Rounding out a big year, JDate CEO has reason to celebrate


Last year was big for Spark Networks. At an open-bar mixer and comedy show in January to celebrate the re-launch of its flagship website, JDate, the company’s CEO was exuberant.

There was one metric in particular Michael Egan wanted to highlight when he took the stage at the Improv in Hollywood on Jan. 20: the number of Jewish marriages that have resulted from the service.

“We think we’re responsible for more mother-to-child conversations than any other website — we’re still trying to prove that one,” he told a room full of Jewish singles interspersed with a few JDate success stories invited by the company.

Since he took the CEO job in January 2015, he’s been in charge of JDate and ChristianMingle, which together form the bulk of the web company’s portfolio, and he’s had some figures to brag about. 

In particular, Spark Networks introduced mobile apps for JDate and ChristianMingle last year, growing to more than 318,00 active mobile users from virtually zero late in 2014.

That’s not to mention JSwipe users: Spark Networks purchased the upstart millennial-targeted Jewish app in October for $7 million, with a potential extra $10 million going to JSwipe’s four founders if they meet certain earning targets. (In July 2015, just a few months before acquiring JSwipe, Spark Networks had sued the app for infringement of its copyright on the name “JDate.”) Egan said the mobile app will begin pursuing profit strategies this year, but existing services will remain free.

Egan is neither Jewish nor single. Having been married 19 years, he’s never seriously used a dating app a day in his life. He uses the word “gosh” and speaks excitedly about building Internet communities, having spent a decade in Web businesses and another in crisis communications.

On a recent day at Spark Networks headquarters, which occupies the sixth floor of a Westwood office tower, the bald and wiry Egan wore a salmon button-up shirt and blue jeans with a sports watch and Oakley eyeglasses, ditching the blazer he’d worn at the Improv. 

“I missed this entire online dating thing,” Egan told the Jewish Journal. “And I told [Spark Networks] that when they were asking me about the job. I told them, ‘Look, I might not be your guy.’ ”

Spark Networks is a publicly traded corporation on the New York Stock Exchange valued above $90 million (its stock ticker is LOV). Just months before Egan was hired, a group of shareholders put up what he called a “proxy battle” and succeeded in replacing the board of directors.

In August 2014, the new board chairman, Michael McConnell, replaced the CEO of three and a half years, Greg Liberman, taking on the role of executive chairman. After a corporate restructuring, the company announced Egan’s hire in December 2014.

Since then, Spark Networks has hired a new chief financial officer, chief marketing officer and chief technology officer.

The company’s executive team isn’t all that looks different. Its two top websites have undergone re-launches aimed at streamlining features and integrating them into the same Web platform.

As Egan explains, the makeovers were part of the vision of the new management. For years, the company had used stable profits from JDate’s monthly subscribers to grow ChristianMingle, he said.

“But what started to happen was that JDate got a little old,” he said. “It had no mobile application, and we know that the world has shifted very heavily into mobile.”

Since 2012, the world has seen the advent of the dating app Tinder, widely popular with singles in their 20s, where users select or deny each other by swiping left or right on one another’s photographs. In April 2014, JSwipe launched as its Jewish counterpart. 

Spark Networks evidently had some catching up to do.

“The new board recognized that, hey, mobile is critical, we’ve got to reinvest back into JDate,” Egan said. “JDate is sort of the crown jewel of this company, and it’s been ignored for too long.”

In addition to JDate and ChristianMingle, Egan took charge of a host of Spark’s much smaller niche dating sites, including SilverSingles for older singles, LDSSingles for Mormons and Adventist Singles Connection for Seventh Day Adventists, along with JDate’s Israeli, French and United Kingdom counterparts. 

With the acquisition of JSwipe, Spark Networks received an additional block of users: At the time, the mobile-only platform boasted 450,000 downloads and 40 million messages between users. 

(Adding further drama to the incestuous world of the Jewish digital dating space, Joe Shapira, who cofounded JDate in 1997 and departed in 2004, last year launched a competing Jewish dating app, Jfiix, which operates like a cross between JSwipe and JDate.)

The acquisition of JSwipe also made Spark Networks’ Jewish user base a lot younger. 

Whereas about 85 percent of JDaters are 35 and older, 90 percent of JSwipers are 30 and younger, according to the CEO. 

JDate, Egan said, is “a more serious dating site — you come to us when you’re tired of playing the crowd and you want to actually settle down and find somebody to marry.”

Accordingly, the customer satisfaction surveys he implemented this year show that departing users either love JDate because they met somebody fabulous or hate it because they feel ripped off. Egan said the company plans on rolling out curriculum about dating and relationship building, such as webinars and blog posts, as well as live events, so that even those customers who don’t meet the love of their life can still feel as though they’ve gained something.

It was largely that category of still-single customers who attended the re-launch party at the iconic Melrose Boulevard comedy club on Jan. 23. 

One attendee, a divorced schoolteacher, said she’d gotten on the service because of a Black Friday deal. She wasn’t alone. One of the comics, Taylor Williamson, complained that JDate had cheated him by offering a promotional deal and then charging him full price, leading to the inevitable “cheap Jews” joke.

The prevailing mood of the evening, at least among the comics, was jaded and self-effacing.

“My dating pool is like a picked-over clothing rack at T.J.Maxx,” said Nicole Aimée Schreiber, the night’s emcee. “I’m a woman over 30.”

Then the crowd of Jewish singles watched gleefully as the evening turned in on itself, a PR event cannibalizing the product it intended to hawk.

When the night’s headliner, Adam Ray, pulled a victim from the crowd, he unwittingly picked a Spark Networks employee, proceeding to grill him about his love life and inadvertently turning the evening into an awkward JDate office party.

He asked the bespectacled employee’s name and received an extremely Jewish-sounding one.

“Really?” he asked. “Was Matzah Ball Circumcision taken?”

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.” 

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. 

Meet the Jewish founders of Tinder


Finding dates used to require approaches such as hiring matchmakers, signing up for dancing and cooking classes, attending synagogue, asking friends for help, or, for the least energetic, merely creating a cursory profile on sites such as JDate.

But now, thanks to apps such as the uber-popular Tinder, it takes just one finger and a smartphone to maybe, just maybe, find your one-and-only. 

Launched in 2012, Tinder may now be millennials’ most popular source for matchmaking — possibly even more than friends introducing friends.

Two of the app’s three creators are Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, two Jewish 27-year-olds from Los Angeles who set up shop in West Hollywood with their other co-founder, Jonathan Badeen. (Despite their full work and social schedules, both Rad and Mateen said they make sure to be at their parents’ Shabbat dinner tables every Friday.) They declined to reveal how many millions of people have downloaded Tinder, but they are competing with the most successful matchmaking apps (see: Hinge) in “creating introductions,” Tinder’s raison d’etre.

Available for free on Apple and Android operating systems, Tinder works like this: If Ted, 22, wants to meet someone new, the app starts by pulling information from his Facebook account — first name, age, interests, friends and photos. Then Ted can write a brief description of himself, choose which photos to post and — voila! — time to Tinder.

One after another, pictures of young women — if that’s who he’s looking to meet — will appear on Ted’s screen, along with their first names and ages. Ted can also see whether they have friends or interests in common. 

Clicking on the profile photo of one — say, Victoria, 23 — Ted scrolls through a few more pictures, reads her bio (she describes herself as “compassionate and adventurous” and has an Instagram account) and sees that their mutual Facebook friend is someone he has never met in person. Not sufficiently intrigued, Ted swipes his finger to the left, sending Victoria into the Tinder netherworld. He will never see her again.

Next up is Beth, 21. Bad photo. Easy choice. Swipe left.

Then Jamie, 22. Cute face but strange smile. Swipe left.

It has been only seven seconds since Ted swiped left on Victoria, and he’s coming up on his fourth potential match: Sara, 21. She’s very pretty, has four mutual friends, loves Dave Matthews Band, and she last used the app five minutes ago (Tinder shows that), so she’s definitely actively looking. Swipe right.

Suddenly, a new screen pops up with a picture of Ted and Sara and the words “It’s a Match!” This means Sara must have seen Ted’s profile and swiped right, too. This allows them to send direct messages to each other, share some jokes, exchange phone numbers and then, who knows what?

Calendar: December 21-January 3


MON | DEC 23

WOODY ALLEN AND HIS NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND

Forget the movies — the man is making music. With more than 35 years of bringing New Orleans-inspired music to audiences all over the world, the band has mastered creating the sounds Allen has loved since childhood, including nods to George Lewis, Jimmie Noone and Louis Armstrong. Come because you liked “Manhattan,” and stick around because you’ll love New Orleans. Mon. 8 p.m. $70-$102. Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. TUE | DEC 24

“FIDDLER ON THE ROOF” SING-ALONG

Tradition! It’s the fifth annual “Who needs Christmas, anyway?” celebration brought to you by your local Laemmle family. Norman Jewison’s adaptation of the Broadway classic is set in the Ukrainian shtetl of Anatevka, where Tevye the milkman has to balance the challenges of poverty, anti-Semitism and five young, ready-for-love daughters. You’ll get to be another voice in an already impressive cast that stars Topol, Norma Crane, Molly Picon and Leonard Frey. Tue. 7:30 p.m. $18 (general), $15 (seniors, 60 and older; children, 11 and under). Claremont 5, Music Hall 3, NoHo 7, Playhouse 7, Royal and Town Center 5. (310) 478-1041. ” target=”_blank”>stsonline.org.

