perfect is perfectly boring (and non-existent).   

I hope these suggestions help.  Ultimately, it’s most important to just be yourself. Vulnerability counts for a lot. The more real you are in your essays, the more real your chances of finding true love.  

My JDate screen name again: VICTORSTUART! Email: viccohen@me.com! 

Vic Cohen is a TV comedy writer, producer and actor starring with Howie Mandel in the documentary film “Committed.” He hosts the podcast “Vic Cohen’s It’s a Fair Question” (available on iTunes). Follow him on Twitter @viccohen. 

My valentine to American Jewish men


On Valentine’s Day, I’d like to sing the praises of American Jewish men. I’m aware it’s a rather large group, but that’s the point: The United States is a sea of plenty for Jewish men. Whereas in Britain, where I grew up, there are only about 300,000 Jews. If you remove married men, women and children, you’re left with enough eligible Jewish bachelors to inhabit a synagogue or two.

There are, however, millions of men in the U.K. who look like Benedict Cumberbatch or Hugh Grant. Lovely chaps, all of them, but none embodied the stocky, dark, curly-haired Jewish types I longed for when I was growing up in the 1970s. Think Paul Michael Glaser, the guy who played Starsky. Or Tony Curtis. There were some in my Hebrew school class in London, but few had that sass, that chutzpah I was after. They were aiming to be languid and vaguely ironic, like Jeremy Irons.

My first encounter with a real-life Jewish American boy came when I was 16. I was on a summer Israel tour, that rite of passage, and one night, on the shores of the Kinneret, I met Lance from Michigan. I’d never met a Lance before. Only Jeremys, Howards and Simons. It was thrilling. He was stocky, with a “Jewish nose” and thick hair. We flirted, I fell in love, he left on an Egged bus.

I was left with the confirmation that yes, such beings do exist in real life, and a deep knowledge that one day we would meet again and marry. (That knowledge proved to be illusory, but if anyone knows a Lance from Michigan who went to Israel in 1979, please pass on this story. Maybe our children could marry.)

I’m sure my attraction to American Jewish men was a factor 10 years later when, at 26, I decided to move to New York. I’d like to say it was because I had taken a job at the BBC’s New York bureau. But in fact it was just that I knew I’d be living in a world inhabited by Jewish guys. And so I was. I would walk down the street on the Upper West Side (with a particular viewing point outside Zabar’s) and clutch myself in excitement at the Jewish Adonises around me with their deep, soulful eyes on their expressive faces. Could you be my prince? How about you?

My dating pool suddenly expanded. Jewish men were everywhere: waiters, dentists, squash instructors. It constantly amazed me. I would meet a guy at a bar or a party and their last name would be Rosenbaum or Cohen. Definitely not Clemington-Smythe.  My bubbe would have been proud. I was ecstatic.

It’s not like I hadn’t dated — or even been in love with — non-Jewish men in England. But I just found there was a level of comfort and warmth — heimischeness, if you will — with my Jewish tribesmen. And the American Jews also had an exotic assertiveness that thrilled me. They have a confidence in their manliness, in their heritage. They’re descended from the Jews who made it through harsh winters and pogroms in the shtetls. They’re risk takers and life embracers.

While it’s true that British Jewish men are descended from the same stock, more than a century of keeping your head down, fitting in and hoping no one will notice you’re avoiding the ham sandwiches at work doesn’t exactly make you want to stand out in a crowd. British society is wonderfully tolerant of multiculturalism — as long as you don’t make a fuss.

Jewish American men don’t try to assimilate. They don’t seem to rein in their mannerisms. They’re out and proud (at least in New York or Los Angeles). And they have broad shoulders and are, as my mother would say, “shtarkers” — they’re strong.

Of course, there’s the stereotype that Jewish men are nebbishy Woody Allen types — and some are! But what these men may lack in brawn, they make up for with their scintillating smarts. The few Jewish intellectuals in the U.K. stand out because of their rarity (Alain de Botton, Harold Pinter), while here you can find bespectacled Jewish men passionately expressing their views or fluently spinning bewitching tales everywhere in the media. Talk wonkery to me, Ezra Klein! Give me a driveway moment, Ira Glass! Paul Krugman, fill me with your finance talk! (Paul doesn’t wear glasses, but you get my point.)

One day seven years ago, after many years of happily wading through New York’s large Jewish dating pool, I was out for drinks with coworkers when one of the company’s vice presidents admitted to the crowd that he’d once considered becoming a rabbi.

I almost fell off my chair. This would have never happened in London. His name was Steve Holtzman. It was love at last name. The next day I rushed to talk to him. We compared notes on teenage years involved with Orthodox youth groups, and we’ve been together ever since.

Today, Steve shrugs off his Jewishness, but for me it continues to be part of the appeal. His maternal grandfather escaped the czar’s army by walking across Europe when he was 12. His father’s family comes from Pinsk. (I just like saying the word Pinsk). He’s smart, funny and cute. He has a big embrace. And a big heart.

So on this day of pagan/Christian celebration of love, I’d like to take this moment to make a toast to him — and to all American Jewish men. May you all continue to thrill this nice Jewish girl from London. And all Jewish girls, from wherever they are, throughout the decades to come.

