Hipster guide to the High Holy Days


3 ways to find High Holy Day meals

 

Ask your Jewish friends’ parents to adopt you for a couple of weeks.

Call your local synagogue and have them match you with a family.

Check out Sinai Temple’s “Break the Fast” on Yom Kippur, Oct. 4, 8-10:30 p.m. It’s $10 for guests, free for members. Registration at atidla.com.

3 places to get great local honey

Bill’s Bees is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. You can find their delicious honey made from bees fed native wildflowers at farmers markets throughout the region, including Glendale, South Pasadena, Burbank and Santa Monica.

Bennett’s Honey Farm is located in Ventura County, “home of the best sage and wildflower fields in California,” they claim. They are certified kosher and organic.

Honey Pacifica has been in the raw honey business since 1978. Pick up a jar at your local Whole Foods or at farmers markets in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica and other locations.

 

 

5 websites to help you bring in the new year

 

Jewels of Elul: Craig Taubman’s gathering of short stories and anecdotes to help us reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days.

Write for Your Life: A useful and accessible guide to writing about your spiritual practice.

My Jewish Learning: A clearinghouse of handy information about Jewish holidays, culture, beliefs, etc. Think of it as an interactive “Jewish Book of Why” —with more pictures.

Ask Moses: Get your pressing moral and spiritual questions from an Orthodox perspective answered from an Orthodox perspective by a rabbi with Chabad of California.

10Q: 10 days, 10 questions. Answer each one and next Rosh Hashanah you’ll have your answers sent back to you, so you can reflect on how much you have (or haven’t) changed.

 

 

5 books to read to get you in the mood

 

1. “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation,” by Alan Lew. A guide to self-discovery and contemplation, drawn from lessons in Judaism and Buddhism.

2. “The Book of Life,” by Stuart Nadler. In the daring first story, an arrogant businessman begins a forbidden affair during the High Holy Days.

3. “Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar,” by Alan Morinis. A highly practical set of teachings for cultivating personal growth and spiritual fulfillment in everyday life.

4. “A Climbing Journey Towards Yom Kippur: The Thirteen Attributes of the Divine,” by R. Margaret Frisch Klein. A guided journal for climbing the spiritual mountain, with questions to help guide your thinking and writing.

5. “Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal on the High Holy Days,” edited by S.Y. Agnon. Compiled by one of the greatest Hebrew writers of the 20th century, this is a one-volume compendium of meditations — from the Bible, the Talmud, midrash and the Zohar — to deepen the spiritual experience of the holiest days of the Jewish year.

 

 

5 things to know about the High Holy Days liturgy
(by Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Jason Fruithandler)

 

1. It’s long for a reason — the liturgy tries to give as many opportunities for connection as possible.

Over the course of the High Holy Days, there are special extra prayers, special extra Torah readings, and even a whole extra book of the Tanakh — Jonah — is read. The length and diversity of the liturgy is an expression of the tension between the need for communal strength and individual reality. Each of us stands before God (however you define God) with our own set of deeds and misdeeds. Each of us needs a different kind of encouragement or support to embrace our broken, imperfect selves and make a plan to try to be better. Our prayer services offer a community of people reflecting on the year, medieval piyutim (liturgical poems) on the core nature of death, uplifting music about the possibility of being better, stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs doing the best they can, and many other entry points into the themes of the High Holy Days. Each year, I try to find one access point, one theme, one idea, one song to connect to and carry with me into the coming year.

2. Most of the High Holy Days liturgy is written by poets trying to understand the themes of the holidays.

The early rabbis laid out an outline of what themes the prayer leader should touch on. There were no siddurs for the community. There were traveling professionals who had beautiful singing voices and were masters of the Hebrew language. They would take the themes of that outline and elaborate. The siddur represents a collection, made over the course of 2,000 years, of the best work of those prayer leaders. Do you have a favorite poem? Is there a scene from a movie or TV show that moves you? Add your own to create your personal siddur.

3. The sound of the shofar counts as its own prayer.

Maimonides writes that an entire prayer is in his mind each time he hears the shofar. The powerful sounds of the shofar are meant to stir our souls. The content of that private prayer is going to be different for each person, yet the strength of the prayer is amplified — for all are sharing that moment together. The contrast between the short and long blasts gives us a chance to be individuals together in community.

4. Kol Nidre was extraordinarily controversial.

The early rabbis tried for centuries to abolish or at least to adjust the Kol Nidre service. In many ways, it seems to undermine the halachic (Jewish legal) system. Kol Nidre as a service either annuls all of the vows (promises that invoke God’s name) from the previous year or the coming year. It is possible to annul vows in Jewish law, but you need a rabbinic court. During the Kol Nidre service, we make a pretend court out of three Torahs held by three individuals. There is no halachic standing for such a thing. In addition, it seems to completely alleviate the responsibility of making promises. However, every synagogue in the world has a Kol Nidre service. The people overruled the rabbis. People love the moment of Kol Nidre — not because of its legal standing, but because it transitions us into Yom Kippur. What better way to start a day of forgiveness than by facing the fact that we don’t live up to the promises we make to ourselves and others? More than that, we forgive ourselves for those failings. That forgiveness becomes the foundation of an entire day of admitting all of our shortcomings.

5. Rosh Hashanah is the more somber of the two holidays.

It is the day God is our jury and we are found guilty. Yom Kippur is the “happy fast” — God serves as our sentencing judge, and our sentence is commuted. We have another year to try again.

 

 

7 places to “just do your own thing in, like, nature

 

1. The top of Point Dume in Malibu: You won’t see whales this time of year, but you’ll see Catalina Island, the far horizon and not a lot of people.

2. Sturtevant Falls in Sierra Madre: A four-mile round-trip hike with well-maintained trails; a perfect place to escape the city.

3. The Cobb Estate in Altadena: It’s home to the Sam Merrill Trail and is referred to as the Haunted Forest, with widespread reports of spooky sightings. Also, it was owned by the Marx Brothers in the 1950s.

4. Eaton Canyon in Pasadena: Don’t go chasing waterfalls — the trail to the upper falls was closed off in August after too many hikers fell to their deaths. But you can still hike to the lower falls for a breathtaking view.

5. Griffith Park in Los Angeles: A well-trod urban oasis, but still a great place to bring visitors and get a nice view of the Hollywood sign.

6. El Matador State Beach in Malibu: Even on weekends you can find this beach, near the Ventura County line, relatively quiet. On weekdays, it’s positively peaceful. Sit down, stare at the surf, and reflect.

7. Temescal Canyon Park in Pacific Palisades: Go on a sunset hike and watch a big ball of fire drop into the ocean. Stunning views of the coastline await.

 

 

4 ways to put up a sukkah at the end of Yom Kippur

 

1. Check out Instructables.com for a guide to building a free-standing DIY sukkah out of PVC pipes. SimplifiedBuilding.com shows you how to make a more heavy-duty one out of steel pipes.

2. Sukkot.com offers wood-frame or steel-tube sukkah kits, along with wall materials, bamboo roofing, decorations, and even a lulav and etrog. SukkahDepot.com and SiegerSukkah.com also offer easy-to-assemble sukkahs, but be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars.

3. Go to a Home Depot or Loews with a budget in mind and the dimensions of your back porch or yard, and channel your inner Tim Allen.

4. Team up with some fellow Jews and build a communal sukkah. There’s no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than with a nosh among friends under the stars.

 

 

Putting the “high” in High Holy Days – 7 “medical” marijuana strains we’d like to see

 

– Dread Lox

– Maccabuzz

– Pineapple and Honey Express

– Canniblintz

– Chabud

– Andy Coughman

– Jerusalem Stoned

 

 

7 best ideas for karaoke songs for the High Holy Days

“I Ran (Shofar Away)” — A Flock of Seagulls

Pour Some Manischewitz on Me — Def Leppard

Love Sukkah — The B-52’s

Son of a Rabbi Man — Dusty Springfield

The Horah Dance — Digital Underground

The Unforgiven — Metallica

Don’t Stop Believin —  Journey

 

 

4 ways to work out with your fellow Jews

 

Om Shalom Yoga

Vintage Israeli dancing at Anisa’s School of Dance in Sherman Oaks, Sept. 27, 8:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m.

Pre-High Holy Days Yoga Unwind & Detox at Sinai Temple, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-noon.

– The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Tour de Summer Camps, Sept. 21

 

 

4 places to meet singles

 

Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 27, 10 p.m., at Whiskey Blu, 1714 N Las Palmas, Los Angeles. Including DJ Shay Silver, DJ Amit, DJ Yochai, DJ Final Cut and DJ Primitive. israeliparties.com.

Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m., at The Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. There’ll be mingling, music, dancing, appetizers and a festive party spirit.

Apple Meets Honey Young Professionals Lounge at Sinai Temple, a place for folks in their 20s and 30s to stop by during or after services at Sinai for light bites (Rosh Hashanah only) and mingling. The lounge will be open on Rosh Hashanah Day 1 (Sept. 25), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Yom Kippur (Oct. 4), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Rosh Hashanah Apple Extravaganza Party, Sept. 18, 8 p.m., at Moishe House LA,110 N. Harper Ave., Los Angeles. There’ll be delicious apple cider, apple pie, caramel apple dipping, and a discussion on what Rosh Hashanah means to young Jews.

 

 

6 best places to get round challah

 

Got Kosher?: 8914 W. Pico Blvd. (get the pretzel challah!)

Diamond Bakery: 335 N. Fairfax Ave.

Bagel Factory: 3004 S. Sepulveda Blvd. and 8986 Cadillac Ave.

Eilat Bakery: 350 N. Fairfax Ave.

Schwartz Bakery: 433 N. Fairfax Ave.

Delice Bakery: 8583 W. Pico Blvd.

 

 

How to pray if you’re not sure you believe in God

 

“Our prayers are poems! Allow them to be experienced as poetry. It is not about believing or not believing — the question is, do they move me? Do they frustrate or challenge me? If so, that is great, and then we can wonder why.”

— Rabbi Susan Goldberg

  

6 places to do tashlich

 

Creative Arts Temple, at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Sept. 26, 10 a.m.

Nashuva, at Venice Beach, Sept. 25, 5:15 p.m.

“Down to the River,” East Side Jews, at Marsh Park on the Los Angeles River, Sept. 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $40, includes food, drink and transformation.

Valley Outreach Synagogue, at Zuma Beach, Lifeguard Station 6, Sept. 25, 4 p.m.

IKAR, at Santa Monica Beach, Lifeguard Station 26. Sept. 28, 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Tashlich at the Beach, Will Rogers Beach, Sept. 28, 4-6 p.m.

 

 

Thoughts on tashlich and humility

 

“Water is a sign of humility. Our insecurities and weaknesses, which were blocking our growth, can be washed away like water and disappear. Living waters purify, and we seek purification by the mikveh of the sea.”

— Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

 

 

6 reasons to go to services

 

– Meet your bashert (soul mate).

– It’s a mitzvah!

– Make your bubbe and zayde proud.

– Practice your Hebrew reading skills.

– There’s usually free wine involved.

– Get in touch with yourself, get centered, start the New Year fresh and renewed

 

 

Where can I learn to blow a shofar?

Michael Chusid, a San Fernando Valley resident and synagogue Makom Ohr Shalom’s ba’al tekiah (shofar master blaster), offers workshops and classes and blogs about the art of blowing shofar at hearingshofar.blogspot.com.

Self-described “jazz comedian” David Zasloff also offers private lessons. Zasloff has staged shofar shows such as “Shofar-palooza,” and on Oct. 18 at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, he will perform on the shofar all the Christian songs written by Jews. davidzasloff.com.

 

 

3 places to see art and get inspired

“Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s,” at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. See the work of Jewish filmmakers such as Fritz Lang, who later immigrated to the United States and gave birth to film noir.

“Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit,” at the Getty Center. This highly influential American photographer showed how the visual language can be a tool for spiritual transformation.

“Mandala of Compassion,” at the Hammer Museum. Learn the virtue of patience from four Tibetan Buddhist monks as they handcraft a colorful sand mandala before your very eyes. And then, at the end, they’ll sweep it up, for a lesson in impermanence.

 

 

5 places to break the fast

– On the floor of your pantry, because, dear God, your blood sugar is low.

– Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, because it’s all-you-can-eat.

– Swingers Diner, in Hollywood and Santa Monica, because it’s open late, and you can wash down your lox and bagel with a milkshake.

– Art’s Deli in Studio City has a special High Holy Days menu.

– Brent’s Deli in Northridge and Westlake Village.

 

 

6 Jewish drinks to break the fast

 

Ashkenazi Jews: sweetened tea.

Greek Jews: pepitada, made with crushed melon seeds, water, sugar and rosewater.

Iraqi Jews: hariri, sweetened almond milk with cardamom.

Tunisian Jews: black tea with fresh lemon verbena leaves and sugar.

Moroccan Jews: mint tea.