MERRY EREV CHRISTMAS SHOW

Comedian Elon Gold serves up a very Jewish Christmas with a special lineup of some very special guests. Known for his spot-on impressions of Jeff Goldblum, Jay Leno and Howard Stern, Gold is just as funny at being other people as he is being himself. Having been a judge on ABC’s “The Next Best Thing,” he is sure to deliver an impressive assemblage of L.A.’s finest. Tue. 7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. $17-$30. The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 656-1336. ” target=”_blank”>laguardians.org

SCHMOOZE-A-PALOOZA

A little schmooze and a little palooze can go a long way. Meet your match (maybe — fingers crossed!) at JDate’s favorite holiday party. With 19 successful soirées behind it, this year’s bash is going back to basics. Spice things up with tapas from Rick Bayless, winner of the first “Top Chef Masters” and host of the PBS series “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” a tequila tasting (if you want to splurge), drink specials, thousands of dollars in awesome prizes and dancing to a top L.A. D.J. Tue. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. $35 (advance), $45 (door). Red O Restaurant, 8155 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (877) 453-3861. WED | DEC 25

CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR THE HUNGRY AND HOMELESS

As many of us will be very available, it is an excellent opportunity to give back. Join Temple Israel of Hollywood in partnership with Hollywood United Methodist Church to bring the holiday spirit to those less fortunate. Volunteer to cook, serve or give out gifts of toys and care packages. If you can’t be there day-of, you’re welcome to donate ahead of time so the turkeys, trimmings and toys are all possible. Wed. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. FRI | DEC 27

“MARVIN HAMLISCH: WHAT HE DID FOR LOVE”

It makes more sense to tell you what Mr. Hamlisch is not responsible for when it comes to defining music — but sense is no fun. A musical prodigy at the age of 6, the conductor and composer was the brain behind “A Chorus Line” and wrote the scores for “Sophie’s Choice,” “Ordinary People” and, more recently “Behind the Candelabra.” In this first film biography, we get an inside portrait of one of the most respected artists of both the 20th and 21st centuries. Fri. 9 p.m. PBS. Check local listings. TUE | DEC 31

“AN EVENING WITH DANNY KAYE”

Ring in the New Year with one of Hollywood and Broadway’s greatest showmen, portrayed by yet another great showman. Actor Brian Childers pays tribute to the crooning comic with songs like “Tchaikovsky,” “Thumbelina,” “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” “Oh, By Jingo,” “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” and more! Guests will receive New Years-y treats like champagne, desserts and noisemakers. Illusionist and comedian Bart Rockett will also be featured. Tue. 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. $55-$95. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 508-4200. FRI | JAN 3

“WHY I DIED, A COMEDY”

Comedian Katie Rubin takes to the stage in her one-woman show as a person trying to find her place among other people. With a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Rubin stresses the “ish” of her religion while remaining committed to her spirituality. With song, timing and insight, it’s everything the theater should be. Fri. 8 p.m. $20. Through Feb. 27. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 960-7780. 

Bar Refaeli wants to know why she’s still single


Some good news for all of you single guys out there: You can finally get rid of that JDate subscription because we have the perfect girl for you. Bar Refaeli is on the market, and she’s ready for a relationship. She told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot herself, the Daily News reports.

Can’t figure out why a hot blonde model is having trouble landing a guy? Neither can she.

“I don’t understand it,” Refaeli said. “I look great. I’m cool. I like going out. I like being at home, I like movies, I like eating. So what’s wrong with me? Why am I alone?”

Uh, we’re stumped, too. At least we can rule out the possibility she’s still not over Leonardo DiCaprio, whom she dated for six years. Refaeli did freak out one night while looking at online pics of her ex with his new girlfriend, Blake Lively. But after one big weep-fest she was good.

“It was like I was cleansed,” she said. “From that day, I haven’t cried since.”

Okay, so here’s her type, in case you’re interested.

“I’m looking for someone serious, who I can set up home with,” she said. “Someone who comes from a warm, loving family like mine, who has values like mine,” she said.

Oh, and this too: “I’m very interested in going out with someone who is big and strong and famous.”

Good luck there!

‘Natalie Portman’ seeks Shabbat dinner dates via Craigslist


What does a beautiful, successful, and, uh, married actress like Natalie Portman need to do to find men willing to come over for Shabbat dinner? Turn to Craigslist, naturally!

Okay, so the Washington, D.C. woman who is looking for nice Jewish boys to break challah with probably isn’t really Benjamin Millepied’s better half.

And while she also isn’t original–according to The Huffington Post others in DC have turned to Craigslist to find Friday night romance–she is very funny.

For the sake of those too lazy to click, we are doing the mitzvah of posting the ad in its entirety.

“Us: All the single ladies. Late 20s, early 30s. We make a mean brisket. We each have more class than all of the princesses of Long Island combined. We hiked Masada at sunrise and only complained about the lack of Bamba later.

You: Are not a big fan of Beyonce’s greatest hit from 2008 that now infiltrates your newsfeed every time a chick you know from college gets engaged. Your friends would describe you as a nice Jewish boy-or at least your mother would. You’re looking for your very own Natalie Portman (think Garden State, not Black Swan.) Inspired by the original Craigslist event hosted by members of the opposite sex, we would like to cordially invite you to a Shabbat dinner to end all Shabbat dinners. On Friday, August 16, we are inviting 5 lucky gentlemen to join us for some challah and Maneschewitz (actual spelling). We’re looking for that special someone to catch us before we faint at Yom Kippur services. We would like to start this new year off right.

To be considered for a night that is more memorable than your senior prom, please submit a picture of yourself, your age, and answer at least two of the following questions:

1.) Do you think it’s a good idea for thousands of young Jews to come together in isolated areas every summer? If so, which camp did you attend?

2.) Seth Cohen: greatest Jew to be a main character on a teenage drama? Only Jew to be a main character on a teenage drama? Still socially acceptable to reference?

3.) Is your Bubbie the one who makes the world’s best matzo ball soup? What is her recipe? Have you called her lately?

4.) How do you contribute to your community? Do you:
a.) Volunteer at soup kitchens
b.) Foster puppies
c.) Tutor children
d.) Assist old ladies crossing the street
e.) Dress up like a superhero and rescue your neighbors

5.) What was the theme of your Bar Mitzvah? To support this statement, please submit pictures of yourself from said event. Bonus points for Pepsi-7Up action shots and/or dancing with a girl at least a head taller with enough distance between you to leave room for the Lord.

We look forward to reading your carefully edited responses and trying to match your picture with your JDate profile.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: June 29 – July 5, 2013


SAT JUNE 29

“THE ATTACK”

In Lebanese writer-director Ziad Doueiri’s latest drama, Israeli Arab surgeon Amin has his picture-perfect life in Tel Aviv turned upside down when police inform him that his wife was killed in a suicide bombing at a restaurant — and they believe she was responsible. Convinced of her innocence, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland and enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth. Palestinian actor Ali Suliman (“Paradise Now”) and Israeli actress Reymonde Amsellem (“Lebanon”) co-star. Sat. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (children 11 and under, seniors). Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.


SUN JUNE 30

FRED WEINTRAUB 

He discovered martial arts sensation Bruce Lee, guided the careers of celebrities like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and Neil Diamond, and championed the making of the Warner Bros. concert film “Woodstock.” Weintraub, a Hollywood legend you’ve probably never heard of, discusses his memoir, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me,” as part of the Autry exhibition “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic.” Sun. 2-4 p.m. Museum admission rates apply: $10 (adults), $6 (students, seniors), $4 (children 3-12), free (children under 3). Autry National Center, Griffith Park, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000, ext. 326. theautry.org.

MUST LOVE DOGS

Organized by JDate, this singles event for likeminded animal lovers features drinks, games and a bit of shmoozing — and dogs are welcome (leashes required). Tamar Geller, an ex-Israeli intelligence officer-turned-celebrity dog coach, hosts the event. Proceeds benefit Operation Heroes & Hounds, which pairs wounded veterans with shelter dogs. You don’t need to be a JDater or own a dog to attend. Ages 21 and over. Sun. 2-5 p.m. $50. Private Topanga Canyon estate (RSVP to receive address). jdate.com/mustlovedogs

“NO STATIC AT ALL”

“If your world is spinning … put a record on” is the tagline of writer-actor Alex Knox’s solo show in which a Jewish man’s crisis of faith takes him on a journey of self-discovery, which includes stops at untamed beaches on Kauai, sweaty recording studios in Los Angeles and a tiny town in Israel that hides an earthshaking relic. Directed by Becca Wolff. Ages 17 and over. Sun. 2 p.m. $10. The Lounge Theatres, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 469-9988. hollywoodfringe.org.

SHIRI MORDECHAY

In Israeli artist Mordechay’s latest exhibition, mixed-media installations encroach on nearly every surface of the project space, with delicate paper sculptures suspended in intricate wire structures. Sun. Through July 28. 4 p.m. (art show opening). Free (donations welcome). Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-3006. beyondbaroque.org.

“ASK A JEW”

Journal columnist Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, a pair of outspoken and opinionated radio personalities for whom religion is a favorite topic of discussion, appear in conversation. Hewitt interviews Prager about why Jews keep kosher, why Jews don’t believe the messiah has come and more. Q-and-A session with the speakers follows. Sun. 5-7 p.m. $25-$75. First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, 3700 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena. (847) 840-5535. askajewevent.com.


THU JULY 4

INDEPENDENCE DAY BBQ

Kibitz, dance and nosh. Organized by the Chai Center, this eighth annual Fourth of July bash features live spinning by DJ Gary; burgers, hot dogs and veggie options; beer and soft drinks; a Jewish astrology table and more. Co-sponsored by JConnectLA and AMIT. Young professionals (ages 21-39) only. ID required. Thu. 2-6 p.m. $13 (advance), $18 (door). Private residence, 602 N. Whittier Drive, Beverly Hills. (323) 639-3255. chaicenter.org/bbq.


