Joan Harrison and Michael Janofsky. Photo courtesy of Michael Janofsky

From an alley to a chuppah

suppose it all began on a trip to Los Angeles with Vice President Al Gore in the summer of 1998. I was a New York Times correspondent based in the Washington bureau, and these were the days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Just in case Gore said something about President Bill Clinton’s involvement, we wanted to be there; I was assigned to be his shadow until he did.

After landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), we piled into the motorcade and headed for a home in Beverly Hills, where Gore was the guest speaker at a fundraiser for Gov. Gray Davis. Police on motorcycles cleared the way during rush hour, making the 15-mile trip a breeze. Upon arrival, Gore and his staff were ushered toward the back lawn; my journalist comrades and I were ushered to the back alley, where we could watch the event and listen to the speech but not mingle.

Now, flash forward two years.

I was in Los Angeles again, this time as part of our team covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention. At this point I had been divorced for several years, and on one particular morning my cellphone rang. It was my ex-wife, now remarried, calling from Washington.

“We have someone you should meet,” she said, the “we” being my ex and her best friend, who lived in L.A. “A really nice woman.”

Hmm, I thought. Was this a peace offering? An olive branch of some sort? Why would an ex-wife recommend someone who could become my next wife?

“I’m in L.A.,” I said.

“That’s great,” my ex-wife said. “She lives in L.A.”

“OK,” I said. “What’s her name and number? I’ll try to call. But we’re so busy. I doubt I’ll have time to meet her.”

I didn’t. But I had taken her phone number and email address, and over the next few weeks Joan Harrison and I exchanged calls and notes, each of us expressing optimism that we might have a chance to meet sometime.

By this time, I had become the Denver bureau chief, which meant I covered the interior Western states but not those along the coast. In September, I got an email from Joan, saying she and some of her friends were planning to spend part of the High Holy Days in Aspen, Colo.; maybe we could meet at the Denver airport for a coffee when they changed planes.

I had a better idea: “I haven’t done a story in Aspen in a while; I’m sure I can find one,” I told her. “But one caveat: I’d like to attend a service if I can find one, and maybe you’ll come with me.”

We made a plan.

I stayed at the home of an old friend in Aspen, but Joan and I spent almost all of the next few days together — dinners (our first date at Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurant), hikes and a High Holy Day service officiated by a real estate lawyer in a local church.

By Sunday, our fourth day together, we were sitting in a park, collaborating on the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. We both knew this had been no ordinary few days.

“Something’s here,” I said, meaning us, not the puzzle. “I’m willing to pursue it if you are.”

“I agree,” she said.

We pulled out the calendars in our Filofaxes.

I never looked hard for that story in Aspen, but over the next year I managed to find one every Friday in either Salt Lake City or Phoenix, knowing those cities in my coverage area had the quickest flights into L.A. It became our weekend routine — in on Friday, out on Monday. This was before 9/11, when airports were easy to negotiate. Upon landing, I sat on a bench outside the United terminal at LAX, Joan picked me up and the weekend began.

One Friday, I climbed into the car and she said, “We have a really fun thing to do tonight.” She had good friends in Beverly Hills who had invited us for dinner and the screening of a film. “Sounds great,” I said, and we headed over.

After parking the car, we approached the home, and I had deja vu. “Wait a minute,” I said. “I think I’ve been here. Does this house have a big pool in the back with rocks behind it and an adjacent tennis court?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I was here, in 1998.”

I told her the story, of Gore, of the fundraiser, of being kept at bay in the alley beyond the event.

“I was at that fundraiser,” Joan said.

Cue “The Twilight Zone” music.

A few months later, we became engaged, and in September 2001, three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, we were married at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where Joan was a member. The late Rabbi Harvey Fields, who was very dear to both of us, officiated.

The party that followed was held at the same home in Beverly Hills where Gore spoke. In my little speech before the dancing started, I told the story of how Joan and I had not met at this very spot a year and a half before.

And I told our family and friends that on this, the happiest day of my life, I was grateful not to spend it in the alley.

MICHAEL JANOFSKY is assistant editor of the Journal and a lifelong journalist, who spent most of his career at The New York Times.