Tripolitan Jews: tea with cinnamon and sugar or honey

EVENT: Hot & Holy — A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality


A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality. Whether you are single, married, have a great sex life, or want one — join the conversation as we talk about what sex means to a relationship and how it is reflected in our faith.

Moderated by Ilana Angel, panelists are Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, Sex Therapist Dr. Limor Blockman, Dating Coach David Wygant, and Hollywood Jew Danielle Berrin.  Ticket price includes admission and hors d'oeuvres.  Cash Bar. Special Valet Rate of $7.00.

Click here to buy your ticket online and secure entry. Some tickets will be available at the door. First come, first served.

My Single Peeps: Denise M.


Denise, 46, shows up at our interview dressed to the nines. The woman is put together — from her perfectly coiffed hair down to her Christian Louboutin shoes. A few years back, I was running around Manhattan with a friend and we met a group of tipsy girls on the street. My friend was trying to get one of the girls to join us for a drink, but her night was ending and she was on her way home. I jumped in: “How can I convince you to stay out with him?” She said, “Get me a pair of those red-bottoms and he can take me home.” It was a joke — but only sort of a joke. Women covet those shoes. And Denise knows how to rock a pair.

Denise looks high maintenance and she carries with her a heavy protective wall. So I assume she’s something she’s not when we start talking. But her wall quickly comes down and I realize my first assumption is wrong. She tells me she gets that a lot. “People who know me say, ‘When I first met you, I thought you’d be the biggest bitch — but you’re not.’ ” I think it’s our own intimidation, though. She’s really nice.

“I’ve spent my whole life in Los Angeles. I was a film major, but I ended up in the beauty industry, and I worked in the salon and on film sets for many years.” Denise was always interested in real estate, and for the last decade she made it her career. But, she tells me, “If I ever won the lottery, I would still do hair.” After a “great ride,” she rode out some tough years in real estate. “But it’s a busy time again. There’s an upswing.”

I ask her what she does for fun. “I love going to the beach. I like to travel. I like going on walks.” She clarifies that statement, as one date took her on a hike where there were rattlesnakes — “I like to walk on a path. I like to have fun, but I’m not a daredevil. I love being around friends. I like cooking. I love going to museums. I definitely have a passion for art — theatrical and fine arts. I come from a family of artists.”

She likes men who are warm, caring and ambitious. “But not neurotic. Because some men who are successful in their businesses are a little neurotic and can’t ever take a break from work — even if you go away or go out for the evening. A big turn-off to me is laziness. I can’t be with a lazy man. I like a man who takes care of himself. I’m into physical fitness, and I don’t want some guy to be lying on the couch drinking beer all day long. That’s just not my thing.”

Her marriage didn’t end well, but, Denise says, “I can always make lemonade out of lemons. It’s honestly the only way I function every day. I want to be loved and adored and respected. I want someone to be kind to my children, who are 5 and 8. I want to give that back. I’m not looking to be selfish. I want to love someone, adore them, cherish them. I want to cook for them, hang out, go for walks, watch movies and open up a bottle of wine. I’m looking for my best friend. Someone to share the rest of my life with. I was brought up by a stepfather who was a survivor from the Holocaust, so if I ended up meeting a man who was half as wonderful to his children as he was to my brother and me, I’d be a lucky lady, and they’d be very lucky children.” 


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

 

My Single Peeps: Ari K.


I’ve been close with Ari’s sister for years, and the oddest thing about her is that she always has a smile on her face. Married to a self-confessed pain in the ass, four kids at 30, coupled with all the other life crap that bogs everyone down … she still has that smile on her face. And smiles are catching. Like mono, we have no idea how it’s passed from person to person. Just one of those mysteries. 

Ari, 31, is built the same way. Maybe it’s the ocean air from their hometown of Long Beach. He was raised in a Chabad family. “It just never really clicked with me. I believe in God, but I don’t believe that any other man should be dictating how I live my life. Everyone says [the Torah] comes from God, but it was a man who wrote [it]; it was a man who wrote the Gemara, and how does he know how to live better than anyone else? I don’t believe it’s logical. I believe people should be good people. Living an ethical lifestyle, there’s a path to happiness and success — and hopefully heaven, if it does exist.”

I ask him how his family members reacted to him becoming unreligious. “They were very accepting of it. At first, they wanted me to be religious, but they came to realize that it wasn’t making me happy. And, of course, like any parents, they want their kids to be happy, and they realized that wasn’t the path to my happiness.” 

Ari’s bright. He works at Northrop Grumman. “I guess my official job description is program liaison for unmanned systems, which are basically unmanned airplanes. I love what I do. I also head up a lot of projects, like automation of systems, process improvements. … I want to be a material program manager. Basically oversee the acquisitions of all the materials required to build a plane.”

This is when I admit to Ari that my mind clicks off when I hear words such as “liaison” and “acquisition.” I’m typing thoughtlessly and veer him onto a subject I know much better — women.

He tells me he wants “someone who’s athletic, someone who’s thin, [and she] doesn’t have to be tall. I’m looking for someone who’s laid back, kind, caring, successful, business-oriented [and] an active woman.”

Ari rock climbs and works out at the gym daily. “I like a woman who knows what she wants. I’m looking for someone to have a good time with [and] I’m looking for a life partner. I want to have kids at some point in my life — definitely [not] right away. But it’s definitely something I can see doing in the long run.”

He also makes ceramics. I ask him if he’s good. “I’m OK. I haven’t made a masterpiece yet, but one of these days. I do it because I like it. I like the feeling of creating something with [my]  bare hands. I’m very handy.” He manages and owns a couple of investment properties and likes to do the work himself.

“What makes you difficult in a relationship?” I ask. “I think my biggest problem is I don’t like confrontation. I’m a very logical person, and I don’t put much effort into illogical, irrational confrontations. Of course, I do try to work things out, but at a certain point I’m normally the one who walks away.”

“Are you looking for a wife?” I ask. “Listen, I’m not rushing into anything. I’m not getting married just because I don’t want to be alone.” He throws on an infectious smile. “But I definitely want to be married if I find the right girl.” 


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

My Single Peeps: Sari T.


Sari and I were scheduled to meet on Yom Kippur — that is, until I realized what day it was and sent her an e-mail to reschedule. She hadn’t realized, either. You should know this is the kind of Jew you’re getting when you get Sari. You should also know what kind of Jew writes these columns. Although, that being said, Rabbi Jason Weiner of Cedars-Sinai asked me to blow the shofar for the High Holy Days, so he must see something more Jewy in me than I do. And I killed it. Well, not every blow. Somewhere in the 100 blasts it actually sounded like an animal being slaughtered. But maybe that’s a good thing. The congregants suffered … as they should.

Sari’s from Michigan but moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to dance. After busting her knee, she moved to Chicago to go to film school. She then moved back to Los Angeles, where she got her first job assisting Sam Raimi. It was a great experience for her, and it led her to where she is now — a full-time editor and closeted comedian. As she’s telling me about her career, she suddenly stops herself — “This is boring. I’m boring myself.” She laughs and snorts. She refers to my typing and says, “She snorts.” I write it down.

Sari’s got a big personality. Not grating — but big. She’s funny, affable, and I like being with her. “I always want to date a man who’s more of a man than I am, because I’m a guy’s girl, and so I have a lot of guy friends, and I have a lot of girlfriends, but I struggle with the in-between.” I tell her she also struggles with the English language. She laughs and tells me that she doesn’t want me to write down verbatim what she’s saying — “I just want you to write what you take away from this.” 

I love that I’ve known her for 15 minutes and she’s like an old friend I can make fun of. She pokes fun at herself but knows her strengths. She’s a tomboy who swims, snowboards and was a competitive water skier in college. “I grew up on a lake. I can change the oil on a boat. I can change my flat tire.” 

But, at 31, she also knows her weaknesses. “I lack self-confidence. I have a complex with approval. I care way too much what other people think.” 

She also has a problem with follow-through — “Life gets too intimidating, and it’s just easier to do what doesn’t take a lot of effort.”

Sari shows me a picture of what she’s typically attracted to. It’s a picture of a guy on Facebook she doesn’t even know — a friend of a friend. He’s white — nothing offensive, nothing interesting. I don’t get it. She says, “There’s a certain swagger that Irishmen have. I want, like, a cool, swaggery, funny —” I stop her and say, “The Irish aren’t generally known as a funny people. And if they are funny, they don’t have swagger. Conan O’Brien’s funny, but you lose all the swagger.” She says, “No, Conan has swag. Fallon has swag, too. I just want someone to geek out with … but that is athletic.” She cracks up — “This is not going well. I like the idea of dating a Jew, but when I think of a Jew, I think of a nebbishy dork.” I try to sell her on all the cool Jews in the world, but she says, “I just think of the JDate Jews.” She shudders. And she’s right. Forget JDate. That’s why there’s My Single Peeps.


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

 

My Single Peeps: Reuven F.


A friend of mine told Reuven to contact me. I was told he was a 31-year-old Orthodox Jew who runs Elite Cuisine, a kosher restaurant, with his family. To be frank, I expected someone a little dorky. But he’s not. Reuven’s more reminiscent of Jax from “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s blond, has a bit of a scruffy beard, and has the confidence of a guy who knows he can beat you in a fight. His daily ride is a 1951 Chevy, but there’s no AC so he pulls up in an old convertible — the kind that takes up half the block. 

He said he was “born and raised here in L.A. The whole Yavneh, YULA circuit, so to speak. My family back in Europe was very religious. Here we just consider ourselves Modern Orthodox. Both my parents are immigrants, so that adds to the mix. My mother’s from Ukraine. My father’s from Slovakia.”

Reuven rides a motorcycle and fixes up old cars with his father. His favorite is a 1972 Grand Prix. “It’s black and loud, and the girls are usually in shock because most Jewish guys don’t drive old cars. It’s different. When I was young I always thought different was good, but as I get older I realize different isn’t necessarily better — it’s just different.”

I’m leading most of the conversation — he’s hard to pry stuff out of, and I tell him so. He says, “I work best off others’ enthusiasm,” and I wonder if he just took a jab at me. But I don’t think he meant it that way. Comically, I realize how hard I’m trying to get him to open up to me. To like me. To laugh at one of my jokes. What the hell is wrong with me, I wonder.

“Are you tough?” I ask. Am I trying to get in a fight? He laughs. That’s right — I get him to laugh. I reword it — “Did you get into a lot of fights growing up?” He says, “Never. Whenever someone bumps into me, they say, ‘Sorry.’ ” He tells me about a smaller friend of his, who when he gets bumped into, “They give him an extra shove.” “That was me!” I exclaim, a little too loudly. It turns out I have Reuven pegged completely wrong. “We’re not the Joneses or the Cohens down the block,” he explains. My dad’s like a European cowboy.” They ride horses and started a kosher beef jerky business — kosherbeefjerky.com. 

After high school, Reuven “went to Israel for a year for yeshiva — a good Jewish boy. I had a great time.” He graduated from UCLA with a history degree. “I had a few jobs here and there, but nothing that was my speed, and I slowly started working for Elite Cuisine.” It’s hard work — they’re open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., so he doesn’t get much time to go out with friends or to meet women. “I never appreciated Shabbos more than the first [Friday after work]. It’s the first time I said, ‘Thank God it’s Friday. Thank God it’s Shabbos. No phones, nothing … just reset.’ ”

Reuven wants to get married and have kids. “I didn’t think I’d be 31 and single. I’m not that guy looking for a 10. Some guys just want a face. I want someone to talk to — a best friend, you know? I’m looking for someone to excite me, someone to make me smile … now I’m getting corny.” He’s comfortable now — and he keeps talking. “I’m looking for a good person. Sense of humor is a must.” He’s easygoing and wants the same in a woman. “I’m looking for the whole package — family, white picket fence, red door, dog. I have two dogs. I’m a dog person.”


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.

 

My Single Peeps: Lynn R.


Lynn has been a widow since 1996 and is doing her best to fall in love again. But she’s finding the world of online dating difficult to navigate. On one date, she told me, “I found out the guy was a bookie.” He was in a bad mood because he had just lost $8,000. “There was one guy on the phone — every time we talked with each other, it was fun and great. Then we got together, and he was way overweight. I mean way overweight — which wasn’t disclosed in the profile. There was absolutely no chemistry — nothing. You can’t let yourself be seduced by the voice, because the pictures they put up aren’t representative of who they really are. That’s online dating.”

Lynn’s originally from Los Angeles. “I grew up in the Valley. I was a Valley Girl before the term was created. The last several years, I’ve been writing screenplays, which doesn’t differentiate me much from the other people out here. But I did have a short film made, and one of my screenplays is in the hands of a London producer who’s trying to find a director for my script. So that’s hopeful. That’s what I spend a lot of time doing.”

“I started out as a secretary, but I hated it. I took a Greyhound bus around the Western states when I was about 22 and wound up in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I thought this could really be fun working here in the winter. So I tried to get a job as a maid, which I would have failed at miserably — my parents had a cleaning girl.