FRI JULY 5

“BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY II”

Dust off the picnic baskets and pack up the carrots — Bugs is back. This latest world-premiere concert of Warner Bros. cartoons on the big screen — with their exhilarating scores played live — features composer, conductor and show creator George Daugherty and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Expect old favorites “Duck Amuck,” “What’s Opera, Doc?” “The Rabbit of Seville” and “Baton Bunny,” two new 3D theatrical animated shorts and more. Fri. Through July 6. 8 p.m.  $17-$167 (general), free (ages 2 and under). Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. hollywoodbowl.com

My Single Peeps: Lawrence J.


Lawrence is a South African Jew who has been in Southern California since he was 10. I met him through his sister, Francine, who briefly dated my eldest brother after they met abroad on a high-school trip. I hadn’t seen Francine in years, so she tagged along for the interview.

Lawrence is wearing a “Cat in the Hat” T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops when we meet. He’s got sleeve tattoos and an eyebrow piercing. He makes statements like, “I really want to change the world,” and he says it so sincerely and with such excitement that he reminds me of a naive college freshman taking his first sociology class. But he’s a divorced 42-year-old father with three daughters, and he’s well aware of the complexities in the world. Six years ago, Lawrence was married and working six days a week running a very successful stone and tile business he had started at 21 — designing his own lines and distributing them around the United States. “I also have some retail stores.” He emulated his father. “The way we were raised in South Africa, you had kids, had a career and made a lot of money,” Francine says. But his divorce rocked him to his foundation. “I also got sober at the same time,” he adds.

“I restructured my business, so I put in 10 hours a week at the office. It always used to be just about money — that’s how I was raised. Now, I just want to love everyone.” His sister jokes with him, “Who are you? Do I know you?” He continues, “In my personal life I’m trying to be really honest and ethical and present, and trying to bring my business in line with that. I’m trying to have every person who works for me get paid days every month to go out and work in their community. We look for anyone who’s struggling and look for ways to help them. A couple of years ago, some of my staff who work in my San Diego store went on a mission to Mexico to help build houses for people who couldn’t afford to build their own homes.”

Lawrence tells me about getting his toenails painted with his daughters — “I don’t want to miss out on something if they’re doing it. My exterior looks like it’s really out there, but my values and everything are traditional. Family’s important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s close to their family — that’s really, really important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s spiritual, grounded and has a strong sense of self. Spiritual practice would be No. 1. Intelligence would be No. 2. What I’m craving more than anything in my life is connectivity — and the only part of my life where I haven’t found that is in a relationship.”

I ask him what he sees his life like with a girlfriend. “I’d love to travel with them, meditate with them, do yoga with them, camp and hike … do one of the trails — as long as they’ll protect me from the bears. I’m scared of the bears,” he says. Francine jokes, “and the dark.” He agrees, “A little bit. I slept with a light on until I was 36. It didn’t dawn on me that I wasn’t scared of the dark until I got divorced. I didn’t know I liked stinky cheese either. And olives.” He laughs. “I believe in fairy tales. I love romantic movies. My daughters look at me in the middle of romantic movies, and I’m crying.”

If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

JDate study claims more Jewish marriage matches than its competitors


The Jewish dating Web site JDate recently announced results from a study that claims the site is responsible for facilitating more Jewish marriages than all other dating Web sites combined. The study, commissioned in-house by JDate’s parent company, Spark Networks, and conducted by the research company ResearchNow, reportedly was based on a survey of 948 Jewish Internet users who have married since 2003. Of those surveyed, 52 percent said they met their match on JDate, compared with Match.com, which facilitated 17 percent, and eHarmony, which can claim 10 percent.

Spark Networks released the results of the study on a single-page press release that contained several added statistics to support its claims, but did not provide any additional supporting materials, including how the participants were selected and specific details on what questions were asked. Requests to obtain the full study were denied by Spark Networks and by ResearchNow, which operates under terms of strict confidentiality.

Steven M. Cohen, a research professor of Jewish social policy for Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner, said that while the results of the study may be credible, they are not verifiable.

“The recently conducted study, while promising, doesn’t provide enough of the critical details that we need to assess the validity of its claims,” Cohen said during a phone interview. “It’s like getting an untested product from an unknown manufacturer — it may be a good product, but there could be serious flaws.”

In addition to claiming credit for the majority of Jewish marriages facilitated online, the study also notably claims that 63 percent of all Jewish dates since 2008 were fostered by JDate (up 6 percent since 2003), compared with Match.com’s 19 percent and eHarmony’s 7 percent; that 76 percent of those Jews who used an online dating service used JDate; and more than half the Jews who have married since 2008 report having used an online dating site in their search for a partner.

If true, those are the kinds of claims that JDate, which bills itself as “the premier Jewish singles community online,” should be proud to publicize. So why is the company refusing to disclose the full results of the study?

Cohen wondered whether JDate’s parent company fears subjecting the study to the academic community’s scientific standards. But he also said that it is not unusual for a commercial enterprise to conduct its own research and use select claims in their advertising. “The behavior is not the most admirable, but it is not illegal or unethical,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he sees value in the company regardless of the results, saying that the very existence of JDate promotes Jewish marriage at a time when more and more Jews are marrying later — or maybe not at all — or, alternatively, intermarrying. “Right now we are seeing significant adverse demographic consequences of nonmarriage and intermarriage for the Jewish population in America,” he said. “And JDate promises to promote marriage and probably in-marrying,” and that as long “as we can promote marriage and in-marriage, we can promote the stability, if not the expansion of, the Jewish population in the coming generations.”

College Humor roasts Facebook (and bashes Myspace)


True confessions of an online dating addict #2


Dating Addict Web site

True confessions of an online dating addict #1


Click to go to the Dating Addict blog

ORT Ovation; Law and Laughter; Stand and Deliver


ORT Ovation

Education and life were celebrated at the Beverly Hilton’s Rodeo Gallery on Dec. 3 for the L.A. Chapter of American ORT’s 26th annual Chanukah Brunch honoring JDate and Sparks Networks founder Joe Shapira. A 1972 graduate of ORT Singalovski Institute of Technology in Tel Aviv, Shapira used his success to benefit ORT by sponsoring fundraising events as a part of ORT’s elite international donor group, 1880 Society. Emceed by KNX 1070 reporter Laura Ornest, the event honored supporters’ efforts over the past year and raised funds for the local technical school and elementary-, high school- and college-level institutions in 60 countries. Regional director Paul T. Owens applauded the L.A. chapter as the only one in 50 years to singlehandedly raise more than $650,000.

— Sara Bakhshian, Contributing Writer

Stand and Deliver

If anything points up the need for StandWithUs’ (SWU) efforts to spread the truth about Israel, it was a short comedy skit presented at its annual Festival of Lights dinner Dec. 3. In the skit, random people on Hollywood Boulevard were asked questions about Israel like, “What is Ramallah?” Most people answered it was cocktail food. Although presented in the “Jewish Way” through humor, it drives home the point like a sledgehammer. Committed to fighting ignorance and hatred through the dissemination of knowledge, the event honored Consul General of Israel Ehud Danoch, and Eshet Chayil Educational Award recipients Wendy Lewis, Roberta Seid and Shannon Shibata.

The dinner was chaired by Siona and Elie Alyeshmerni and Lonnie and Jimmy Delshad.
Roz Rothstein, SWU national director, said “it takes a village to create an organization that is able to accomplish the work of StandWithUs. We are thrilled at the outpouring of support we’ve received and the worldwide growth we’ve experienced in just five years. This is a clear indication that StandWithUs fills a need within the community.”

“We treasure our sponsors, activists and volunteers,” said Esther Renzer, SWU national president. “We were honored to be able to acknowledge Consul General Ehud Danoch and our three women of valor and pay tribute to their invaluable contributions to Israel advocacy.”

Kids Win by a KO

It was a knockout punch at the Beverly Hilton when the Oscar de La Hoya Foundation honored entrepreneur producer Sam Nazarian, actor Antonio Banderas and California Controller Steve Westly at the ninth annual “Evening of Champions” Dec. 6. The evening’s emcee, funnyman George Lopez brought the laughs and Macy Gray delivered a one-two punch with a crowd-pleasing performance.

As a surprise for Banderas, uber-producer Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the Spanish hunk with his award. A spirited live auction raised $80,000 to bring the evening’s total to more than $750,000 raised. The money provides athletic and educational opportunities to the children of East Los Angeles.

Law and Laughter

The Beverly Hills Bar As
sociation celebrated it 75th diamond anniversary in grand style with a black-tie gala Dec. 6, raising the bar with awards and laughter. Comedian Garry Shandling, who served as master of ceremonies, had the crowd roaring with his hysterical quips. The evening featured an elegant four-course gourmet dinner and dancing to the music of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Patti Austin and Motown legend singer/songwriter Lamont Dozier, whose numerous hits include “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)” and “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” entertained the appreciative crowd.

Special tributes — both humorous and moving — saluted all 32 of the association’s living past presidents, 25 of whom attended and were honored and presented with medallions. The event raised $175,000 to benefit the organization’s community outreach, pro bono and educational programs.

Dear Mr. Sensitive


Jokes survive on the Internet like Styrofoam in a landfill. Perhaps you’ve already read these “Actual Personal Ads in Israeli Newspapers”:

  • Professor with 18 years of teaching in my behind wants American-born woman who speaks English very good.
  • 80-year-old bubbe, no assets, seeks handsome, virile Jewish male under 35. Object: matrimony. I can dream, can’t I?
  • Sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I’ll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.

dlsaltzberg@gmail.com.