Mark Miller

Love and life on the rebound

As a newly divorced man, I was warned about the classic “rebound” relationship, one that shortly follows the ending of a previous one. Rebounders are supposedly needy, distressed, emotionally unavailable and lacking the capacity to make good decisions about a partner. This not only describes me, but also most men I know in Los Angeles.

Still, I set out one night for a Jewish singles event called Opera Under the Stars. Granted, I’m not a huge opera fan, nor am I a big stars nut, but it sounded classy and romantic. The event’s producer took over the backyard of a Brentwood home, brought in a tenor and soprano to sing arias, served cheese, crackers and wine at intermission, took our $30 admission charge and wished us luck.

Luck appeared at intermission in the person of Amy, who I immediately found to be intelligent, attractive, funny, Jewish, available and, most important, interested in me.

The greatest benefit of an exciting new relationship? As any divorced man knows, it’s going from a situation of no/infrequent sex to one where you’re suddenly with someone who actually wants to have frequent/enthusiastic sex with you.

The abundant sex can also, of course, cloud one’s vision, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned rebounder traits and those rose-hued glasses, which make it that much more challenging to see red flags directly in one’s path. And so when Amy suggested that I give up my writing aspirations and return to school to learn a trade, I said nothing.

Nor did I object one day when, during our walk through an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, Amy looked around at our fellow mall-goers and disparagingly referred to them as “shleppers,” a Yiddish term defined variously as inept, stupid, ill-dressed, sloppy in habits, an annoying person who always wants a bargain. It struck me as a rude, snobbish and judgmental thing to say.

As the relationship developed, I kept my mouth shut about many of these kinds of things. I didn’t want to rock the girlfriend boat and preferred focusing on the things that were good — and there were good things, to be fair. Amy said to me on more than one occasion, “You’re the man I’ve been searching for my whole life.” That, at the time, compensated for the insensitivities from “La Princessa,” which is how Amy referred to herself.

My greatest regret about not speaking up was when my children invited me to a Passover seder at their mom’s place. A little back story: Although Amy was also divorced, she had no children. She didn’t, in fact, seem all that taken with children and was not especially eager to spend time with mine. She would even complain that on the nights I was having dinner with my children, she had to be eating all alone. By all this, did Amy expect me to ignore my kids? Or just feel guilty about her being alone?

In any case, Amy made it clear that if I accepted that invitation rather than joining her family’s seder, she would perceive it as a sign that I would be putting her in second place — and our relationship would be over. I joined Amy at her family’s seder and, to this day, regret that decision.

Any man with just a bit of gumption and self-respect would have realized what was happening and walked away. But this is me, a guy whose gumption was hidden behind his rebound relationship, his newfound sexual activity and his rose-colored glasses.

The wake-up call I so desperately needed finally came from, oddly enough, Amy herself. She walked away.

I came home from work one day to find all her clothing removed from my closet. That was how she chose to tell me it was over. She was unreachable until I got her on the phone four days later. She’d decided to break things off because I put my kids before her and because of my refusal to give up the life of a writer and return to school to learn a trade. She said that each of her sisters was married to a doctor and living in a big house in the San Fernando Valley, and she realized she’d never have that with me.

And why she couldn’t break up to my face? “It would have been too uncomfortable for me.”

If it sounds like I’m bitter or resentful, far from it. In fact, I’m grateful to La Princessa for helping me get my head straight about priorities in life and love. Now I speak up a lot more and am clear about my kids’ being my first priority, always. And I wear those rose-colored glasses far less frequently. Oh, and I keep writing. That is, when I’m not hanging out with shleppers.

MARK MILLER, a former Jewish Journal dating columnist, has been a writer-producer on numerous TV sitcoms. His first book is a collection of humor essays, “500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars.” 

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

Meant2Be: A match made in temple

Some people claim to hear angels sing the first time they meet their bashert. In my case, it was more like the theme to “The Twilight Zone.”

I was sitting in my usual spot at temple at the time, alone at the very back of the intimate, Midwestern sanctuary. I liked it that way during services — isolated, focused on prayer and my own thoughts.