“At the last stop before the bus came, there was a coffee shop, and I heard a piano player next door — and he was so bad that I thought I could do better than that. I used to play as a kid. If she had asked me to audition, I couldn’t have done it. But she didn’t.”

Lynn made a deal that she’d work at another bar they were opening if they would send her the train fare. “I went back to my old piano teacher, and I took three lessons a day and practiced 16 hours a day for two weeks and took my first job.  I got fired a week later.”

But that led to a job at another bar and, soon, a singing and piano career.

[For other Single Peeps, visit jewishjournal.com/my_single_peeps]

Although Lynn, who’s in her early 60s, is officially retired, she puts in two to four hours a day on her writing. “I hate the word retired. You see it on profiles and wonder what they’re doing with their lives. I like being productive, and I like for other people to be productive. If he is retired, at least he wants to do other things, like travel. [I want] a man with a good heart, a good mind and financially stable. I don’t mind dating men who are younger than me. It just depends on the man. He could be older and could be a terrific guy.”

I ask Lynn what she likes to do with her free time. “I like to go to movies, I like to read, and I love to swim. I love to travel. My last major trip was to Africa on a safari. [It was] the most amazing trip of my life, seeing the animals in person. I traveled with a girlfriend. Another favorite place I went to is Bora Bora. I went there with my [late] husband.”

“How’s single life?” I ask. “It’s fine. You know, I certainly adapted to it. But I think life is better when you share it. I do.”


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.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: May 12-18, 2012


SAT | MAY 12

“OVERLOOKED SUSPECT”
What if O.J. Simpson didn’t do it? The Journal invites you to the L.A. premiere of a documentary that examines that very question. Explore the evidence with private investigator William Dear, whose ongoing investigation into the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman comes to a conclusion that has yet to be explored. A panel discussion and Q-and-A follow, featuring Dear, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson and criminal defense attorney James Blatt. Journal president and columnist David Suissa moderates. Must be at least 17 years old to attend. Sat. 7-10 p.m. $12. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (800) 838-3006. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/245443.

TUE | MAY 15

ERIK LARSON
The master of narrative nonfiction appears in conversation with David Kipen, founder of the Boyle Heights used bookshop Libros Schmibros. They discuss Larson’s bestseller, “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin,” which follows U.S. Ambassador William Dodd, who arrives in Hitler’s Germany in 1933. Glamorous Germany soon reveals its true colors, but the State Department shows indifference to Dodd’s reports of Jewish persecution. Tue. 7:30 p.m. $20. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 300 N. Clark Drive, Beverly Hills. writersblocpresents.com.

ANDY COHEN
The out-and-proud executive at Bravo, who oversees development of shows like “Top Chef” and “The Real Housewives” franchise, discusses and signs copies of his new memoir, “Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture,” which recounts how he became the first openly gay late-night talk show host, an Emmy winner and network head. Wristbanded event. Tue. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes and Nobles at The Grove, 189 Grove Drive, Suite K 30, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. barnesandnoble.com.

WED | MAY 16

SUISSA VS. BEINART
Journal president and columnist David Suissa debates Peter Beinart, author of the controversial book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Rabbi John Rosove moderates the discussion on the lack of progress in peace talks — Beinart acknowledges acts of violence on the Palestinians’ part but faults Israeli policies; Suissa ascribes blame to the Palestinian Authority’s use of incitement against Jews. Wed. 7 p.m. Free. Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. tioh.org

“WAR ON WOMEN”
The National Council of Jewish Women holds an educational program advocating for reproductive freedom and addressing the current pushback against feminism. Actress and activist Tyne Daly (“Judging Amy”); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney Maggie Crosby; Serena Josel, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles; Linda Long, vice president of California National Organization for Women; and Kaya Masler, a USC student and political organizer, participate in a panel discussion. Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks moderates. Light refreshments served. Wed. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Free. NCJW/LA Council House, 543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. RSVP (323) 852-8503. ncjwla.org.

“HATIKVA—A HYMN IS BORN”
Israeli musicologist and pianist Astrith Baltsan’s concert reveals the surprising origins of Israel’s national anthem, which has its roots in an ancient Sephardic prayer, classical music by Mozart, Chopin and Smetana, and a Romanian immigrant folk song. Presented by Mati and the Consulate General of Israel. Cocktail reception included. Wed. 7:30 p.m. (cocktails), 8:30 p.m. (program). $50 (advance), $60 (door). Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (323) 351-7021. maticenter.org.

THU | MAY 17

“PROJECT MAH JONGG”
The new Skirball exhibition explores how a Chinese game became an American Jewish tradition, influencing fashion, style and cultural identity. Mah jongg-inspired contemporary works by Isaac Mizrahi, Bruce McCall and Maira Kalman accompany mah jongg sets and rulebooks, newspaper articles and vintage photographs. Visitors are encouraged to play at tables set up throughout the Skirball. Included with museum admission. Thu. Through Sept. 2. Noon-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday). $10 (general), $7 (seniors, students), $5 (children, 2-12), free (members, children under 2). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

DAN RATHER AND MARTY KAPLAN
The veteran “CBS Evening News” anchor discusses his new memoir, “Rather Outspoken: My Life in News,” with Journal columnist Kaplan, the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Thu. 7:30 p.m. $20. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. writersblocpresents.com.

The Jewish Journal announces iPhone/Android apps


” title=”iPhone and Android” target=”_blank”>iPhone and Android.

These new smartphone apps build on the ” title=”JewishJournal” target=”_blank”>JewishJournal is the number one downloaded Jewish news app for the iPad. The new smartphone apps offer the same cutting-edge local, national and global news updates throughout the 24-hour news cycle, along with an easy-to-navigate interactive experience.

The release of the smartphone apps makes ” title=”jewishjournal.com” target=”_blank”>jewishjournal.com, including ” title=”Rosner’s Domain” target=”_blank”>Rosner’s Domain, ” title=”Nice Jewish Doctor” target=”_blank”>Nice Jewish Doctor and webmaster@jewishjournal.com or call 213-368-1661 or visit

Settle down


When it comes to dating, even Tobey Maguire is interested in the concept of settling.

Now, I have no idea about Spidey’s love life — last I heard he was with Lois Lane, wait, no, that’s Superman, not Spider-Man, and this just in — the real Maguire is married and expecting his second child.

But I don’t want to talk about his personal life, I want to talk about his professional one.

Maguire has just signed on to develop a feature film from essayist and occasional Jewish Journal columnist Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.”

In a 5,500-word piece published in March in the Atlantic Monthly, Gottlieb, a 40-year-old single mother who chose to have a baby on her own asked a poignant question: “Is it better to be alone, or to settle?”

I’m not giving anything away by saying that Gottlieb quickly answers her own question:

“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling ‘Bravo!’ in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”

Gottlieb’s stance caused quite a brouhaha on the blogosphere (read: rantosphere), where people called her everything from “immature” to “desperate” to “tragic” to “crazy,” labeling her a narcissist, anti-feminist, crackpot journalist. She has also been told “she needs a shrink, pronto.”

Gottlieb tells me she was a bit taken aback by the harsh reaction, but said that in addition to the 700 letters of support she also received, a number of rabbis have used her piece in their sermons. (She even spoke last month at Sinai Temple.)

I’m not surprised by the rabbis’ support. Gottlieb’s message is something I’ve heard many, many times before. Since the beginning of my illustrious dating career at age 19 (for marriage purposes!), rabbis, educators, teachers and other religious married people have been telling me the same thing: Find someone with shared values, someone you respect, someone you can build a life with. A good husband, a good father, a good partner.

Nothing new here.

In traditional Jewish communities, the notion of “Hollywood Love,” of “Love at First Sight,” of a “Love of Everlasting Passion,” has long been viewed as a myth. The problem in those communities is not whether or not to believe Hollywood love myth, it’s whether to believe love and attraction should play any part at all in the choice of a mate.

That was the message I got, anyway.

When I was in my early 20s, I went to dozens of weddings (to this day, the words “bridal shower” make me break out in hives). The ceremonies were solemn and the parties leibadik (festive), and the “salmon-chicken-or-prime rib” menus were delectable, if indiscernible, but to me it seemed like something essential was lacking: love. Back then, in my world, it seemed people settled too easily. They married — young — to have a partner, to not be alone, to fit into the community, to have kids, to be part of what Gottlieb calls “a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane and often boring nonprofit business.”

If one could chart my own “why isn’t she married?” trajectory (and believe me, there are many who do) it might be the result of this kind of advice: I’ve seen too many loveless marriages hastily entered into for anything but love.

Now, of course, Gottlieb isn’t advocating marrying a man who repulses you or puts you to sleep every time he answers the question, “How was your day, dear?”

But it would seem that once you enter the slippery slope of settling, it would be hard to know when to stop. What exactly is the right thing to compromise on? If he is a nice guy, but he goes on and on at dinner parties until you hope someone will drop a plate of hot soup on his lap, is that settling?

See, the other side of the “too picky” see-saw is the “not selective enough” category. Most (married) people who watch their friends/children/congregants date are not familiar with this second category until it’s too late. For example, if a single person regales a married person about her date, saying, “he made me pick up the tab and then just hopped in a cab home!” the married friend will reply, “Well, maybe he’s just low on cash this week and got an emergency call, and you should really give him another chance.”

No, the message to Jewish singles is and always has been Gottlieb’s message: Why can’t you all just settle down?

Now that I’m in my 30s, I wonder if there is something in between musical chairs (grabbing the last man standing) and “The Notebook” (holding out for perfection).

And I suppose that is the beauty of a different kind of Judaism, one that mingles with the mainstream world — even Hollywood, believe it or not. Yes, there should be sparks and chemistry and love and happiness and laughter — together with shared values, common goals and mutual interests.

Because if I’ve learned anything from 15 years (!!!) of dating, it’s that whether you run into a marriage with someone you don’t love, or you hold out for a hero who never comes, either way, you’ll end up all alone.

Courting Forgiveness


In this season of atonement, Jews of every stripe of observance stream into temples, synagogues, shteibels and shuls to recount their wrongs. Beating their
breasts in repentance, they beg for absolution for the sins they have committed in their daily human interactions over the past year. On Yom Kippur, many wear canvas sneakers, the plainest of shoes, in a show of simplicity and humility.

As singles, trying on different slippers and hoping for a perfect fit, we have assayed to squeeze ourselves into many an improper shoe during the past year, blistering ourselves and others in the process, becoming callused as we try to move our lives forward. This battered state yields an impressively long list (and uncomfortable memories) of dating-related crimes and misdemeanors. It is only fitting that past and current singles seize this moment to take stock of the unique ways that we have wronged each other, as men, as women, as eligibles populating the same singles pool. Once and for all, let’s take the sin out of singles.

Just like the Al Chet — the prayer in the Yom Kippur liturgy wherein the individual confesses to a litany of collective sins — that inspired this original reading, this one is also written in third-person plural. We may not recall having committed each of these individual sins, but as members of the global singles community, we admit to every transgression in the New Year’s hope that the memory of this confession will make us think twice before committing future infractions.

Preliminary studies suggest that this reading is at its most potent when read responsively before or after a singles event. For maximum dramatic effect, read the first two lines in each stanza responsively, first men, then women. The third sentence should be recited by men and women together. And while we’re asking God for forgiveness, remember — it can’t hurt to beg for a vision or a bat kol (heavenly voice) that reveals the e-mail address of your beshert. Or at least a location, so you know whether you’re trying on uncomfortable shoes in the right city.

Forgive Us: A Reading for the Dating Penitent

For the sins of men against women. And for the sins of women against men. For all of these transgressions, O God of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement.

We said we’d call. We said we’d call back. We were dishonest with you and with ourselves.
We have let the ball drop. We have refused to pick up the dropped ball. We have preferred the safety of solitude to the instability of possibility.

We have rejected you for being too fat or too plain. We have rejected you for being too short or too bald. We have judged you according to external appearances and drawn assumptions from the superficial.

We have detested you for being too materialistic. We have detested you for being too superficial. We have hated you in our hearts.

We have told you that you were “like a sister” to us. We have told you that you were “a really great guy.” We have lacked the fortitude to transition friendship into romance, and consigned you to the torment of “The Friend Zone.”

We have blown you off on the street and in front of our friends. We have pretended not to see you in bars and at singles events. We have behaved poorly and inhumanely, in favor of maintaining our own comfort.
We have demanded too much, too soon. We have pressured you into emotional commitment. We have operated according to our own interests and agendas, unconcerned with your feelings or opinions.

We have eschewed dating in favor of hot wings and professional sports. We have eschewed dating in favor of Cosmos and “Sex and the City.” We have escaped into comfort zones of food, alcohol and television to avoid potential heartbreak.

We have asked for your business cards at parties, even though we had no intention of calling. We have waited by the phone for the call you had implicitly promised. We have lived in communicational deception and delusion.

We have bantered too freely, creating a perceived depth to dialogue that was meant only at face value. We have flirted without follow-up, using subtle encouragement to convey enigmatic interest. We have left you in confusion, pondering the true intentions of our fearful hearts.