My Superpower: Datedar


Some folks claim they have “gaydar” — they can tell whether someone is gay.

Some folks claim they have “Jewdar” — they can tell whether someone is Jewish.

I’ve
got “datedar” — I can tell if a couple is on a first date.

It’s kind of a cool power … I mean none of the X-Men, Superfriends or wizards in “Harry Potter” have ever shown the ability to tell instantly if they are in the presence of a couple on their first date.

I was recently in line with my boyfriend at the Farmer’s Market Coffee Bean, when I overheard a young couple (probably early 20s) in front of us. Both wore jeans: He had on a nice T-shirt with a plaid shirt over it, she had on a baby doll T-shirt. I turned to my boyfriend and told him: They’re on a first date.
He looked at me with a slightly bewildered expression and asked how I knew. I then told him what confirmed it: He offered to pay for both of them; she politely said that wasn’t necessary. He insisted. She relented. While waiting for their coffee, he informed her about his car; she remarked how nice that model of car is. The kicker: They never touched, but their body images totally mirrored each other.

I tried to stop looking in their direction while I waited for my mocha — but I couldn’t help it. My curiosity would not allow me to let it go. I watched them get their drinks and walk out the door (he held it open for her). I smiled and secretly wished them a good date (I couldn’t very well say it out loud, now could I?).

Sometimes I don’t even need the datedar — just a really good ear. One night at a sushi restaurant in Woodland Hills, I watched a nicely dressed woman sitting in the waiting area. She kept futzing with her hair and looking at her watch. A few minutes later, a nicely dressed man walked in. He looked at her and said, “Linda?” She stood up from her chair and said, “David?”

They shook hands and did an awkward half-hug thing, and I thought: “Hmmm? JDate?” They took their seats at the sushi counter, and I spent the remainder of my meal stealing glances at their interaction. And to confirm my suspicions, the word JDate was mentioned twice.

When I see a couple on their first date, I have to restrain the urge to walk up to the female half and ask (in my mother’s voice), “So, how’s it going? Do we sense a second date here?” I think people on their first date are so cute — like “adorable outfit in the window of Baby Gap” cute — that you just can’t help but say, “Awww, cute!”

But why should I care so much about two people whom I’ve never seen before and — more likely than not — will never see again? Is it the relief that “thank God it isn’t me?” Is it the sense of nostalgia — thinking back on my first date with my boyfriend (also a coffee date)? Is it our desire to know everything about everyone (thank you, Google)? Is it that Cupid has come through and put another couple on the road to love? I think it might be a smidge of all four.
Unfortunately, my datedar doesn’t work beyond date No. 1. If you are on your second date or beyond, mazel tov — but I wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s like my Kryptonite kicks in after the couple says, “Good night.” However, the datedar does have the ability to morph into “newlywedar.”

When I was on a cruise with my best friend, I got to put my newlywedar to the test. We were sitting in the ship’s theater, waiting to watch a show, when a young couple holding hands walked down the stairs and sat two rows ahead of us. A few minutes later, the guy stood up and began walking back up the stairs — but not before he gave his ring a couple of turns. As he passed me, I said, “Congratulations.”

His new bride heard me and turned around.

“How did you know?” she asked.

“He was playing with his ring,” I told her with a smile.

Newlywedar is nice because you actually can talk to the couple — the only problem you’d encounter would be if you were wrong and he was twisting his ring because he was having an allergic reaction to something that made his hands swell up. Luckily that rarely happens.

It isn’t hard to increase your datedar — or newlywedar — powers. All you need is the ability to observe little details about those around you — a la Hercule Poirot or Nancy Drew. However, make sure not to stare too long at the couple or you will just creep them out.

Having datedar won’t make you famous, it won’t save the world and you don’t even get to wear a cool costume — but it is free, and it makes you feel good. And maybe that’s enough.

And to all you singles who will be embarking on first dates this weekend, look for me — I’ll be the smiling blonde waiting for her Banana Mocha.

Singles – Walk Out the Door


Mr. Chauvinist. Mr. Cheapskate. Mr. Paranoid. Mr. Habitually Late. Mr. Whiner. The parallel universe of “Little Men” of the 21st century are alive and well and living in Los Angeles — and my friends have, unfortunately, dated them all.

The friends I refer to (I’ll call them, “The Crew”) are all funny, attractive, nice, well-rounded, educated — who’ve stayed with Mr. Wrong far longer than they should have.

During a recent car trip, my sweet, insightful boyfriend of five months commented that it wasn’t fair that a girl he knows — cynical, sarcastic, not very personable — has a boyfriend, while the girls in The Crew don’t.

“Yeah, but look what’s she’s got,” I told him, referring to a guy so nebbishy that he makes Woody Allen look hip and so socially inept that even the guys from “Queer Eye” would throw up their hands. “Who wants that?”

Before I found my incredible guy, I was engaged to someone whom I went out with for two and half years — probably two years too long. Of course, after we broke up, everyone I knew said that he was just “OK” and that I deserved someone better.

My friends asked me why I stayed with him as long as I did when I knew I shouldn’t have. I told them that in this crazy, mixed-up world, perfectly smart girls stay in relationships they know they shouldn’t because it is easier to be a couple than solo — and to have to endure the dreaded dating game.

During silent prayer at Shabbat services, after I’ve prayed for the well-being of my family, I pray that all of my friends find love and happiness (if you ask that for yourself it is considered selfish for some reason, but I think it works if you delegate the good thoughts to a friend). And boy, could my friends use all the prayers they can get.

One of my L.A. Crew members went out on several dates with a guy — and things were looking good: He called her every day to see how she was and took her out on several fun dates during the week and on the weekend. Seemed like a prince until he turned into Mr. Paranoid and accused her of lying to him about everything and dating guys who had been her friends for years (which she didn’t do).

He then morphed into Mr. Stalker, calling her multiple times after she informed him that it wasn’t going to work. But before she pulled the plug, she asked me if she was doing the right thing.

This incredibly smart girl was second-guessing her gut reaction because of a larger nagging fear about being a single in a land of couples.

Another L.A. Crew member met Mr. Omission on JDate — he lied about being a smoker, then covered up by saying he was only an occasional smoker. She was so wrapped up in the idea that she needed a guy that she was willing to settle for this walking ashtray — until she met the guy she’s with now (we’ll call him Mr. Thank God, because he’s so much better than what she had).

My best friend dated a guy who was incredibly sweet, but she felt no chemistry. She told me that when they were alone he was fine — but she felt no sparks; when they went out with friends, he barely said anything. She broke up with him after several months of rationalizing.

This isn’t just a problem for the girls, either. How many guys out there have dated Ms. Clingy, Ms. Critical, Ms. Stalker, Ms. Shopaholic or Ms. Whiner — and stayed with them far too long? (I think my boyfriend’s exes fall under four of those categories, from what he’s told me.)

Think about it: The networks spend millions of dollars on new shows every year, but are perfectly OK with canceling something that isn’t pulling the ratings. If they don’t feel bad about canceling “Emily’s Reasons Why Not,” surely we shouldn’t feel bad about the time and money we lost on a bad relationship, when in the long run a better show will come along.

The key is knowing when to say adios — and sometimes it takes a nasty wake-up call.

Think Chris Parker in “Adventures in Babysitting,” who discovers her boyfriend at a romantic restaurant with the school slut — on their anniversary. Or Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City,” who let Mr. Big toy with her heart for years, much to the chagrin of her friends. Luckily, after several years, their relationship ended up working out — maybe because Aleksandr Petrovsky was so much worse.

I’m not a matchmaker, but the Dolly Levi in me thinks everyone should have someone — just make sure you aren’t settling for Mr. OK when you deserve Mr. Wonderful.

Solo Loeb Seeks a Duet — on Camera


On her new E! reality TV show, “No. 1 Single,” which premiered last week, singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb hesitantly typed her personal profile into an online matchmaking service.

The eight-episode series chronicles the 37-year-old’s odyssey to find a suitable husband and father for her future children, after finding herself single for the first time in more than a decade.

Since cameras began rolling last fall, they’ve captured her nice (and not so nice) dates, her efforts to stay out of the gossip columns — even a doctor’s visit to check out her biological clock. Because several episodes remain to be shot this winter, the outcome of Loeb’s efforts remains unknown.

The Jewish chanteuse was among the first in a new wave of female folk-rock musicians to emerge in a trend that would later include Jewel and Alanis Morissette; she is known for her trademark cat-eyed glasses, sexy-brainy image and wistful lyrics about ambivalent lovers.

As she awkwardly begins looking for love on her TV show, she seems as lost as a character from one of her songs.

She says she hasn’t dated since college, courtesy of two long-term relationships, and is befuddled by 21st-century rituals such as that online dating service. With much coaxing from a friend, she finally writes that she’s looking for a “highly intellectual” man who can cry at movies, eschews fake hair and “is Jewish or not seriously something else.”

“Judaism, for me, is a serious avocation,” she tells The Journal of why she added the religious requirement. When she is at home in Studio City, she regularly attends Ohr HaTorah, a traditional yet progressive synagogue that emphasizes interpreting text. It’s a perfect fit for Loeb, whose songs tend “to be very analytical; to ask questions and to over-question,” she says.

She uses the same technique to find a husband on “Single,” which is smarter and quirkier than E!’s usual celebrity fare or cheesy reality shows, such as “The Bachelorette.”

“Lisa is an Ivy League-educated, nice Jewish girl from Dallas, who happens to be in the public eye,'” producer Daniel Laikind told the Sacramento Bee.