(Suzanne Levy is a British-born writer and TV producer now living in Los Angeles.)

 

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Aug. 3-9, 2013


SUN AUG 4

“>ncjwla.org.

CALIFORNIA STRING QUARTET 

Coffee? Check. Cookies? Check. Concert? Check! The Music Guild presents the California String Quartet as part of its 2013 Summer Festival. Playing since 2002, these four artists hail from Hungary, Bulgaria, the former Soviet Union and Solana Beach. With two violins, a cello and a viola, this award-winning ensemble promises rich sounds, passion for the classics, and a warm and intimate performance. The program includes selections from Haydn, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Sun. 3 p.m. $50 (general), $45 (seniors), $12 (full-time students), $7 (children, 17 and under). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 558-3500. “>museumoftolerance.com.


MON AUG 5

PHISH

While it might not be your usual cantorial music resource, the band has had a long relationship with Hebrew and Judaism. Not only are Phish’s drum and bass players Jewish, the band as a whole has spent time covering and repurposing traditional Jewish songs. While we can’t promise you’ll hear “Avinu Malkeinu” or “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” we feel pretty confident that the evening will be an eclectic showcase of a veteran band. Mon. 7 p.m. $57-$74. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000. THU AUG 8

THE DANIEL ROSENBOOM GROUP

JazzPOP and Creative Underground LA present Daniel Rosenboom. Trumpeter, improviser, composer and record producer, Rosenboom skillfully fuses genres and collaborates with peers to create sounds that feel both classic and innovative. Having founded the collective Creative Underground LA in 2013, Rosenboom is not just passionate about his music, but the art and expression of creative types throughout the city. Thu. 7:30 p.m. Free. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000. “>skirball.org.


FRI AUG 9

BEN GLEIB

“Saturday Night Live” is on hiatus for the summer, so we have to get our laughs somewhere else. Spend your evening at the Improv, where stand-up comedian, actor and TV host Ben Gleib performs. A roundtable regular on “Chelsea Lately” and a podcaster for the SModcast Network, Gleib guarantees a funny Friday and a medley of material. Ages 18 and over. Fri. 8 p.m. $15, plus two-item minimum. Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. (323) 651-2583. “>cinema.ucla.edu

Calendar Picks and Clicks: July 6–12, 2013


SUN JULY 7

KLEZMER JUICE

Join Gustavo Bulgach as he leads his band in a unique exploration of gypsy jazz, old European street songs and Jewish folk music. Representing a new generation of musicians reviving some ancient rhythmic traditions, Klezmer Juice will make noise that the whole family can enjoy. The international group has offered fresh interpretations of classics like “Ot Azoi” and “Zemer Atik,” which promises to be familiar but never dull. All ages. Sun. Noon and 2 p.m. Included with admission. $10 (general), $7 (seniors and students), $5 (ages 2-12), free (ages 2 and under). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. TUE JULY 9

“FREUD’S MISTRESS”

Having an affair with your sister’s husband? There’s something Freudian there, and we should probably talk about it. Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack discuss and sign their new novel about love, loyalty and betrayal. Seamlessly blending fact and fiction, these two award-winning writers, who have previously collaborated on “Literacy and Longing in L.A.” and “A Version of the Truth,” create a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman and the mythic father of psychoanalysis. Tue. 7 p.m. Free. Diesel, 225 26th St., Brentwood. (310) 576-9960. WED JULY 10

“A PARALLELOGRAM”

Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright Bruce Norris follows up his monster hit “Clybourne Park” with this mind-scrambling comedy that distorts the audience’s perspective and poses profound questions about the choices we make. Directed by Tony-winning director Anna Shapiro (“August: Osage County”), “A Parallelogram” follows Bee, for whom the past, present and future collide when strange new revelations rock her seemingly normal suburban life and take her down a rabbit hole. Through Aug. 18. Wed. 8 p.m. $35-$50. Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 628-2772. THU JULY 11

“SOPHIA”

In Michael Antins’ musical comedy, the beautiful and bright Sophia consults a therapist as she tries to reconcile her unlucky-in-love life. Presented by the Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles, this staged reading, under the direction of Darrel Friedman and featuring much of the original cast, guarantees an evening of laughter, music and maybe even some relating as Sophia deconstructs her romantic past in order to find her romantic present. Contains adult language and content. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. “>hollywoodbowl.com.


FRI JULY 12

SIMONE GAD

Born in Brussels, but raised in Boyle Heights, Gad presents a spoken word performance about growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors and entering show biz at the tender age of 4. The veteran assemblage and collage artist and painter has been a part of the L.A. art scene since the 1970s. Her familiarity with Hollywood and her own unique heritage promise a certain kind of poetry at this Armory Show and Tell. Adults only. Fri. 12:45 p.m. Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. (626) 792-5101. “>grandperformances.org.

“INTO THE NIGHT: SECRETS AND TRUTH” 

Celebrate the creative universe of artist, illustrator, animator and toy designer Gary Baseman, whose whimsical exhibition “The Door Is Always Open” is currently on display at the Skirball. The festive “Into the Night” soiree features live bands, DJ sets, gallery explorations, art making, film screenings and a special appearance by the artist himself. Ages 21 and over. Fri. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. $15 (advance), $20 (door). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.