We have proposed second dates we had no intention of confirming. We have accepted second dates we had no intention of attending. We have chosen a slow fadeout over honesty, denying you the dignity of a truthful closure.

Together:

For the sins of men against women. And for the sins of women against men. For the sins of dating on the Internet. And for the sins of dating in real life. For all of these transgressions, O God of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement.


Esther D. Kustanowitz is the regular singles columnist for the New York Jewish Week, where this article first appeared. You can reach her at jdatersanonymous@gmail.com.

We pledge allegiance to your shorts


Camp Pranks

There is something inherently cruel in laughter at the expense of other people (“We Salute Your Shorts,” July 13).

It’s one thing to satirize, mock or lampoon where it’s appropriate. However, pranks at summer camp often are hurtful and scary for children.

It’s disturbing to read that well-known rabbis and cantors have no regret for their actions. Do they encourage children to do the same?

I detect a profound lack of maturity, compassion and consideration when adults approve or tolerate such behavior.

We belong to a people charged with the task of uplifting the human spirit.

Pranks at summer camp, which harm the dignity or emotional health of others, are antithetical to our purpose.

J. Sand
Los Angeles

Grocery Chains

Susan Freudenheim’s editorial brought back memories (“Berries, Pizza and a Smile,” July 13).

During the 2003 grocery store strike, the behavior of management was so egregious that it alienated conservatives who wanted to hear their side of the story. They simply locked themselves up and refused to dialogue with the community. In contrast, the workers expressed themselves with tremendous passion, clarity and integrity.

Apparently, the “big three” grocery store chains, similar to other businesses, are trying to rid themselves of career employees who have families to care for and mortgages to pay. They wish to create a cheap, docile workforce of students and youngsters who are simply “passing through” on their way to other things. This should be a source of concern to all of us.

The big three grocery store chains are moribund already. They are not welcome in blue-collar neighborhoods, where they have been supplanted by ethnic markets and mom-and-pop stores offering better service and much better prices.

If the big three grocery store chains die, it won’t be because they were killed it will be because they committed suicide.

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

Sonenshein Wrong

Raphael J. Sonenshein gets it all wrong in his article, “Neocons Setting Dangerous Course to Iran,” (July 13).

He derides a laundry list of Jewish thinkers who do not embrace a pacifistic, defeatist view of America’s place on the world stage. He dismisses as lightweight thinkers Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Douglas Feith and Scooter Libby — and as a toss in, “evil incarnate” Sen. Joesph Lieberman, the whipping boy of every leftist Democrat.

But let’s be real. The idea to change the politic of the Middle East was well placed — however, a flawed execution of early success, wasted a brilliant vision by those just mentioned.

Let’s get one thing straight. The far left is no friend to Israel or to Jews in general. We are not talking about the socialist Democrats of the World War II era or those that stood with the civil rights movement in the ’60s or opposed the Vietnam War. We are talking about the pro-Third World whatever bunch who hate Israel because it is Western oriented and prosperous.

They prefer Jews who are victims, not those with tanks and a modern air force. The human rights violations and sheer mass murder by countries such as China, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba, just to mention a few, fail to stir up a fraction of the scorn and indignation directed at Israel. What I wonder makes them different?

Now, as to the outlandish notion of taking on Iran, what is the problem? If the idea of a nuclear Iran, which has sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the planet, is not troublesome to you, then Sonenshein’s averment that the threat from Islam is, to use his words, “exaggerated,” is both noteworthy and justified.

If, however, you believe that Islam in general and Iran specifically pose a threat to both the United States and Israel, then what grand plan does Sonenshein offer as an alternative? The answer is none.

Richard Binder
Pasadena

Inside Job

It saddens me to think that Jewish singles would think it takes someone else to complete them (“Marry First, Date Later,” July 6).

Would it not be better to look for a soulmate when one feels they are whole and complete within themselves?

Would they then not have more to offer a relationship, and then they could also seek someone who is also whole? I don’t believe anyone else can really complete you. That’s an inside job.

Judith O. Kollmon
Sherman Oaks

No New Arab State

Morton Klein’s rejection of Gidi Grinstein’s approach to Fatah and the Palestinians is unfortunately a continuation of the lack of open-mindedness and innovative ideas that characterizes many mainstream pro-Israel American organizations like his Zionist Organization of America (Letters, July 6).

Klein and the leaders of these organizations are partly responsible for the lack of open debate in our community. Unlike in Israel, where an overwhelming majority support a Palestinian state and frank discussion about the status of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights is encouraged, Jewish organizations have branded those who discuss these options as outside the mainstream.

It is time for a new approach from our community leaders and organizations, an approach that mirrors the openness in Israeli society to these complex issues.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus
Via e-mail

Open Discussion

Observers are right to note that Hamas’ conquest of the Gaza Strip calls into question the idea of giving the Palestinian Arabs another state (i.e. in addition to Jordan, which comprised the majority of Palestine) (“Political Shake-Up Spurs Ideas on Two-State Solution,” July 13).

The so-called ‘perfect date’


The date was going really well. The conversation was flowing. We were practically finishing each other’s sentences.

“Have you ever been to Azumi Sushi?” I asked.

He smiled, secretly, a half smile.

“What is it?” I asked him.

“I was just about to say that,” he replied.

Not that going to the same sushi restaurant meant that we were soul mates, but we had a number of issues we agreed on beyond the superficial. Religion, family, politics, even our lifestyle goals — retire early, travel much — seemed to be in sync. Clearly, the person who set us up wasn’t high on crack — he’s a Jewish boy and you’re a Jewish girl — because we had a lot more in common beyond the nature of our religion, age and geographic location.

I could tell he was excited by these things. The way he paused when I said something he agreed with, like wanting to do Friday night meals for the camaraderie, and his eyes lit up like a Vegas jackpot if I happened upon a subject we had the same feelings about.

These are the kinds of dates I hear about all the time, usually from women. The dates where (finally!) everything is simpatico and natural, almost as if you’re not on a date at all. And then he doesn’t call.

“How could he not call?” these women complain. “You don’t understand, he told me that ___________,” they say, pointing out all the intimate details the guy shared, and all witty repartee they both shared, and all the lack of awkwardness that for sure meant the date was going superbly.

“How could he not call?” they say. “I thought it was going so well.”

I can tell you why he didn’t call. I can tell you why he didn’t call, because I was just on one of those dates where everything seemed to be going perfectly, but it didn’t work out.

It didn’t work out because I wasn’t interested. I know it started even before we met. On the phone we spoke for about an hour, maybe even longer, and it was like talking to someone who was really interesting, but who I wasn’t interested in. I don’t know why.

Not that I’d given it much thought. After our conversation, I didn’t analyze it, or him. To be honest, I didn’t think about him much, and that’s because I didn’t have that heart-pounding anticipation that can, yes, come even from just talking to a faceless person on the phone. But, I reasoned, all that heart-pounding anticipation has never exactly steered me in the right direction, so perhaps apathy isn’t the wrong emotion to have before a blind date either.

But when I met him, everything became clear. He was exactly as described: An average looking guy, not freakishly short or tall, somewhat of the teddy bear type and, well, just not my type. He was one of those guys I was neither dying for nor repulsed by — he just wasn’t for me.

“Why don’t you go out with him again and give it another shot?” my friends would say, if I would ever tell them this story, which I wouldn’t because then I’d have to hear yet again how they hated their husbands for the first X months before they married them. (If you ask me, they are all too readily connected to that initial animosity, which is why, except in the first grade and in Shakespeare, love should never begin with hate.) In any case, I didn’t hate this guy, and I’d never hate him. I knew this, just as I knew I’d never like him any more than as a … friend.

By friend I didn’t mean that I never wanted to see him again either romantically or platonically, or that I wouldn’t mind inviting him to my parties and introducing him to others in my circle who were really my friends.

I knew this from the moment I saw him, but what was I supposed to do? Was I to tell him this in the beginning? Was I to allude to a long and complicated dating history so as to dissuade him from liking me? Not that everyone likes me, but when someone does, and it’s one-sided — what is the proper etiquette?

I decided to be myself. I wasn’t overly flirtatious in a way I might have once been in order to entertain or to fulfill some ego-need to be liked by all; I just answered his questions, asked a few of my own (hopefully, although maybe I didn’t manage to get in too many) the way I would when I am out with a friend.

Which is the unfortunate answer to all those people who thought they had the perfect date and never heard from the other person again and are wondering “why?”

Why? Because it might have been a perfectly nice date, but it’s not a perfect date unless the people are right for each other.

Both of them.

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.

 

So I laughed. Silly yet funny. Until the last one came true for me on JDate.

I don’t usually contact men first. No matter how brief or cheery, my message signals, “Hey, I’m interested.” And for some reason, men like to feel that they are the hunters. Or perhaps they want younger women who can still give them babies. That’s fine — but that’s not me. I’ll be 50 soon, which I’m not afraid to admit in print. Not many men seem willing to date women their own age.

But Mr. Sensitive’s ad was different. His opening line, if true, sounded good (“Wanted: romantic partner for an exciting yet sensitive man of brains, wit and integrity”), even if it was arrogant and earnest. No wit to be found, even with a magnifying glass. But if he had the goods to back it up, what’s wrong with a healthy ego? OK, he mentioned “fit” in his profile, and though I am — blood pressure’s great, doctor’s actually concerned that my cholesterol is too low, I try to exercise every day — I’m not the conventional skinny/active type.

However, his last line convinced me: “If you are funny, brave, sexy, super-smart and self-aware, what are you waiting for?”

So I responded:

“I am (or think that I am) all of the above, but it depends on your definition of ‘fit.’ Is that code for thin? Or code for “climbs Kilimanjaro without getting winded”? Neither applies to me. I’m voluptuous in the true meaning of the world — an hour-glass figure, more Jayne Mansfield than Kate Moss. I’ve climbed Chichen-Itza but I’ve never skied in my life. So take a look at my profile, maybe I’ll hear from you. If not, good luck on Jdate.”

Yes, I heard back. Mr. Sensitive wrote:

“Your profile is extremely well-written, as is your note. You are clearly very, very bright, as am I. That’s why I can’t understand why you’d be in such absolute denial of a clear reality.

You didn’t fill in your weight in your profile because you’re not happy with it. If you were, it would be there and you wouldn’t be writing all that senseless crap about Jane Mansfield, with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.

Look in the mirror, see the same thing anyone can see in your photos: You are soft, untoned, out-of-shape and, yes, fat. Then, either fix it or accept it, but don’t try to make believe you’re not. And certainly don’t try to convince others you aren’t because it makes you seem absolutely crazy.

Now go do the right thing.”

I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. His e-mail was breathtaking in its cruelty.

Of course I wanted to argue, it’s Jayne, not Jane, you idiot! No, I’m not blonde like Jayne, nor dead either. I meant only that I have curves, and I’m buxom. Jayne was actually not that busty; she had an extremely large rib cage, and she….

Oh, me? Defensive? Apparently. Jayne is beside the point, as is my body. The issue: Whatever happened to personal ad etiquette, to kindness, or at least civility? Whatever happened to the short, sweet brush-off, “Thanks for writing, but I don’t think we’d be a match”?

How can a man consider himself sensitive, a person of integrity, yet write a note like that? For all its glories, the Internet allows people to be anonymous and unaccountable. Mr. Sensitive forgets that I, too, am sensitive, and he turned personal ads into impersonal attacks. Let’s be honest. Most people on dating sites are essentially saying: “I want love. I want intimacy. I want to be wanted and need to be needed.” So why trample on someone who is fragile, open, reaching out?

Why be gratuitously mean?

I didn’t ask for a critique; I asked if he were interested in getting to know me. Mr. Sensitive basically answered, “How dare someone like you have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to even say hello to me?” Navigating dating after divorce is hard enough without being terrified of potential Mr. Sensitives lurking behind every personal ad. How does one maintain dating vulnerability, while developing a thick skin so that such attacks no longer hurt? How does one maintain the tension between cheerfulness and cynicism, between hopefulness and experience?

I don’t have the answers. But I’m still searching; I’m still on JDate. I refuse to believe that all men (or women) are like Mr. (In)Sensitive. And if you’re not interested in me, all you have to say is, “Thank you. But no.” I’ll understand.

Diane Saltzberg lives in Los Angeles, and can be reached at 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 – Soulmate Surfing


Dating can be scary. Dating in a foreign country can be petrifying.

When I arrived in Los Angeles in 2003, going on dates was the farthest thing from my mind. I came here for love — my love of the entertainment biz, but more importantly (and naively), my love for a guy.

Unfortunately, my dreams of a fairy-tale ending with my long distance-turned-local beau were dashed when our relationship went sour a few months after my arrival.

Fortuitously for me, although my life — with the same boyfriend for three years –was drastically altered, I was offered a job in show business (my career of choice at the time). I conveniently threw myself into my work but soon found that there was a void: I had no man to call my own.