“She is Everywoman with a lot more exposure,” the New York Post said in one of the show’s early reviews (those perused by The Journal have been positive).

“Single” captures the contrast between Loeb’s perky, retro ’60s look and her melancholy lyrics; her pop-diva image and her passion for Judaism.

In one scene, she breezily rifles through the funky short skirts in her closet to find a modest outfit to visit Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the popular but controversial author of “Kosher Sex” and “Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments.” At his Shabbat dinner table, she appreciates his probing questions but is taken aback when a guest appears shocked upon learning her age.

In another sequence, she joyfully prepares a High Holiday kugel with her mother, then cries about becoming the kind of “older single person” she once pitied. When mom gushes about a wedding party on the street, Loeb wryly asks, “Is this a setup — a Jewish mother, a single daughter and a bride and groom?”

To become a bride herself, Loeb takes a Manhattan apartment to meet new people (“I’m like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, although in New York it’s called lox,” she quipped in the first episode this week). She repeatedly asks friends and acquaintances to fix her up, forcing a smile as one tries to impress her by croaking a karaoke version of her 1994 hit single, “Stay.” She visits Victoria’s Secret when her sister insists she must “wear things guys can imagine tearing off of you” — and lifts her blouse to reveal a sequined bra in the fitting room.

Loeb’s father, Peter, a Dallas gastroenterologist, told The Journal that he was initially anxious about that scene and the show in general. “But I know how well Lisa handles unusual situations,” he said. “She’s very mature, and she can defuse difficult and almost embarrassing situations in a very positive way.”

He says he would like to see his daughter married, preferably to someone Jewish due to child-rearing issues. But he acknowledges she “just hasn’t had time to find the right guy.”

Boteach agrees, urging Loeb to curb her madcap schedule when she visits him on the show.

“He says you have to experience being lonely so you can be open to meeting somebody new,” the musician recalls.

Loeb isn’t lonely because she frequently tours, has tons of friends, and just released a retrospective album, “The Very Best of Lisa Loeb” (Geffen/UME) on Jan. 24. In fact, as she speaks to an interviewer, a tailor is placing pins in a black, ruffled skirt she’ll wear while promoting her new TV show. It seems “Single,” in part, is another example of her endless multitasking — husband-searching while heightening her media exposure.

That doesn’t mean Loeb isn’t serious about finding a soul mate. Growing up Reform (she made her acoustic guitar debut at Dallas’ Camp Chai), the message was “you should start focusing on marriage as soon as you graduate from college, and by the time you’re in your 30s, you should definitely have a family,” she says.

Loeb did not follow this expected path as she formed a singing duo at Brown University, burst onto the national scene with “Stay” and released her 1995 debut album, “Tails,” which went gold and made her a Generation X icon. Instead, she immersed herself in back-to-back, six-year relationships, respectively, with a Catholic record producer, and the atheist Dweezil Zappa, son of the late subversive rocker Frank Zappa. While the non-Jewish boyfriends did not thrill her parents, they ultimately brought the agnostic Loeb back to Judaism.

“I realized throughout both relationships I was thinking about getting married and having kids and I wanted my kids to be raised Jewish,” she says.

She began consulting rabbis, avidly reading books and shul shopping around Los Angeles. Eventually she forged an identity from a stew of Jewish influences, including sentimental memories of cooking with mom; texts as diverse as Chabad treatises and Rabbi Ted Falcon’s “Judaism for Dummies”; and the Ohr HaTorah congregation. (She says she’s hesitated to introduce dates to her synagogue, however, lest they stick around after a breakup.)

Loeb was even more reluctant when Laikind approached her with the idea for “Single” around 2004. She’d split with Zappa, knew little about contemporary dating and says she wasn’t remotely ready to start playing the field. She also worried the cameras would ruin her life, but she changed her mind upon realizing she could reach out to other single 30-somethings.

Of course, celebrities like Loeb encounter atypical dating woes: At a JDate party some time ago, for example, some people recognized her and “stopped treating me as a peer,” she says.

Nevertheless, she agrees when Boteach states, “What’s truly special aren’t the 10,000 people who scream your name, but the one man who knows you better than all those 10,000 fans.”

The show airs Sundays, 10 p.m., on E! Entertainment Television. For more information on her Lisa Loeb’s CD, visit www.lisaloeb.com.

 

Singles – Out of the Wilderness


Generally speaking, Ventura County is a lovely place. It has beautiful weather, decent air quality, low crime and renowned surfing spots.

It’s a nice place to look for antiques or raise a family.

It’s not so hot for Jewish singles.

I found myself moving there in 2002 for professional reasons related to my career as an editorial cartoonist.

To put it another way: There are more jobs playing pro football in the NFL than there are jobs in my field. And given that I’m lousy at football, I seized an opportunity to combine graphics and cartooning at the Ventura County Star in Ventura. I picked Camarillo as a compromise residence: close enough to commute; a tad closer to Los Angeles.

I soon learned that the heart of Ventura County — Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura — is nothing like Los Angeles, and does not really associate itself with Southern California. Local radio ads promote their locations on the “Central Coast” or in the “Tri-Counties.” Huh?

(A hint: Los Angeles is not one of the three.)

There’s no Jewish Community Center, no Judaica stores and only one sort of “real” deli, though it would never be confused with Art’s. The Jewish Journal doesn’t even distribute here.

Venturing into the local Jewish singles world, I learned … well, that there wasn’t one. No Israeli folkdance, no SpeedDating, no singles groups. Even basic aspects of dating Jews seemed challenging.

I discovered that the Conejo Grade — that long, engine-straining climb between the 23 Freeway and the Camarillo outlet mall — was more like the Berlin Wall for dating. East of it, Thousand Oaks (part of Ventura County) was still extended suburbia, still part of Los Angeles’ Jewish Federation. A few MTA buses go there, and its ZIP codes begin with “913” — almost like the Valley.

But down the hill on the other side, it’s a different story. Ventura’s Jewish Federation is tiny. The buses all seem to go to Santa Barbara; ZIP codes begin with “930,” and agricultural fields abound.

The handful of synagogues seem mostly full of soccer moms or older retirees, with almost nothing in between. But while my 30-to 50-mile treks to the Valley or Los Angeles for singles events led me to eligible women, they also led to the ultimate slam: geographic undesirability. As in: “Whoa, you’re way too far away. Sorry.”

In the play “Jewtopia” is a scene where one guy encourages his friend to expand his JDate searches beyond area codes 310 and 818 to include area code 805, eliciting a scream, “No way! I am not going to Thousand Oaks!”

I laughed, but thought, “And that’s merely the near side of Ventura County!”

My own JDate searches weren’t dissimilar. I was too far away to be worthwhile for any “818-er,” and there were few compatible “805-ers.”

A Ventura County Jewish Singles group bravely took life, but died after several months, caught between low turnout and a lack of volunteers. In this group, as well as with a small Santa Barbara one, it felt as though the same people came to every event.

But now, things have changed for me. One JDater has worked out, wonderfully, all the way to the altar. Even so, Roberta and I have just moved eastward, to Westlake Village (straddling the Ventura-L.A. County line), a move made possible by the upcoming relocation of my office.

And suddenly, a haimish world of possibilities has opened up. There’s Roxy’s Famous Deli to the west and Agoura Deli to the east. Not only is there a Gelson’s, but they actually carry The Jewish Journal, as does Whole Foods (neither of which exist on the flats of the Oxnard Plain). You can actually find Chanukah candles! They’ve heard of hamantaschen. There are homes nearby with mezuzahs. And the shlep to my family in the Valley or to my preferred shul, Makom Ohr Shalom in Encino, finally has become reasonable.

At the closing of escrow on the townhouse we’d just bought, the seller’s agent revealed a secret he’d been waiting to share, spoken in reverent tones: a new branch of Brent’s Deli will open soon … right here in Westlake Village!

Ohmigosh.

OK. I guess I’m a lousy pioneer. I failed to conquer new territory for Jewish singles. I gave up on the outer boonies — though I’m sure those climes make for lovely homes for many Jewish families.

For that matter, I’ve given up on singlehood, too.

At last, the years of wandering in the wilderness, geographically and dating-wise, are over. I’ve made it to the Promised Land. And I’m not just talking about a good pastrami on rye.

Steve Greenberg contributes editorial cartoons, art and occasional writing to The Journal. His email address is steve@greenberg-art.com.

 

Cool Songs? It’s a Miracle!


For all the nice Jewish boys looking for other nice Jewish boys, JDate.com has come to the rescue.

The popular Jewish online dating site expanded its search capabilities this month to allow gay men — and also lesbians — to seek matches. The Web site now asks people for their gender and the gender they’re searching, allowing men to search for men and women to search for women.

When his sister didn’t marry a Jewish boy, Gary Pinsky was told by his mother that he had to. Pinsky, 32, joined JDate several weeks ago, after returning to New Jersey after living in South Africa for several years. He said he thinks he can find more serious suitors on the Jewish dating site.

“I’ve gotten three responses since I’ve joined,” said Pinsky, a production stage manager. “They’ve all been very nice and seem to have a good head on their shoulders.”

That’s a big difference from other gay and lesbian dating sites, he said, where potential matches are less serious, and largely not Jewish.

“I didn’t find a lot of Jews out there,” Pinsky said.

Gail Laguna, vice president for communications at Spark Networks, JDate’s parent company, said the Web site’s revision came at the request of many Jewish singles.

With more than 600,000 active members, JDate has become one of the standards for niche online dating sites. The profiles of two Jewish congressmen have even been spotted on the site.

JDate officials say the original Web site did not intentionally exclude gay searches, but there was not a demand for it when the site was unveiled in 1997.

The new site includes other requested features, including a better system for identifying non-Jews. The site has become popular with non-Jews seeking Jews, and non-Jews now can express a willingness to convert as part of their online profiles.

But the expansion to gay searches has had the most immediate impact. In less than a month, 700 members have registered for same-sex searches, Laguna said.

She added there are no plans to market to the gay community or to include gays and lesbians in JDate’s current media campaign.

The Jewish world’s policies on gay rights and gay marriage vary wildly. Reform rabbis may perform gay unions, and the issue has been a hot topic within the Conservative movement, which unlike the Reform movement, does not permit the ordination of openly gay rabbis.

Orthodox groups oppose homosexual acts. The struggle of gay Orthodox Jews was the subject of a 2001 documentary, “Trembling Before G-d.”

Straight people will not receive profiles of gay members or vice versa. But, alas, there’s not yet a filter for screening out members of Congress.

On Dec. 13, The Leevees (www.theleevees.com) open for Barenaked Ladies at 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. For tickets, call (213) 480 3232. On Dec. 15, The Leevees play “Hanukkah Rocks!” at 8 p.m. at the Knitting Factory L.A., 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 209. $15 (21 and older only). For tickets, call (866) 468 3399. 

JDate Welcomes Gays


For all the nice Jewish boys looking for other nice Jewish boys, JDate.com has come to the rescue.

The popular Jewish online dating site expanded its search capabilities this month to allow gay men — and also lesbians — to seek matches. The Web site now asks people for their gender and the gender they’re searching, allowing men to search for men and women to search for women.

When his sister didn’t marry a Jewish boy, Gary Pinsky was told by his mother that he had to. Pinsky, 32, joined JDate several weeks ago, after returning to New Jersey after living in South Africa for several years. He said he thinks he can find more serious suitors on the Jewish dating site.

“I’ve gotten three responses since I’ve joined,” said Pinsky, a production stage manager. “They’ve all been very nice and seem to have a good head on their shoulders.”

That’s a big difference from other gay and lesbian dating sites, he said, where potential matches are less serious, and largely not Jewish.

“I didn’t find a lot of Jews out there,” Pinsky said.

Gail Laguna, vice president for communications at Spark Networks, JDate’s parent company, said the Web site’s revision came at the request of many Jewish singles.

With more than 600,000 active members, JDate has become one of the standards for niche online dating sites. The profiles of two Jewish congressmen have even been spotted on the site.

JDate officials say the original Web site did not intentionally exclude gay searches, but there was not a demand for it when the site was unveiled in 1997.

The new site includes other requested features, including a better system for identifying non-Jews. The site has become popular with non-Jews seeking Jews, and non-Jews now can express a willingness to convert as part of their online profiles.

But the expansion to gay searches has had the most immediate impact. In less than a month, 700 members have registered for same-sex searches, Laguna said.

She added there are no plans to market to the gay community or to include gays and lesbians in JDate’s current media campaign.

The Jewish world’s policies on gay rights and gay marriage vary wildly. Reform rabbis may perform gay unions, and the issue has been a hot topic within the Conservative movement, which unlike the Reform movement, does not permit the ordination of openly gay rabbis.

Orthodox groups oppose homosexual acts. The struggle of gay Orthodox Jews was the subject of a 2001 documentary, “Trembling Before G-d.”

Straight people will not receive profiles of gay members or vice versa. But, alas, there’s not yet a filter for screening out members of Congress.

JDate a Capitol Idea


A second U.S. congressman has been found using JDate. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) began using the Jewish online dating service in May under the screen name “jim2005ofDC,” The Hill newspaper reported.

A spokesman for the California congressman confirmed that he used the service.

Sherman chose not to offer much information on his profile, telling one prospective female that he did not want the entry to become a news item, which happened to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) when he used JDate last year.

Sherman, 51, is a lifelong bachelor.

 

My New Muse


A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a regular Jewish Journal singles columnist.

Curse you, JDate.

I was just getting my mojo working on writing these — although I’m better known in these pages for my “Greenberg’s View” editorial cartoons and for the occasional cover illustration. But emboldened by a few forays into writing — a few pieces for Mad magazine, a couple of scripts for “Goofy” comic books, a column for a cartooning journal, plus a couple of Op-Ed pieces for my day-job daily newspaper — I ventured into this untried realm for The Journal.

With beginner’s luck on my side, I wrote a well-received column about the “Geographic Undesirability” of being out in the boonies — in my case, western Ventura County — and the difficulties this posed for dating and socializing: “You came to this Westside event from where?!”

The piece generated numerous e-mail responses — about 30. Curiously, they were all from women who lived in various other outlying places who liked the piece and identified with the sentiments. Several of these responders even wanted to meet me, as in dating.

Hey, this writing stuff is pretty powerful!

My next column, about the stigmas attached to being in one’s upper 40s or older and never having been married, elicited a smaller response but still drew a few women interested in meeting me.

I began to plan other columns — one on the tsuris of being a short guy when women only seem to want them much taller, and one on the advantages of dating women older than 40. I suspected the latter one, in particular, might result in a swarm of single mature women e-mailing me and expressing interest.

But there was a problem: I was starting to date Roberta. Steadily, in fact.

This remarkable new power I had unearthed, finding unseen female strangers suddenly interested in me via my columns, clearly wasn’t going to fly too well with Ro. I had already assured her I was backing away from JDate, SpeedDating and other such enticements, so dabbling with a potential written-word aphrodisiac would not be looked upon favorably.

Not that Roberta was bad for other aspects of my fledgling writing career. We took some short trips together that turned into self-illustrated travel section stories at my daily newspaper.

But I could no longer aspire to get the “I saw your column!” compliments I’d received when attending Jewish singles events. Well, OK, some of the comments were more like accusations: “Hey, that wasn’t me you referred to, was it?”

But the point is, I was no longer attending those events in the first place. I was no longer in a position to meet babes. Even worse, as the new-writer’s muse learned, I wasn’t getting any new material for columns.

But did it matter? Couldn’t I still keep this gig going — relying on past experiences, a fertile imagination and wit. I thought about Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip “Cathy,” who continued scripting her main character’s single-woman’s tribulations about dieting, dressing and preparing for dates, even as the strip’s creator lived a real life that involved raising a kid and having a husband. Perhaps as long as one had lived the life, even in past tense, one could still write about it.

Maybe I could keep writing columns even after the marriage. After all, aren’t all children’s books actually written only by former children?

But I suspect that wouldn’t be, well, kosher. I can just about hear the accusations of “Fraud!” and the publication referees blowing their whistles and screaming: “Disqualified! Get off the field, rookie!”

As the months passed and Roberta and I spent more time together, I found myself ceding (with mild envy) The Jewish Journal’s singles column space to the able hands of writers like Carin Davis and Teresa Strasser.

And now it’s come to this: Roberta Rubin and I are engaged, with a wedding scheduled and imminent. And I’m happy about that. Really. Even if it means giving up on being a Steinbeck of singledom.

The best I can manage is perhaps a column or two before my waning singlehood hourglass runs out.

So, to Elite Jewish Theatre Singles, Jewish Singles Meet (or is it “Meeting Place”?) and all the other groups and venues I attended: Well, thanks for being there and hosting all those activities (even if your events never panned out for me, datewise). To the various women I dated: Thanks for the coffee meetings, and no, really, I wasn’t writing about you. It was about some other date from when I lived in another city.

And to all you other guys (and gals) who think they have something worth writing about: Hey, give it a shot. Writing can be amazing stuff.

Steve Greenberg contributes editorial cartoons and illustrations to The Jewish Journal. His e-mail is steve@greenberg-art.com. But, please, no more e-mails from eligible women.

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Beverly Hills’ ‘Starr’ Reporter


 

A redheaded reporter with an eye for fashion and a taste for adventure, Brenda Starr has chased stories around the globe for nearly 65 years, all within the confines of a comic strip.

Now, the secret is out: A real-life, three-dimensional disciple of Starr lives among us in Beverly Hills. And she’s on the coattails of a major story — movie star major.

Norma Zager, 57, has big blonde hair and hot pink fingernails. On this particular Tuesday, the 5-foot tall reporter wears a gray top with black fur cuffs and dangling, heart-shaped, silver earrings. One foot sports a fuchsia, furry slipper; the other a black cast adorned with a rhinestone broach.

The editor of the weekly Beverly Hills Courier broke her foot shopping. But that doesn’t stop her from putting out the free 40-page newspaper.

Sheets of paper taped to the left edge of the window keep sunlight from pouring in where the blinds fall short. Zager surveys her small office, cluttered with three extra desks, cardboard boxes, papers, photographs, a stuffed-animal dog and other tchotchkes, and says, “You see all the help I have here?”

“I’m a one-man dog-and-pony show,” she announces.

Zager started using a computer to lay out the newspaper only six months ago. Previously, she would print articles and cut and paste them onto larger pieces of paper.

But Zager transcended her low-tech, low-profile environment, as any superhero would. She sniffed a significant story and followed its trail.

When Erin Brockovich-Ellis, the environmental crusader who inspired the movie starring Julia Roberts, and lawyer Edward Masry came to town, Zager smelled trouble.

Brockovich and Masry were famous for helping the residents of Hinkley win a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric for contaminating the city’s groundwater.

This time, the duo were alleging that oil wells on the campus of Beverly Hills High School were emitting a carcinogen — benzene — that was causing cancer.

Major news media portrayed the activists as heroes.