My entire dating life, I had been what some relationship cynics call a serial monogamist. By the time I was 24, I had been in a relationship for nine years. Not with the same person. Actually, four different ones — with gaps between of just a day, a week, or a month.

When the oozing wound of the latest breakup began healing, I decided it was time to find someone new. But my desire to start dating again overwhelmed me with fear because I did not have the faintest idea how to meet someone.

As a Canadian living in Los Angeles, I didn’t have a network of friends to introduce me to eligible bachelors. The only people I knew were friends of my ex. And so, I reluctantly resorted to online dating.

The first challenge was to build an online profile. The Web site asked me to create a personal essay — the first tidbit that a prospective suitor would ever learn about me. But what could I possibly say that wouldn’t turn someone off?

After pondering the content of this paragraph for a couple of days and filling out the rest of the information in my personal Web page, I chose to write a short but to-the-point introduction that simply stated that I was Canadian and looking to meet someone new.

Once my photo was uploaded, my journey of online dating officially commenced. I immediately began to worry that no one would contact me.

All my concerns about online dating were for naught. After about a week, I was a pro. I realized how scrolling down the pages, looking at photos of available Jewish men, was similar to online shopping. This “shopping” experience became one of my favorite pastimes.

Online dating even gave my bruised ego a boost. I began receiving compliments about my looks and my accomplishments from potential suitors almost daily. I began to feel hopeful that I would find my Prince Charming within this brand new group of available bachelors.

I was soon going on dates three to five times a week. I met all kinds of men: short, tall, hirsute, skinny, gorgeous and not-so-hot; lawyers, doctors, students, businessmen and, of course, actors. It is Los Angeles after all.

Dating was no longer frightening. It actually became enjoyable, and I eagerly anticipated meeting cute, single, Jewish men, in the hopes that one special guy would win the coveted title of Melanie’s Boyfriend.

Cut to: Two Years Later.

I created my third “new” profile on the same online dating site.

Dating many different guys had lost its luster, and I was ready for something serious. Yet, at the same time, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel on dating altogether. I was certain I’d exhausted the pool of single men that I had once been so anxious to dive into.

One lonely evening, I was looking for a beacon, or at least a glimmer of hope that my perfect match was out there. I began perusing all the dating success stories listed on the dating Web site. I started reading at “A” and only made it through “D” before I became slightly more optimistic about my dating future. I vowed that evening that one day, I, too, would have my own story posted there.

Nevertheless, two weeks and three first dates later, I was fed up again, and declared myself too busy to date. Just one day later, I found him.

Ironically, he was an acquaintance of the long-distance ex. Someone I’d even had a small crush on for years. He had just joined my online dating service and thought he’d say hello to a familiar face. I was the first person he contacted.

Eight months later, we’re going strong. I don’t know if I can impute our connection to my proclamation of having no time to date, or if my taking the success stories to heart ignited a cosmic force that ushered him into my life.

But how and why don’t matter. The point is: I met him. And now that I’ve found happiness, I advocate online dating to anyone who will listen and play matchmaker as a hobby. I’m just trying to spread the wealth.

Wiesel Adds Sinai to Shabbat ‘Collection’


“I miss Shabbat,” Elie Wiesel told a packed audience at Sinai Temple in Westwood last Friday night.

The renowned author and Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke at Sinai’s Friday Night Live, a monthly Shabbat service combining music with mingling and prayer geared to young professionals. The evening also celebrated the congregation’s 100th anniversary.

Wiesel’s remarks stressed the importance of maintaining rituals in the Jewish faith — and Shabbat in particular.

“Shabbat transcends time,” he said.

This night it was standing-room only as Shabbat also transcended the service’s typical 25-40 age group, as well as Sinai’s seating capacity.

Having celebrated Shabbat around the world, Wiesel conveyed the novelty of Sinai’s Friday Night Live service, which invites singles to stick around for socializing.

After being welcomed by a standing ovation, Wiesel captivated the audience with anecdotes about his small hometown in Romania and with commentary about a Jew’s relationship to Shabbat.

According to Wiesel, who survived the Nazi camps in Auchwitz, “even the poorest” and even non-Jews in his town celebrated Shabbat. Quoting from “Shir Hashirim,” Wiesel emphasized the need for today’s Jews to retain the practice of setting aside a day for rest, prayer and study.

Wiesel’s output of oral and written histories, including his books “A Beggar in Jerusalem,” “The Golem,” “Dawn,” and the Nobel Prize-winning “Night,” has been relentless, as noted in the introduction by Sinai’s Rabbi David Wolpe.

Wiesel, who ultimately chose to study philosophy over music and conducting, shared stories of his Shabbat experiences and interactions with fellow singers and musicians. He claimed that words, after all, can dance much like a song.

In a time of raised awareness about genocide and recent reports, false it turns out (see page 14) about an Iranian law that would require Jews to wear yellow bands, Wiesel’s speech to Sinai’s audience, which he said represents the “symbol of Jewish survival,” seemed nothing short of inspiring, to many in the audience.

“I collect Shabbats,” he said.

This Shabbat, for many in attendance, was certainly worth collecting.

Wiesel’s speech was followed by a performance by actor-singer Theodore Bikel, additional melodious prayers and a Kiddush wherein the more than 1,500 attendees could mingle, participate in Israeli dancing and meet Wiesel — or their beshert.

 

Dating by Committee


My guy Scott and I talked every night — until last night. He flew to San Francisco to hear a friend’s band play and I never heard from him. I left a message, he left me hanging. I know. He calls me, he calls me not, is nothing new. But it’s new to me. I’m too cute to be blown off. No seriously — way too cute.

And yet, I haven’t heard from him. I’ve been dating for more than a decade. I should know what this means, but I don’t. I’m Jewish. What do I know from a silent night? So I do what any woman in my sitch would do: I pick up the phone and call — don’t say him. Please, that’d be too logical. I call my girlfriends — ‘cuz women date by committee. When faced with a new crush, a dating dilemma or a relationship 911, we dial our friends and ask for advice.

“I’m gonna be honest, you’re in trouble,” said Amanda, who’s currently juggling two men. “It’s not good. It’s gotta be another girl.”

Scott and I have been linked for awhile. He’s a great guy, an honest guy; he’d never make a behind-my-back pass at another woman. So it’s gotta be — “you,” said Ann, who often goes three dates and out. “You’re probably pressuring him, he wants some space.”

Space? He spent the night in Northern California. That’s unofficially another state.

“If he can’t handle calling you, he can’t handle dating you,” pipes in newlywed Rachel. “What happens if you two get married and have kids? Your son is sick at school, and since Scott’s closer, you call and ask him to pick Morty up. But Scott doesn’t call you back and sick little Morty’s left waiting all alone on the playground. In the rain. Is that what you want?”

I know I don’t want to name my son Morty.

Men don’t do this. Men don’t overanalyze their relationships with their buddies. They don’t compare and contrast their girl’s behavior with that of their friend’s ex. They don’t do a play-by-play analysis of their last date. They don’t discuss. But girls always move in packs. We shop together, workout together, hit the ladies room together — in fact, we do everything in groups, except the one thing men wish we did in groups.

When it comes to relationships, girls are all about group think. We poll all our friends; we share all the evidence. We dissect voicemails men leave on friends’ phones. We decode text messages guys send to friends’ cells. We decipher e-mails that our friends forward in their entirety. My girls and I break down what a guy says, why he says it and why he didn’t say more. We analyze and scrutinize and interpret and debate. We’re like the great talmudic sages poring over a single phrase of the Torah. But hotter.

“Don’t worry. He’s just having fun with his friends. He’ll call when he gets back,” my college friend Kim said. “It’s not a big deal.” She’s right. She has to be right, because I so want her to be right.

See, women don’t really call friends for advice, we call for backup. In times of crisis and indecision, we call friend after friend after friend until we find one who agrees with us, someone who tells us what we’ve already told ourselves, someone who tells us what we want to hear.

It’s like the french fry phenomenon. When girls grab lunch we’re faced with the “Sophie’s Choice” of fruit or fries with that. We all want fries, we all get fruit. But if one girl admits she’s considering fries, there’s a frenzied chorus of “If you get them, I’ll get them.” Suddenly we’re all eating fries. And Macho Nachos. And we go to town on an Awesome Blossom. Girls are always looking for friends to second our motion. Or order seconds. Or dessert. We’re not looking for opinions, we’re looking for confirmation. We want to find someone who interprets a situation the same way we do.

All I want is someone to tell me that I shouldn’t be nervous. That I’m right to believe one unreturned phone call is just that — an unreturned call. Not a bad sign … or a meltdown … or the Love Boat sinking.

But while my friends might be “dating mayvens,” the truth is: No one knows a relationship like the two people who are in it. Sometimes, we shouldn’t let our clique convince us that all is good when it’s going down fast. Or buy in when they say a good relationship’s going bad. We should listen to our gut — or in this case, the message, which Scott left while I was overanalyzing with the girls.

“Hey Carin, it’s Scott. Sorry I didn’t call last night. We were out late. I didn’t want to wake you. But my flight lands around 5. Thought maybe we’d grab Thai food together. Miss you.”

Hmm. All in favor of me meeting Scott for dinner say “aye.” All against say … actually on this one, the only vote that counts is mine.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

 

Valentine’s Day.com


“J-ated,” as in “jaded,” might be the best way to describe the ennui that has set in among many JDaters these days, singles tired of the merry-go-round of endless possibility and disappointment.

In spite of that, or because of it, new dating Web sites seem to pop up every day.

Remember that scene in the movie “Singles,” where the desperate woman asks the airline to seat her next to a single man — and she ends aside an obnoxious 10-year-old? Ostensibly that won’t happen on AirTroductions.com, which is not a Web site for mile-high clubbers (if you don’t know, I can’t explain it here). Nor is it solely for Jews. This outfit targets people who want to make business or personal connections either on the flight, at the airport, or with other travelers in the same city. If they find someone who matches your itinerary, you can pay $5 to contact that person. (It might beat hearing, “Can you take off your belt, Miss?” from the security guy….)

For more personal intervention, try the new Jretromatch.com, which uses paid matchmakers to set Jews up (that’s the retro part). The site, which launched Feb. 6, is based on the successful SawYouAtSinai.com. (Get it? All Jewish souls were originally at Mount Sinai, so it’s based on the pickup line, “Haven’t we met before? Didn’t I see you at Sinai?”) SawYouAtSinai aims for traditional and religious Jews and has a firm foothold in the Modern Orthodox market. It claims 14,000 members and 95 married success stories.

If you don’t want to leave your entire fate to the matchmaker, Jretromatch.com (and its non-Jewish counterpart, retromatch.com) also will let you peruse the database on your own. At $35.95 for a gold membership (which gets you six months plus two “free bonus months”) it’s less than JDate for the same amount of time, although with a much smaller membership (launching with 2,500 non-Orthodox culled from SawYouatSinai’s lists). Still, Jretromatch promises that matchmakers will interview all members and verify that they’re Jewish, something that JDate does not guarantee.

There are a handful of other Web sites aimed at religious and traditional Jews. The main one is Frumster.com, which skews toward the more religious of the Orthodox community (hence the word frum, which means “religious” in Yiddish), although now it has opened up to all “marriage-minded” Jews, according to Ben Rabizadeh, CEO of Frumster. The Web site claims 20,000 members and 542 couples (married or engaged) and starts at $8.95 per month, but still seems aimed most at the very religious, especially given that it requires users to specify levels of observance. You can choose between Traditional and Non-Orthodox, Modern Orthodox-Machmir, Modern Orthodox-Liberal, Yeshivish Modern, Yeshivish/Black Hat, Chasidic, Carlebachian, Shomer Mitzvot.

Other religious Web sites include UrbanTraditional.com (“putting traditional values back into Jewish dating”), Orthodate (“Your Bashert could be just a click away”) and Frumdate (“Our first priority is not simply to make a match but to help singles draw closer to Hashem and find the best within themselves”).

In addition to religiosity, there are other niches in the Jewish online dating market. Consider DarkJews.com — not a racist term, but a statement about skin tone for some Sephardic Jews — a new Web site for Syrian, Persian, Bucharian, Moroccan, Israeli, Egyptian, Yemenite, Spanish, and Turkish Jews. There’s even a category for half-Sephardic and “other,” which defies easy understanding in this context. Another category is “Come to America” where the choices are: Born, Toddler, Adolescent, Teenager, Adult or I’m Not in America.

DarkJews.com is based on the myspace.com and friendster.com models, which allows users to add their friends and their friends’ friends and is more of a social connector than a straight dating Web site. Right now it’s free, and popular among Persian Jews in California. Lumping all “dark Jews” together doesn’t work even for all dark Jews, because many of Far and Middle Eastern origin prefer to date within their own, more narrowly defined communities. Bjews.com, for example, for Bukharian Jews (from Uzbekistan and Central Asia) includes a dating site.

The most retro thing of all, though, might be to leave the computer behind. “Just let it happen naturally,” as your married friends will advise, putting aside the problem that natural meetings often mean the UPS man (or woman) delivering your Amazon.com orders and your neighbor asking you to turn your music down. Bar hopping is equally random and can lead to options with less to offer than the hardworking UPS delivery person.

If that leads you back to JDate, well, it does claim half a million members. And JDate is throwing a party at The House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard on Feb. 13.

Who knows?

 

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.

 

Letters


Focus Attention

“After reflecting for a few painful and difficult days, I feel I should address some mistatements I made (“Uncertain Time for Likud in America”, 1/13/06).” Rather than spending precious resources on the symptoms of intermarriage, I was trying to focus attention on support for Israel as a basis of instilling Jewish identity.

The Jewish lay leaders and rabbis I know wholeheartedly love and support Israel and are instilling Jewish identity in our entire diverse community. In addition, all Jews, no matter what their sexual orientation, as well as Jews by choice, are sincere and dedicated Jews and should be respected. I sincerely apologize for the comments reflecting otherwise.

Myles L. Berman
Los Angeles

Great Cover

I applaud your great cover of Jan. 6 (“L.A.’s Top 10 Menches). It does not matter to me if you call these outstanding examples “menchen” or “menches.” What I find very important is that your cover and inside story focused on people doing great things for others.

Many times I find that the covers reflect a sensational aspect more in keeping with a magazine at a market checkout stand, than a vibrant Jewish community. Keep covering positive issues. Thank you

Esther Tabak
Beverly Hills

Wow! What a great choice for your [Jan. 6] cover. The Orthodox Jewish community is grateful to you for highlighting Avi Leibovic and the extraordinary work he does. The other community lights were an inspiration, and choosing among these heroes for the cover must have been a challenge.

Nevertheless, your choice was much appreciated as the Aish Tamid program has truly established itself as a essential and effective community resource.

Rabbi Meyer H. May
Los Angeles

Orthodox Women

As Amy Klein reported, the Friday night panel of the OU convention indeed featured a robust exchange concerning the place of women within Orthodoxy (“Orthodox but Not Monolithic,” Jan. 6). Though my views on the issue were described by as being “far left,” I would imagine that many readers would find them to be quite consistent with mainstream ethical and Jewish religious thought.

These views (all of which have been translated into practice at B’nai David-Judea) are a rooted in the fundamental idea that women should be able to exercise all of the religious opportunities that the halacha provides them with.

These include the opportunity to carry, dance with and (in a women’s service) read from the Sefer Torah; to pray in a women’s section that is an exact mirror image of the men’s section; to study Talmud without restrictions or limitations; to recite Kaddish for a deceased parent, and to be chosen for any position of lay leadership for which they are qualified.

If indeed there are “far left” views, then I suppose I must humbly accept this label.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
B’nai David-Judea

I write in response to Amy Klein’s thoughtful article on “Orthodox but Not Monolithic.” While your reporter generally presented both the spirit and the substance of my remarks on the issue of women in Orthodox Jewish communal life, I was misquoted as stating that no women currently serve on the board of the Orthodox Union.

While I noted that there are currently no women officers in the Orthodox Union, I did not suggest that there aren’t any women board members. I know better than that. My wife, Vivian, is one of the most active members of the Orthodox Union’s board of governors.

David Luchins
National Vice President
Orthodox Union

Westchester’s Bright Future

While I thank The Jewish Journal for commenting on B’nai Tikvah’s commitment to the Westchester community, I have to take issue with the statement: “The expanding airport and white flight reduced the once-thriving synagogue to a skeletal congregation” (“Still Strong in Westchester,” Jan. 6).

Our congregation is tightly woven with 100-plus families. We have actually bucked the trend by increasing our membership by over 10 percent since Reb Jason joined us. Our award-winning nursery school is going strong, and our religious school boasts over 40 children. The future is very bright for this “skeletal congregation.”

Art Wexler
Westchester

Links

Thank you for your very brave and truthful article, “Too Jewish to Play Myself” (Dec. 16, 2005). Hollywood’s weak link to reality is driving Jewish and non-Jewish actresses nuts. There seems to be a general dislike of what is really female, even including female old age. So go forth and be a strong link and seek other strong links; create a new Hollywood. There are many of us on your side.

Theresa Merrin
Thousand Oaks

‘Singlehood’

Thank you. Each week when I take The Jewish Journal, I always begin by reading the back page singles section. The singles section is my corner, even when I don’t like what someone writes, it still gives me food for thought about my own experiences of “singlehood” in Los Angles. While I often relate to the experiences of the columnists, I don’t often relate to their philosophies.

How refreshing it was to read Mark Miller’s thought (“Unhappy New Year!” Jan. 6). No, I am not desperate. Yes, I am living. Dating is about feeling comfortable in our own skin, leading an active social life, which can include, but is not limited to, attending cultural events and volunteering opportunities and meeting people along the way.

So thank you for the fresh perspective. It’s nice knowing that I am not alone in how I live out my “singlehood.”

Deborah Graetz
via e-mail

Reaction to Rosove

Rabbi John Rosove in his opinion, “IRS Errs on Endorsing Candidate Charge” (Jan. 6), commits an error of omission in not sharing with your readers how most of his congregants reacted to his extraordinary erev Rosh Hashanah sermon. Yes, undoubtedly a few congregants were alarmed that his “speaking truth to power” could threaten the temple’s 501(c)(3) status.

But the vast majority in the sanctuary responded very differently. They heard his prophetic reminder that Jewish values and traditions speak to our communal responsibility for caring for “those who are in the shadow of life.” They understood it to be a call to action, and they applauded!

Marjorie B. Green
Los Angeles

Sharon’s Legacy

Rob Eshman seems bewildered by the rehabilitation of Sharon’s legacy (“Scheinerman/Sharon,” Jan. 13). He doesn’t clarify that Sharon was truly despised by the Muslims and the European, as well as the Jewish left. History has proven that Sharon was ahead of the curve: He was the first true counterrorist leader, and worst of all, he was successful.

Though Eshman considers the Lebanon incursion to be a “disaster,” he is only viewing it from the point of view of Israeli public relations. The true reality was, in fact, a disaster for the PLO, whose murderous rampages in the Lebanese civil war against Christian, as well as Muslim Shiite Arabs, and cross-border rocket attacks against northern Israel came to a crashing halt as Sharon exiled Arafat and the Palestinian leadership to Tunisia.

It is no coincidence that bin Laden has repeatedly harped on this fact in his diatribes. Ariel Sharon was more accurate in his assessment of future threats to Israel than the Western world was to the threat of Islamo-fascism. He should be credited for this in his legacy,

Richard Friedman
Los Angeles

 

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. 

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated


You know how Harry Potter has a scar emblazoned on his forehead from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Dan has a big T for Trouble on his, marking him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated.

Let me start in the middle: I go to this party at an awful place in Santa Monica, in some dark and crowded and loud basement bar, and I feel like I’ve accidentally, anachronistically stepped into a college party circa 1992 except that everyone here is old — by old I mean my age — and it’s hard to have a proper conversation.

Of course you don’t go to a bar for proper conversations — I’m not that old — but you can hardly see anybody or anything except the mosh pit of bodies swaying in 2-by-2 dancing/flirting/making-out duets. Maybe it’s just one of those nights when I feel terribly left out of everything no matter where I go. (I’ve just come from a Shabbat dinner with lots of married couples and kids — try finding an outfit that fits both these occasions.) Or maybe it’s Dan.

I met Dan a few weeks ago at an awesome party downtown. It was held on the entire floor of an industrial building on Spring Street, where a dozen or so artists were showing their work — mostly photographs and paintings but with a couple of jewelry and clothing designers interspersed. The lighting and the ceilings were low in a way that made everyone look more scintillating than they might in a retro basement bar in Santa Monica. Of course, it could have been the flutes of wine or the chocolate truffles. Or could it really have been Dan?

I wasn’t even looking to meet someone. I was actually dating someone else.

Which is why Dan and I could talk like normal people, and not single people on the make, dressed up in our best costumes and our most sparkly personalities, working furiously to obfuscate our skeletons beneath endless layers of jaunty jingles. So we talked about — what else? — relationships.

My one-two analysis: Dan has commitment-phobia, candy-store syndrome, and/or model rocket-scientist disorder. The thing is, like with milk or eggs, he can predict the exact shelf life of his relationships, but he goes for it anyway, pretending it’s real because he wants the comfort. He’s the guy that, out of the blue, when things were going perfectly well, says that things are not going well at all and disappears like he’s in the FBI Witness Protection Program. Dan is like many of my male single friends — friends I swear I’m going to dump because of the pain and torture they subject on womankind.

On that particular night, Dan’s problems didn’t bother me, because I had someone else. But then a little while later, I didn’t.

So when Dan called a few weeks later to invite me to this party in Santa Monica. I remembered his periwinkle eyes and his scruffy brown hair and the way he constantly touched my arm for punctuation. I said yes.

I finally locate him among the throngs, and we start talking. The problem is, we continue our conversation where we left off a few weeks ago: He regales me with his dating problems. How this one girl in Northern California is outdoorsy and smart but she lacks passion. How this other girl in Los Angeles is an aerobics instructor with an awesome body but not an intellectual.

“I want someone who is smart and challenging and has interests and is Jewish,” he says. “Is that too much to ask for?”

“Me!” I want to say. “Me! I’m smart, I’m Jewish, I’m passionate, I’m outdoorsy, I’m cool. What’s wrong with me?”

But I know: We’ve entered the friend zone. I’m like the fat girl in high school that boys confided in but never dated. Except that in high school I was the girl that everyone dated and didn’t confide in. So, I don’t know what to say when Dan points out the hot waitress. Okay, it’s hard to ignore her: fake boobs, butt tattoo, nimble waist that is so out of place in this dump — but am I such stuffed cabbage that I have to hear about the next entrée?

I’ve always heard stories of couples who were friends before they started dating, or people who claimed to have married “their best friend.”

But how is that possible? How can you see a person stripped of all their games, their pretensions, their public face, and still go through with it anyway?

Even in the darkness of this alcohol-drenched room, I can see Dan clearly: I’d never get anything more than an extended one-night stand that seemed like a romance. And he’s told me way too much about his technique and the endgame.

So I said my goodbyes and left Dan to go after the hot waitress. That’s what friends are for, right?

 

Watch Out Ladies, Dad’s Dating Again


Guess who has a new girlfriend? Well, besides me. And thanks in advance for your warm wishes. It’s the old man, actually. That’s right. Look out golden girls. Dad’s dating again.

Well, he was — until he met “the one.” Can you believe that? Six months and he’s off the market already. Now you can’t even get the guy on the horn. And when you do, his chick’s always beeping in on call-waiting.

“Tell her you’ll call back,” I plead.

Seniors today — always yapping on the phone.

Dad, or as I now refer to him, “Hef,” turns 80 this year. That just goes to show you how badly men want women in their lives. You think the urge would flame out at age 72? Please. 76? Hardly. The big 8-0 and still scoping out babes like Potsie on “Happy Days.”

A bit out of practice, yes, but give the guy some credit. Sure, he left the dating scene for a brief 52 years, but he returned stronger than ever. Scoured the online personals. Hung out at senior singles nights. Met and dated a number of women. My sisters started setting him up with prospects they came across.

I had thought about asking my female friends about their moms, but worried if things worked out a certain way, I could theoretically wind up as my own grandfather.

You’ve heard of the book, “He’s Just Not Into You”? Well, he’s really into this woman. It’s always “my girlfriend this” and “my girlfriend that.” Just like a teenager: No job. Obsessing over women. A really bad driver. I’m expecting the acne to start at any moment.

And get this — he’s asking me for advice! Me. The guy who once broke up with the same girl five times in seven months. I’m more confused than anyone.

Sure, I’ve dated a fair amount, but the over-70 age range is one even I haven’t yet ventured into. Don’t have a clue as to what those gals have on their mind. But judging from the women I do know, I’m guessing cats and jewelry wouldn’t be too far off.

Also Harry Connick Jr.

And the stories I hear. Once, he told me he met a woman who said she was 68. And guess what? That’s right — she was actually 71. Nice to see some courtship traditions last a lifetime.

Another time, I got the “why should I call her, let her call me” argument. Or “She lives too far away.” And “We don’t have anything in common.”

Now I know where I get my sunny disposition.

I’m glad he finally met someone. A nice, Jewish woman at that! She’s terrific. Pretty. Well-mannered. Early 70s. Marriage-minded, but not looking to have more children, evidently.

They’re having a great time. Even went to Disneyland the other day. The two of them flying down the Matterhorn like screaming kids. I’d suggest bumper cars, but it only promotes more bad habits behind the wheel.

Note to ABC: “The Bachelor — Senior Edition.”

Anyway, he’s happier now. That’s the great thing about finding someone — at any age. Gives you more reasons to keep going. Not that stamp collecting and watering the lawn aren’t enough. And the best part? It keeps him out of my hair.