“I just didn’t buy into it,” Zager said. “It’s not that I immediately assume people are lying. It’s just that I don’t always assume they’re telling the truth.”

She conducted her own investigations and found that an array of scientists rebutted the crusaders’ contentions. She concluded that the pair’s own data did not support their claims. No wonder Brockovich-Ellis and Masry refused to release their data until a judge ordered them to do so, Zager said.

She uncovered what has since been called “junk science” by Time’s Leon Jaroff; “a bogus trial-lawyer claim” by The Wall Street Journal; and a “campaign of deception” by Eric Umansky in the Columbia Journalism Review.

The lone reporter from the little-known newspaper battled celebrity and a rich law firm and won.

“Each day, I put on my Superman cape and try to do good,” she said.

The Los Angeles Press Club honored Zager as “Journalist of the Year” in June.

She continues to report on the case, since lawsuits filed by Brockovich-Ellis and Masry against oil companies and the city and school district of Beverly Hills are still pending.

Zager started out as a reporter, working for a short stint after college at a community newspaper in her hometown, Detroit. After getting married and having children, she turned to comedy. She spent 14 years as a stand-up comedian, entertaining at clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

But being a journalist was her lifelong dream.

“I always wanted to be Brenda Starr,” Zager said.

In 1999, the Jewish mother of two left the stage for the Courier. After a few years, Zager rose to editor-in-chief. She writes almost all the Courier’s articles, since the newspaper has no other reporters.

Zager talked about journalism in high-minded terms, citing the constitutional right to a free press, the responsibility of a reporter to seek truth and the trust a community places in a journalist.

When reporting on the oil wells, Zager wanted “to make sure the community had every piece of information that was available, so they could judge for themselves if it was safe or not.”

“You can’t take yourself seriously, but you have to take the profession seriously,” she said. “Remember the old adage, ‘Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.'”

Zager wished reporters would “take back the power” and worried that media conglomerates are squelching independent voices: “Community papers are the last bastions of real investigative journalism.”

Still, if Zager had her way, she would be writing for The Washington Post.

“I would feel sorry for the Congress if I get there,” she said. “I am plucky. I’m gutsy. People meet me, and they think I’m tough. I am, but I’m sensitive like every other woman.”

Like many Jewish women, Zager is searching for love and is no stranger to the world of JDate. When the telephone rang in her office, it was her date for Friday night, a suitor with a sense of humor. This man had not yet triggered her “jerk-dar,” what the reporter called her ability to detect a “bad man.”

Zager, who is divorced, is “an eternal optimist when it comes to love.”

The fashionista, who likes to make a statement (“When I’m in a New York state of mind, I’ll get into that Ivy League look, Ralph Lauren mode”), also loves to cook and is working on getting a chocolate cookbook she wrote published.

She also reads Philip Roth, because “you have to read before you can write.”

With so many books to read (and write), dishes to cook, clothes to buy and stories to chase, Zager has her hands full. She prays for the ability to handle it all: “I wake up every day and say, please God, let me multitask today.”

 

Sexual Taboos Split Persian Generations


 

Like many single Jews, Sharona Saghian met her husband on JDate, the Internet dating service aimed at Jewish singles. Although by doing so, the 28-year-old broke her community’s old, venerated matchmaking traditions.

Saghian is Persian and in her community most parents prefer to know the background of their child’s prospective mate when dating begins.

“Meeting someone through the Internet is very difficult, and most Persian families wouldn’t approve of it because it breaks with tradition,” Saghian said. “I met my husband through the Internet because I wanted to try something different.”

This change is yet another example of the widening generation gap between older and younger Persian Jews in Southern California. After 25 years of growing up in the United States, Persian Jews in their 20s and early 30s are increasingly questioning their community’s social taboos and expectations, while trying to forge their own identities.

With the majority of older Persian Jews having been raised in Iran’s socially conservative and male-dominated society, their children are now grappling with issues of dating, marriage and sex as Iranian standards come into conflict with American expectations.

“Although we have been in the United States for over 20 years, we still haven’t acclimated into American society,” said Sharon Taftian, 22. “The biggest problem is that our parents do not fully understand the culture their kids are growing up in.”

Taftian was one of about 100 young professional Persian Jews who participated in an open discussion at the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana last month. The event was just one of many recent efforts by a few in the local Persian community to enable young Jews to voice their concerns, frustrations and fears about their social difficulties without being rejected by their elders.

“Our younger generation does not have a venue to talk to each other; they are still unable to talk in public, especially when their parents are present,” said Dariush Fakheri, co-founder of Eretz-SIAMAK. “We wanted to offer them an opportunity that they are not used to having at home or with older people.”

Many young Persian Jews say premarital sex is one taboo not discussed. A double standard in the community still strongly disapproves of young women having sex before marriage but looks the other way when it comes to young men who do.

“I think our parents came from a different environment, where they were not sexually free, and they have a hard time accepting the way of life here,” said Liane Kattan, 27, of Los Angeles.

Dr. Shawn Omrani, an Iranian Jewish psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, said that young Jewish women in Iran were married in their late teens, so maintaining virginity until marriage didn’t hold the same stigma that it does in today’s American culture.

“In Iran, virginity for a woman was a virtue, and she remained that way for a few years until getting married at a young age,” Omrani said. “Here, the average age of marriage is much higher for a woman, because they want to grow, get an education and experience life. So it may be unrealistic to expect them to remain virgins for many years before getting married.”

Many Persian parents may have difficulty discussing issues of sex with their children, Omrani said, because in the past in Iran, even though some extended families lived together and knew of couples having sex, their society prohibited them from discussing sex openly.

A number of young Persian Jewish women said a few of their Persian female friends who have been sexually active before marriage have chosen to have gynecological surgeries in order to create the effect of them being virgins, because of the pressure their community has placed on them to keep their virginity.

This is not a new trend. Omrani says that in the past, sexually active women had this procedure done before getting married.

Several young Persian Jews said they were frustrated with their relatives getting involved with their decisions to find a spouse and pressuring them to get married at a younger age.

“Whether you like it or not, whatever you do when you’re younger comes back to haunt you, because people in the community remember if you had a boyfriend and bring that up when you’re looking to get married,” Saghian said.

Other young Persian Jews say their friends sometimes have trouble marrying other Persian Jews since individuals in the community have preconceived notions of their family’s background.

“Everyone knows everyone in the community,” said Robert Kavian, 35, of Brentwood. “They base their notions of you on your family’s reputation and name, so it can be beneficial or negative.”

A large number of young Persian Jews contacted for this story declined to give their names or discuss taboo topics. They feared being ostracized or being the subject of rumors by older individuals in the community.

“The biggest problem in the community is that there’s a lot of gossip, with people making up things about you that aren’t true, just because they don’t like the way you are or think,” said Nora Tavili, 24.

Social science experts within the Persian Jewish community said the fear among young Persian Jews to voice their opposition to their community’s taboos is not unique since change is not welcomed in many tight-knit cultures. They say individuals seeking changes are often attacked.

“Not too many people have the guts to stand up and talk about these issues,” Omrani said. “This is something that the younger generation in our community needs to work on. If anyone can change the trend in our community, it’s the younger people, because they can’t depend on their parents to do it since their parents are too set in their ways.”

Omrani says younger Persian Jews can overcome many of their societal difficulties through greater education and communication with their parents about their societal problems.

“I think the younger generation should not dismiss their parents’ experience, because experience itself is very valuable,” he said. “For example, young people should learn that making love is the highest level of emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy, and it has to be shared with someone very special, otherwise sex is just a simple physical release.”

Parents in the Persian Jewish community must also educate themselves about their children, their new society and hold onto their good values, but also have the flexibility to let go of some of their older traditions that are not constructive, Omrani said.

He said many of the taboos young Persian Jews face today may dissipate in the future as the community is more exposed to the American culture and psychology.

 

The Mickey Rule


My brother Mickey works with teens and adults as a mental health counselor. Mickey began his counseling career while he was a teenager. Like many talented people who begin their careers with a significant bang, he gave me advice on teenage dating that was so profound, so far-reaching, that only in my 40s, as a divorced man, did I realize its importance.

Had I diligently followed what I call, "The Mickey Rule," my life and certainly my postdivorce dating would have taken a different path. When I was in my tender teen years, Mickey said, "Do you want to be happy? Then don’t sleep with anyone crazier than you."

For those separated or newly divorced, truer words were never spoken. For many of my friends, and even me, the crazy time of divorce attracts those equally crazy or worse.

There seems to be an unwritten rule that states: "If you are going through a convulsive experience, you ought to be open to those with equally or more compelling issues." Whatever happened to: "Put your own mask on first, then, tighten the straps before you try to assist others"?

Still, way too many of us violate the Mickey Rule. Following my separation, I began dating someone who initially met four criteria her predecessor lacked, and so happy was I at getting those four met, I forgot about the other 20 criteria that also mattered. 1) She was an out-of-stater, and only in my world on my per-incident invitation. 2) She had a quality I so admire in a woman: a lot of interest in me. 3) She possessed an attitude toward sexuality I had previously only seen on Animal Planet. 4) She was cute. I mean really cute.

What I didn’t initially realize was that she was also certifiably nuts. Not eccentric, not wacky. I’m talking her own, personal DSM-IV classification. She probably thought "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" was a documentary.

Her out-of-town status gave her time to straighten up for my short visits. Her profound interest in me masked a pathological unwillingness to attend to her own needs. Her libido, well, that would later prove to not be worth the cost of entry. If she had been local, her tenure in my life would have lasted about as long as your average JDate drive-by coffee meeting. But she lasted longer. In fact, the break up took longer than the actual relationship. I was low-hanging fruit in this experience, but I was a volunteer in the orchard.

Why do we go for insane people?

There are many answers, and in the name of service, let me offer some tips. First a disclaimer: I have been divorced for almost nine years. Today, I am in a loving relationship with a woman who is my peer, my passion and one of my heroes. I had several postdivorce relationships (you know the score, first you get appointed, and then you get disappointed) and I enjoy a great collaborative relationship with my former spouse, whom I respect. I am a lucky man. Now, let’s return to our regular programming.

We go for crazy people because we don’t understand our criteria in a partner. I think women are generally clearer on what they are looking for than us men. Some guys like an organic approach to defining wants (e.g., "I’ll learn on the job"). Others just pick a single quality and hone in on that item. Once, following a relationship with an esthetician, I temporarily only picked JDate women with great eyebrows. I wouldn’t recommend that one as criteria. I could see it leading to the "Crazy Person’s Full Employment Act."

We attract where we are at. You see it in spades among folks searching for a financial/emotional/spiritual rescue. Instead of attracting someone to rescue them, they seem to only pull in people who also need rescuing. So, before you look at a person, look in the mirror. Ask yourself if their tsuris is drowning out your ability to deal with your own stuff. Or what is it about you that really attracts them?

We often don’t understand the risks of physical chemistry. Physical chemistry is like Botox — a little of it smoothes wrinkles and a lot of it paralyzes you. Don’t get me wrong, I admire physical beauty (hell, my partner is downright yummy) and I understand why supermodels get paid big bucks. But physical chem ain’t enough, not even here in Los Angeles. Here’s a little test to see if you are misaligned on the importance of physical beauty: Close your eyes and listen to the object of your affection talk for a minimum of two paragraphs. If their personal stock price drops while your eyes are closed, you may have a problem.

Chemistry is not correlated with human goodness. Remind yourself often that you can have great chem with some very wrong people. But remember, it’s not your job to judge your exes. That’s the responsibility of the criminal justice system.

If you think being in a relationship with a crazy person is bad, wait till you break up with them. Welcome to "bunny boiling." The key to avoiding a category-five hurricane is to do something I once failed to do: effective pre-breakup planning. Remember to remove all personal possessions from their home before the announcement. The key is denying the loon a huge number of opportunities to hijack the normal exchange of personal possessions and turn it into a series of bad Tennessee Williams dramas.

Applying the Mickey Rule. Is there hope once you embrace the Mickey Rule? Despite the mourning that we all go through after one of these experiences, most everyone winds up being loved better than they were before.

For me, it was simply a matter of becoming the person I wanted to attract. I did it a little later in life, but nevertheless, just in time.

Thanks, Mick.


Sam Shmikler is a writer living in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at sam@shmikler.com.

Superflirt


Faster than a benching rabbi. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall bachelors in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SuperFlirt.

That’s right, I’m spending three days in San Diego at Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic book convention. Before you crack a kryptonite joke or ask me to beam you up, let me say that I’m a proud Con regular. I read graphic novels. I own Wonder Woman Underoos. I’ve got a Super Shin baby tee.

Many of the women at The Con are actually here with their husbands and boyfriends. I saw Neo and Trinity holding hands at the "Courtney Crumrin" booth, Legolas and Goth Chick macking down in the "Revenge of the Sith" shirt line and Batgirl and Chewbacca sharing churros at the food cart. (Wait, that might not be Chewie, just a hairy convention dude.)

I start to crack a joke about the star-crossed lovers, when it hits me: Who am I to poke fun? At least they’re in a relationship. They get to share their big day with someone else who, well, thinks of a Carrie Fisher autograph signing as a big day. Somehow in this crazy world, two people who can speak Klingon in the bedroom actually found each other. And I think that’s beautiful.

This goes to my Disneyland theory. When I’m standing in line at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it’s undoubtedly behind two sweaty, overweight people pulling the old "hand in the other’s back pocket" move. Even if these classy folks weren’t wearing matching Waffle House tank tops, I’d know they were meant to be together. This guy with his stone-washed cutoffs is not for me, but he’s perfect for his girlfriend, who he’s been kissing since we passed the "20 minutes from here sign" 30 minutes ago. They’re beshert, and not afraid to let everyone from Fantasyland to Tom Sawyer’s Island to the guy who sells the giant turkey legs know it. My Disneyland dictum? If these two Mousketeers somehow found each other, then I’m certainly going to find someone. Somewhere out there is a match for everyone. So rather than think I’ll never meet my man, I just wonder when I’ll meet my man.

No time like the present. I cruise the convention floor searching for cool comics and cute guys. And let me say to my fellow single chicks — this is where the boys are. Forget the bars. Ditch JDate. Those social scenes have nothing on The Con. It’s a whole convention hall packed with single guys.

The ratio of men to women here is about a zillion to one. Of course the ratio of men to Spider-Men is about 10 to one. But that’s part of the fun. Men in tights. Who cares if these single guys are dressed as Hobbits and Jedis — you should see their lightsabers.

I coast The Con with an open mind. My match could be here. I can picture it now: we’ll talk publishers, exchange a little ink and paint, then — Zam! — Wonder Twin powers activate! (I’m kidding — duh — everyone knows Zan and Jayna are siblings, not a couple. And that the Wonder Twins are from the planet Exxor, not Earth.)

I’m in line for the Warner Bros. panel when a built guy with a great smile and a Mariners hat asks, "Can I join you?"

His name’s Brian. He’s from Seattle, works in video games and is checking me out. Holy cow, Batman, this is it. My Comic-Con hookup. My potential beshert. Bring on the geek love, baby. He passes me a warm, unopened package of Red Vines.

"Can you hold these for a sec? You can have one if you want."

He shares; that’s good. I start to think of all the things Brian and I will share together — our favorite restaurants, our top five movies, our last name — when he starts wildly waving his now free hands to his buddies in the corner. They sprint toward us, jump in line and give each other lame high fives. I think I hear his short friend say, "Classic line jump, dude."

Armed with my Disney theory, I don’t get discouraged. It’s not that things will never work out with someone. It’s that Brian wasn’t that someone.

So look out beshert, there’s a new flirt in town.

Will Carin meet her mate at Comic-Con? Will she take to wearing a cape? Stay tuned for her next column. Same Jew time, same Jew paper.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Test-a-Jew


Back in high school, I had a crush on a Protestant girl, Joan Reid. She told me that her mother encouraged her to date — and even marry — Jewish guys because: a) They’re smarter and work harder; b) They make great fathers; c) They don’t get drunk and beat you. I told Joan her mom was absolutely correct, and then spent the rest of the year attempting to leverage that information into getting Joan’s bra off. But I digress.

The fact of the matter is, Jewish men are in demand, not just among Jewish women, but among non-Jewish women, as well. Similarly, there are non-Jewish men who have a thing for Jewish women. All well and good. The problem is that some of these gentiles are signing up on Jewish singles sites like JDate and raiding our people. They’re going Hebrew fishing.

Oh, sure, some of these "pretenders to the faith" will admit up front that they’re not Jewish, but many will not. It’s false advertising. Bait-and-switch. They’ll get a Jewish man or woman to fall in love with them, and only then reveal their dark secret. Shame! But, assuming this matters to you, what can be done about this treachery? Nothing. How can one determine if said potential romantic partner is, in fact, a Jew? One can’t. That is, one couldn’t — until now.

Fellow Jewish singles, no longer will a non-Jew take advantage of your good will and trusting nature. No longer will non-Jews toy with your affections. No longer will you give yourself, body and soul, to a, for want of a better word, Lutheran, only to find out that he or she grew up in a household in which the only time "Jew" was even mentioned was in conjunction with the terms "devil horns," "owning show business" and "killing our Lord."

Yes, our days and nights of uncertainty and betrayal are over. For, as a public service to my faith, I have created a fool-proof means of determining whether your potential life partner is one of the Chosen People. Now, admittedly, I am still perfecting and fine-tuning my Test-a-Jew creation. But, just to get you started, here is a brief sampling. Feel free to try them on your dates. But I beg you, if they answer incorrectly, can’t answer correctly immediately or get a glazed look in their eyes, run!

Test-a-Jew Sample Questions

1) Abba is:

a. The secret code word for getting into the hottest bar mitzvah parties.

b. A Swedish band famous for cheesy music that’s still popular, God knows why.

c. The Hebrew word for "father."

2) Mezuzah is:

a. The personal form of "Youzuzah."

b. A small parchment scroll written by a scribe and affixed to the doorpost, containing the first two paragraphs of the Shema.

c. The sound made in the throat when ingesting a matzah ball that’s too dry.

3) "Gut Shabbos" is an expression meaning:

a. Good Sabbath.

b. Shabby Guts.

c. We still own show business — pass it on.

4) Which of the following sentences uses the word shpilkes properly?

a. Did you shave your shpilkes today?

b. I had shpilkes before my big job interview.

c. Would you prefer some of the chocolate or the coconut shpilkes?

5) Which of these best describes Haman?

a. The villain of the story of Purim.

b. The last name of the one Orthodox Jew who plays professional hockey.

c. The menu term immediately preceding "cheese sandwich."

6) Kashrut is:

a. The condition immediately preceding bankruptcy.

b. Jewish dietary laws.

c. His real last name before he became "Neil Diamond."

I think you’ll agree with me that a test like this will do much to weed out the Jew-pretenders. If this situation is left unchecked, trust me, one day you’ll wake up to find your kids have blond hair, straight noses and think a shnorer is someone who makes a lot of noise in his sleep. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’re welcome.

Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional
stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He
can be reached at markmiller2000@comcast.net.