Now I do the badgering: “How’s your girlfriend? How come I never hear from you anymore? When are you getting married? No, of course, I would never submit a story about you to a local publication read by all of your close friends and family members.”

I envy them. Seems to be a lot less pressure when you’re dating at their age. Fewer expectations and demands. They’ve been together a year and not one major fight, as far as I can tell.

Can’t wait for the bachelor party. Question: Do I hire dancers? Or their grandmothers?

I hope it lasts forever. I really don’t want to run into dad during happy hour at Hooters. At least not again.

Freelance writer Howard Leff lives in Los Angeles with one dog and two guitars. You can reach him at highway61x@gmail.com.

Mama Said…


Taking relationship advice from your Jewish mother is like heeding a shiksa friend’s advice about curly hair gel. It’s not their area.

Besides, your mom has an agenda: to get you married. Sure, she wants you to be happy. But in her mind, the two may or may not coincide. Consider the following well-meaning but misguided maternal advice:

You Can’t Love Somebody Else Until You Love Yourself. Of course you can! Granted, you may not love the person in a healthy, much less reciprocal way. But you’ll think you’re in love, and the power of a delusional mind and desperate heart are a formidable combination. Besides, love and hate are far enough apart on the scale of emotions that they come full circle and become the same thing. Your self-loathing turns into other-loving, so that the more you hate yourself, the more you love the other person. Don’t wait for self-esteem to kick in before pursuing romance. That could take years of therapy and remember, you’re not getting any younger.

If You Marry for Money, You’ll Pay the Price. Not really. Money’s good and, the fact is, no matter whom you’re with, you’re bound to be disappointed eventually. Wouldn’t you rather be disappointed and rich than disappointed and broke? Think of it this way: You can be disappointed on an estate in Malibu or disappointed in a crappy, roach-infested studio apartment in Reseda. Besides, what better way to drown your disappointment than in a shopping addiction?

You Won’t Meet Anyone by Sitting Home Alone in Front of Your Computer. Actually, I’ve never met more people more quickly than by sitting home alone in front of my computer. It’s like being at a fabulous party, but looking my best (courtesy of a JDate photo taken three years ago) and not having to deal with freeway traffic or second-hand smoke. In fact, my fondest dating encounters recently have taken place from the comfort of my Aeron chair.

Just Be Yourself. Do our mothers really expect us to get to a second date by being ourselves? Will any guy show interest in a judgmental intellectual snob who visibly rolls her eyes when her date says he doesn’t know who Thomas Friedman is? On the other hand, most guys will go ga-ga over a woman who says, “No way! Me, too!” when her date declares that “Tommy Boy” is his all-time favorite movie. So if your date thinks David Spade is an underrated genius and you think David Spade is a moron, feel free to borrow your date’s opinions. If he gushes about Aqualung, gush back for the sake of simpatico. (“Aqualung? Yeah, I love Aqualung!” — even if you’ve never heard of Aqualung.) If he says his favorite movies are “A Clockwork Orange” and “Raging Bull,” there’s no need to mention that yours are “Amelie” and “Lost in Translation.” If he says he’s a vegan who doesn’t eat junk food, stop yourself from talking about your love of Big Macs and Cold Stone chocolate sundaes. (The implication being: We both like healthy food, therefore we like each other.) It’s advisable to take on alternate personalities as we try to guess what type of person might appeal to the object of our affection. Be yourself, on the other hand, and you’ll be by yourself.

If He Can Have the Milk for Free, He Won’t Buy the Cow. Our moms clearly forgot about the sexual revolution. Nowadays, no guy will marry you just for the nooky. So if you’re going to be manipulative, choose something else to withhold. Like the truth about who you really are. Because if you give him that, he’ll probably want to trade you in for a less dysfunctional cow.

Put on Some Lipstick, Mascara and a Cute Outfit When You Go Out for Your Morning Coffee — You Never Know Who You Might Run Into. Nobody wears makeup and a matching Juicy Couture get-up when they roll out of bed on Sunday mornings unless they’re Britney Spears or the Hilton sisters. If I’m all dolled up in the Peet’s line, it doesn’t matter who I run into — guys will be running away from me.

Honest Communication Is Key. Both honesty and communication can wreck an otherwise peaceful courtship. Nothing ends a relationship faster than getting the truthful answer to “What are you thinking about, sweetie?” and having him reply, “I was thinking about what the 19-year-old college student who works at Kinko’s looks like naked.”

Act Uninterested — It’s a Turn-on. A turn-on to whom? We’ve all had our objects of infatuation act uninterested, and it didn’t make us like them more — it just made us like ourselves less.

No disrespect to our mothers, but courtship rituals have changed since they were dating. So forget all their antiquated rules. Except the one about never criticizing your boyfriend’s mother, no matter what. If he secretly hates his mother, he’ll end up hating you instead for merely broaching the subject. In fact, he’ll probably accuse you of hating his mother, and say that he can’t love anyone who hates his mother, even though in truth he loves you and hates his mother. Or else he loves his mother so much that he hates you for demanding a portion of that love. Either way, you lose.

So shut up about his mother. Because this is one area Mom knows something about.

Lori Gottlieb, a commentator for NPR, is the author of “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self.” Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com.

 

An Oleh Love Story


During my first visit to Israel when I was 24, fantasies of aliyah and Israeli women captured my imagination.

I pictured myself waking up every day to the tangerine Jerusalem sun in a narrow Nachla’ot apartment that overlooked the city.

Then I imagined falling in love with one of those loud, rosy-cheeked, Teva-sandal-and-flowing-skirt-wearing Israeli girls with wild curly hair and big dusty backpacks.

I knew I would find myself back in Jerusalem. But marrying a native Israeli, speaking only Hebrew together and building a home removed from the Western Anglo community and culture where I lived my whole life somehow seemed unrealistic.

Inherently, I knew I would end up marrying a woman with a similar worldview. But only recently, after becoming engaged to an idealistic high school English teacher named Dena Stein, do I realize how our similarities, the big ones as well as the seemingly minute ones, make all the difference.

Coincidentally, we both grew up in Pittsburgh. I lived there until I was 12, and Dena lived there until she left for college in Michigan. We both enjoyed a middle-class American suburban-type lifestyle: a four-bedroom house, two cars, a backyard lawn and cable television.

We both are the oldest of two kids, and each of us has a younger sister. Our parents are connected but secular Jews, who consider Israel important but not a potential home.

During our young adulthoods, we both pursued a more serious relationship with Judaism and, through our travels, discovered a deep love for Israel.

Last summer, Dena returned to Israel and, subsequently, met me, after finishing her first year teaching English in a Philadelphia high school. After a four-year hiatus from Israel, she had to return to ask herself a question that she could not avoid: Despite all the challenges, can I really imagine myself not living in Israel?

As we walked along the boardwalk in Jaffa, it seemed that our shared vision of building a home in the Judean Hills charged the salty air between us. It was those two points, religion and Israel, that I assumed were the magnets that drew our futures together.

But looking back on our magical summer, our complaints about the small struggles in Israeli culture — like having to push people in the bakery line to place an order — allowed us to forge an even deeper connection.

Just as important as the fact that we were looking ahead in the same direction, the fact that we stood on a common cultural foundation was an integral factor in our bonding.

One of my rabbis used to tell American guys in Israel that they should date within the Anglo community.

“There are going to be enough differences between the two of you just simply because you are a man and she is a woman. Therefore it’s best to have as much in common from the start as possible,” the rabbi would say.

Among my Anglo friends in Israel, all but one married other Anglos. Even my friend Nati, who made aliyah from South Africa with his parents when he was 12 and went through Israeli schools and the army, married Michelle from Ohio, who came to study for a year at Hebrew University and never left.

Even Nati, who identifies as Israeli and not South African, admitted that he still needed that comfortable cultural viewpoint that only another Anglo could provide.

“Coming from South Africa, there’s just a general outlook that is very different than Israel. It has to do with being more open-minded, the way you treat other people and cultural norms. You have to have that sense of familiarity in order to feel at home,” he said.

“Plus, Israelis don’t like Burger Barn as much,” Nati added, noting the affection that Anglos have for this Israeli hamburger chain.

I, too, am finding that the connection Dena and I share lies in the small details. Yes, we love to ponder the poetry of Milton as well as Israeli politics and the Torah portion of the week. But we also can console one another when we receive bad customer service at a supermarket, because we grew up expecting a certain standard.

These small similarities and cultural values ingrained in our personalities are as important as the big dreams.

Those big dreams are important, too, because they’re the visions we’ll be following after our wedding and Dena’s aliyah this summer. We also share the dream of a beautiful young woman in a flowing skirt and wild curls — but that vision is of the daughter we hope to have — one day.

Will She Marry Him?


In my last Singles column, “Change of Heart,” I left off with one important question for my girlfriend, Carrie: “Will you marry me?”

Did she say yes?

Well, let me back up a bit.

A few days before the column came out, I drove over to Carrie’s parents to ask for their blessing. Carol and Roy were watching “24” when I got there, so I waited until the commercial break — odd priorities, but I suppose it’s more riveting watching Kiefer Sutherland trying to stop the explosion of a nuclear warhead than watching me trying to stop the nervous trembling in my right leg.

Roy stood. Carol took a seat. I dove right in.

“You guys know I love Carrie very much, and I’m going to ask her to marry me. I’d like to get your blessing.”

They both seemed to gasp slightly, but then Carol gave me a hug and began repeating the phrase, “Oh my God!” Roy stiffened his body and seemed to freeze slightly. He didn’t give me a hug. Luckily, I did see some blinking. Carol teared up a little, and I answered all her rapid-fire questions about the ring, and how I was going to propose.

And then suddenly, she admonished me for coming in the middle of her favorite TV show: “You better save it on your TIVO for me.”

Roy relaxed a little, “It’s too bad you couldn’t come on a Friday, when there’s nothing on TV.”

I laughed, although I’m not sure he was joking. Carol hugged me again, and they quickly ran back to catch the last 10 minutes of their show.

The next day, Roy called me to meet him for lunch. I got a little nervous as I drove over to meet him. I get along well with Roy, but wondered what kind of warnings would he have for me before I married his daughter. Although he’s a peaceful man, I imagined him chasing me through the house, swinging his belt if ever I hurt his baby girl.

It turned out he just wanted me to know that he was happy for us. “I don’t show a lot of emotion,” he confessed. “Do you believe how Carol was acting?” he asked me, referring to her “overemotional” display of teary eyes and a hug. I nodded knowingly. I mean, this is my future father-in law. As we left, I thanked him for lunch. Then, just before getting into my car, I grabbed the guy and gave him a big, fat hug.

The morning that the column came out, I drove over to The Jewish Journal office to get a fresh copy of the newspaper. Jumping back into my car, with a new parking ticket flapping on my windshield (so maybe I don’t always read the signs), I drove over to the Farmers Market to pick up some food.

I really wanted to take Carrie on a picnic, but it was still drizzling outside. I stayed optimistic and went to Loteria, our favorite Mexican place to get two of their finest burritos (considering the cost of the ring, I contemplated buying one burrito and splitting it in half).

I picked up Carrie from work and, amazingly, as she walked out the door, the rain suddenly stopped. I quietly thanked God. We drove to a nearby park and spread out the picnic.

“Oh, before you eat, guess what?” I said nonchalantly as we sat down. “I wrote another column in The Jewish Journal,” and gave it to her. Of course, given my last columns, she didn’t know what was coming — especially with this one titled, “Change of Heart.”

She took one look at the title and said, “Uh oh.” I hovered nervously behind her, waiting to pop out the ring. As she read, she occasionally looked up to laugh or nod her approval. And then I saw her body stiffen as she got to the last line. She froze, just like her dad.

“Oh my God,” she gasped, just like her mother.

I grabbed the ring, got on one knee and asked, “Will you marry me?” She cried and answered, “Yes.”

We kissed. Two pot smokers nearby clapped. I waved back to them.

Then Carrie went through a rainbow of emotions, the likes of which I have never seen. She laughed, she argued, she protested, she cried, she smiled, she didn’t know what to do with herself.

Suddenly she stammered, “Ar … re you sure about this? We’ve been arguing lately.”

We had been arguing, but mostly because I was sneaking around trying to deal with the engagement preparations. We’ve never really had secrets before, and the months I was planning all of this were hard for me. It’s strange to not be able to discuss one of the biggest decisions of your life with the woman you love. But Carrie had always wanted to be surprised.

Carrie started to cry. “I love you so much. Of course I want to marry you,” she said.

“Then why are you crying?”

“I guess I don’t really like surprises,” she said. Speaking of which — she hadn’t even looked at the ring on her finger.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Is this real or is this cubic zirconia?”

Was she kidding me? “Cubic zirconia? I sure wish I had the option….”

Seth Menachem is an actor and writer who lives in Los Angeles.

The Love Impaired


 

You remember the famous line from “Forrest Gump”? “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.”

The other day, it suddenly hit me. I’m the anti-Forrest Gump. I am a smart man (or at least I test well) but I don’t think I know what love is at all. There is nothing I find as confusing. Programming my VCR is child’s play by comparison.

Recently, I was thinking of a former girlfriend, so I called her up. We had a great conversation, and after I got off the phone, I was really wondering, “Now why did we break up again?” And then I remembered. “Ohhhhhhhhh — yeah, that was a good reason.”

But it really got me to thinking, what is love anyway?

I bet you thought I was going to answer that question, didn’t you? Well, I can’t. That’s the point. I don’t know. I’m 37 and single. I’m a relationship moron. I’m romantically impaired. I don’t know what I’m doing — at all.

And it’s not just me. No sirree Bob. We are an entire generation of the love impaired. It seems especially bad for folks in their 30s and 40s, and even worse if you’re Jewish. I’m not quite sure why this is, but I have seen polls on the subject. In this epidemic of unmarried singles, it seems Jews have caught the bug worse than other ethnic groups.

And it extends to the observant world, too. Sure, plenty of them are married at 22 and have 18 kids by the time they’re 30, but there are also others who are having the same problems their secular brethren are having. This epidemic goes across the entire religious spectrum. Believe me, it’s not just your mom, who’s noticed. The rabbis have, too.

I went to a singles event a few weeks ago at a synagogue that illustrated this problem really well. The rabbi was asking why young people (and not-so-young people) were having such a problem getting married. He was really mystified. It seemed pretty simple to him:

You meet a girl you like and you marry her. One guy stood up and gave such a perfect answer, it seared into my memory, perhaps permanently: “Well, I meet a girl and like her and she doesn’t like me. Or a girl likes me and I don’t like her. Or we go out and it doesn’t work.”

It’s almost poetry, isn’t it? Well maybe not, but it does seem to sum up the state of things pretty well.

I wonder if we could get this problem classified as a real disability. Maybe it’s like a learning disability. After all, learning to love someone besides yourself is something that people are supposed to learn in adulthood. You can check. It’s in developmental psychology. I took a course.

If not being able to sit still and concentrate is called Attention Deficit Disorder, and not being able to read is called dyslexia, what would you call not being able to love? LDD: Love Deficit Disorder? No, that sounds like a shortage. How about the same initials but different words: Love Development Disorder. That might be it, except it probably sounds too similar to learning disabled. I don’t know.

But, before we go looking for solutions to this problem, maybe it would be worthwhile to take a look at past generations. Why was it so easy for them anyway? Maybe it was because they had matchmakers and arranged marriages. It used to be that your parents would arrange a match for you and, unless you found your intended completely repulsive, you married them. Boom. Just like that.

This brings me to my grandparents. After fighting in World War I, my grandpa, Danny, stayed in Europe to try to get his family out of Russia. Not surprisingly, however, he couldn’t even get in the country, because the Russian Revolution was going on full steam. Here’s where it gets romantic: Poor Danny, stuck in Warsaw, met my grandma, Ina, and was struck by a thunderbolt. Times being the way they were, instead of having a tempestuous affair, they were quickly married and Danny brought her back to New York.

Now, this should be where they live happily ever after, right? Wrong. After a few months, Danny must have done something pretty bad, because according to family lore, Ina got ticked off, packed up and went back to Warsaw. So how is it that I’m telling this story? Because instead of welcoming her back home with open arms and soothing words, my great-grandmother wouldn’t let her in.

“Go back to your husband. Stop behaving like a child. You’re married now!” she yelled as she slammed the door in Ina’s face (or so the family legend goes).

What does this tell us about love? I don’t know. I’m the love moron, remember? But from both these stories, it seems the emphasis was much more on keeping the family together, than on being in love. That, and once you were married, that was it. At least, that’s how it sounds.

But how does this help me, The Love Idiot? Should I call my mother, ask her to find a girl for me and marry her if she doesn’t make me puke at the first meeting? You know, I’m actually starting to consider it.

 

SWF Rabbi


It begins typically. I am sitting at the bar with some friends drinking a beer out of the bottle. I peel the soggy label off with my freshly painted nails; an odd ritual I took up back in college that has infuriated bartenders all over the world. I scope the scene out of mascaraed eyes — looking for a cute boy to flirt with. That one is too short, his friend is too stalky; the guys to their left are too young, the ones near the door are clearly focused on the silicone blonde types. I go back to my work of peeling off the label from the beer bottle and giggling with my friends.

I reach into my purse to get some lip-gloss and as I look up, I catch the glance of a man with a sweet face standing at the other end of the room. I hold the gaze for a second, offer a smile and look away. I continue to talk with the girls, and then a few minutes later, I look up again to see if he is still on my radar; he is. Another smile. He smiles back. Nice teeth, I think. Nice eyes. Definitely attractive. I look away.

This goes on for about 15 minutes. I find myself playing with my hair; a dead giveaway that I am engaged in the mating dance. I sit up straight. I check that my new shirt from Barney’s is sitting properly and that my jeans are holding my thighs in their most flattering position. I begin to wonder if he has any semblance of a brain under his well-styled hair. I start to hope that he is funny in an ironic sort of way; that he comes from a good family, that he went to a good school, that he has a stellar career. I worry that he might be narcissistic, damaged from a bad relationship, immature, or (please God, no!) cheap.

Our eyes are locking for longer periods now. The smiles are becoming more intimate. I order another beer. He starts to make his way over to me. I feel my heart beating a little faster. I try to act casual. And then he is standing in front of me. And he introduces himself and extends a soft but manly hand and I take it and we begin to converse.

It begins typically, like I said. But now things are about to get interesting. We go through the routine introductions: names, a joke or two … where we grew up, where we live now; and that’s when I know its coming: the dreaded question is well on its way. I may as well ask first. Buy myself some time. Try to figure out how I will choose to answer when it’s my turn.

“What do you do?” I ask. He’s in computer programming. Wonderful. Can’t make too much conversation out of that answer. I try my best. It lasts all of two minutes. And then it happens: he asks the same of me.

I think fast. This guy is really cute, and thus far seemingly perfect. I will take the “ease in slowly” tactic (versus the blunt and shocking method reserved for less promising suitors). The objective here is to offer ambiguous responses upon which I will only elaborate if further questioned; in this way I not only learn how interested he is, but I also give him some time to prepare for the final answer at the end of the series of queries.

“What do you do?” he asks.

I just finished grad school in New York, I say.

“In what?” he asks.

“A sort of theology program,” I say.

“Were you at NYU?”

“It’s connected with NYU,” I say.

“So, is it, like, a master’s degree?”

“Um, I got my masters a few years ago and then got another degree…. No, it’s not a Ph.D. Actually, it was kind of a program in Jewish theology.”

The questions are getting harder to dodge now.

“So, what do you do with that sort of degree?” he asks.

“I do a lot of teaching,” I say.

“Kids?”

“Yeah … and adults. And I write a lot. And I do a fair bit of counseling.”

I try to change the subject. No luck.

“Where do you work?” he asks.

This is it. I have to lay it on him now. I try to look pretty and enhance my appearance of normalcy; I look into his lovely green eyes, take a deep breath, and give it to him straight.

“I am a rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge,” I say.

And then I wait.

First there is the look of shock, but he quickly recovers. He takes a half-step back. I watch the neurons firing in his brain. “She’s a … rabbi,” he’s thinking. I can predict the conversation from this point on; please let him avoid the stupid joke at the beginning. No such luck.

“You must have shaved your beard today,” he says.

Idiot. I force up a chuckle. Here we go.

“So, you’re a rabbi? I didn’t know women could be….”

“Well, they can. … Clearly, I am a liberal Jew. … Yes, actually half of my graduating class was female.”

“So, can you get married?”

“What you mean is, can I have sex?”

He blushes. Poor guy. He’s confused. He doesn’t know where to look. It is suddenly inappropriate that he is checking out my low neckline. It is instantly incongruous that he likes my snug Diesel jeans. He tries, God bless him, to segue back into casual discussion; it lasts for seven minutes. He excuses himself, mutters something about a call he has to make and staggers away in shock.

I go back to peeling the labels off the Heineken. I take another sip of beer and turn back to my friends.

“What are you writing your sermon about for Friday?” one of them asks.

“Well,” I say, and my typical evening becomes filled with words of Torah and the faint hope that someone out there will know how to flirt with a beer-drinking, jeans-wearing, nice Jewish girl who also happens to be a rabbi.

Karen Dieth is rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge.

Enemy Ties


 

I hadn’t been to a Tel Aviv bar for a while, and I was craving one. I had recently returned from a vacation to Los Angeles, where there were no worthwhile singles bars. Last call for alcohol in Los Angeles is 2 a.m., and a good Jewish girl like me prefers to pick up and be picked up by Jewish men.

That’s why Eliezer, a new bar on Ben Yehuda Street, was a relief for me and also for my friend, Tali, who had just returned from her native Melbourne. Inhaling the smoky air and swaying to the rock music, we reveled in the dozens of masculine men around us.

“Welcome to Israel,” we proudly toasted. “Where you know the men in the bars are Jewish.”

A beer and two vodka shots later, I let my guard down and scoped the scene, looking for hot prospects. Gradually a group of short, stubby men surrounded us. I sighed. None of them had been on my radar, but, nevertheless, we all danced and laughed and flirted.

Suddenly, a man in a gray shirt and gray tie walked in. I was not particularly attracted to him, but I noticed that his tie was practically strangling him. I gestured to him to take it off. We were in a bar, not a conference room.

Tali and I continued to dance and flirt, and the man in the tie passed us by, stiff-necked. I motioned to him again to take the thing off.

Finally, we headed out to go salsa dancing, and I noticed the man in the tie had taken it off and began waving it like a flag, signaling me over.

“Congratulations,” I said. “That’s much better.”

“Where are you from?” he said in an unidentifiable accent.

“I’m from Israel, but originally from L.A.,” I said. “Where are you from?”

“I’m Palestinian.”

“Oh,” I said. “Palestinian.”

No wonder he wore a tie to a bar. Israelis just don’t do that.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“I’m very Jewish,” I said proudly.

There I was. Face to face with the enemy, in a Tel Aviv bar. I immediately recalled the Stage nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv a week earlier, and I looked for a backpack strapped to his waist, but he was strapless. I was safe, but I couldn’t help but provoke confrontation. I wasn’t about to be fake or polite or cordial just because he was Palestinian. A Tel Aviv bar, to me, did not provide sanctuary.

“You know, I’m very right wing,” I said.

I didn’t think he understood what I said or what I meant, or maybe he didn’t want a bar brawl, because he ignored my comment and instead asked me where I lived.

I almost made myself more explicit by adding: “If I were a soldier with a gun, and this were a battle line, I would shoot you. By the way, I entertain the idea of transfer.”

But I stopped myself. This was a bar, I reasoned. He wasn’t the enemy, he was a descendant of Abraham who wanted to break Islamic law and have a drink. I had to respect him for that. So I dropped the politics and told him I lived in Tel Aviv.

“Israeli women are hotter than Palestinian women, aren’t they?” I said, trying to find some common ground.

“No, no.”

“Why, do you like it when they are covered from head to toe, with those veils?”

“Well, women in Ramallah are not so hot. Yes, Israelians are hot,” he said awkwardly.

It seemed like that was the first time he used “hot” in that context.

I told him I had to go, and he presented his tie and said: “For you.”

“What?” I said. “I can’t take this.”

At first, I felt bad. It looked expensive, and don’t most Palestinians live in dire poverty?

Then I thought about the implications: I take this tie, and my hands are tied. I’d forever have to remember that one night a Palestinian gave me an expensive tie, and that he was nice to me. I’d have to question all my stereotypes and generalizations, and recognize that there are good, normal, generous Palestinians who just want peace, who just want to be my friend, who just want some fun.

I couldn’t take the tie.

But then I looked down at its elegant striped pattern. It would look smashing with a white tank and hip hugging jeans, I thought. He insisted, so I gracefully accepted.

“Thank you,” I said, smiling, and blew him a kiss.

As we sauntered out, Tali, a pro-peace activist, said, “You see, they’re not all bad. You’ll switch sides.”

“Hmm,” I said. “Maybe.”

As long as I felt good and stylish with the tie on, I couldn’t resent the fashion benefactor or his people.

I woke up the next morning, both me and the tie hungover in bed, alone.

I glared at it, frightened. Is this the first step toward my own private reconciliation with the Palestinians? If I keep it, is it a personal symbol of possible peace? Or should I just burn the thing?

Eventually, I hung it in my closet as the accessory that will forever go down in my wardrobe as “the tie the Palestinian gave me.” It’s not an enemy tie I’m ready to make, but it’s an enemy tie I’m ready to wear.

A friend told me that wearing a tie is a proven pick-up technique. It worked well for Abbas. Maybe it’ll work for me.

I’ll wear it next time I go to a bar. And when I do, I’ll use it to pick up and tie up a hot Jewish Israeli man, and I’ll have a Palestinian to thank for it.

Maybe then we could start talking about reconciliation.

Orit Arfa is a writer living in Israel.

 

+