Then she walked in. Long brown hair, a New Yorker’s confident strut and — unlike just about everyone else in the room — a birth date after the Johnson administration. As luck would have it, she also was five minutes late, so she quietly took a seat next to me.

The rest of services were a blur as my eyes kept creeping in the direction of the newcomer. Forget about introspection; I was more concerned with figuring out who this outsider was. When, at the service’s conclusion, she was identified to the congregation as our new cantor who would be starting the following week, I decided to introduce myself.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Ryan.”

“Ryan Smith?” she responded.

Cue the freaky, horror movie music. Or alarm bells. Something wasn’t right.

She grinned knowingly. All I knew was that I was in trouble.

To find out the rest of the story, I invited her out to dinner. Her words were anything but sweet nothings. Instead, the true tale of how fate — or rather, an extremely enthusiastic congregant — brought us together, was enough to keep me up at night.

It turned out that my future wife’s job interview had more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It started when the temple Brotherhood president (who happened to be my former religious school teacher) met her before her audition.

“Are you single?” he asked.

She hesitated, then answered: “Yes.”

“Have you met Ryan Smith?”

So much for idle chit chat — and it got worse.

“You two would make beautiful babies,” he said. “Hey Steve, don’t you think she and Ryan Smith would make beautiful babies?”

With an introduction like that, how could you not be interested in dating someone? And yet, with those words, a series of events were set in motion that made our pairing inevitable.

Maybe our happy union would have happened anyway, but I was never any good at dating, and my friends — not to mention my mom — all will admit that I could use some help. So it’s probably good that I had a whole community looking out for me.

This wasn’t the first time my shul had tried to come to my aid. There was the mensch of a temple president who, after Yom Kippur morning services one year, offered me two tickets to a gala for that very evening — then suggested that I take his niece. (I declined, explaining that I was busy … attending Neilah.)

Now, there were others who asked the same question as my friend, the Brotherhood president: “So, cantor, have you met the only other congregant under the age of 30 — or 65, for that matter?” (An exaggeration, perhaps, but only a slight one.)

And when my future wife was hospitalized shortly after starting the job — which she accepted despite (or was it because of?) the awkward offer of beautiful children — another temple leader called me and asked that I be the community’s emissary to visit with her. You know, in her time of need. Wink, wink.

I could thank God every day for the privilege of waking up next to a beautiful, talented, amazing woman. Or I could thank Ross and Mel and Audrey and everyone else who conspired to bring us together.

They saw beyond our differences with typical Jewish stubbornness, envisioning the miracle of a union between a Prius-driving, Broadway-loving vegetarian hippie from Manhattan who had never seen “The Godfather,” and a “Terminator”-watching, carné-craving, sports fanatic from Ohio who couldn’t hum a single chord from “A Chorus Line.”

To these haimish souls, we were perfect for each other, and not just because we were young and single and there was no one else. They got to know us as family, from the very start, and family looks after family. They invited me — a young single man living away from his parents — into their homes for Shabbat, for holiday meals, for movies. They sought out the new cantor not just for her counsel but for her companionship.

When we finally became the match they knew we could be, it made them all so happy. Truly happy — because it made them more complete, more joyous. Talk about a caring community.

And, for the record, they ultimately were right: We did make beautiful babies.

Ryan E. Smith, managing editor of the Jewish Journal, is married to Cantor Jen Roher. They are the parents of two beautiful children, Elijah and Gabriel.

Meant2Be: Answering the call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meant2Be: Sleeping together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So do I,” he said.

“I’m a pillow-holic,” I giggled.

“Me, too,” he cried. “I have six.”

“I like ’em soft.”

“I like ’em hard.” 

“I’m a morning person.”

“I’m … a night guy.”

“I’m a light sleeper.”

“I snore.”

“I have ear plugs.”

“I … have a sleep apnea machine!”

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

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

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

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

We awoke and debriefed.

“Boy, do you snore!” I said.

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

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

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

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

But there is so much to be grateful for.

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

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

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

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

‘Fallen Fruit of the Skirball’: A labor of love

An installation titled “Fallen Fruit of the Skirball,” currently on display in the Ruby Gallery of the Skirball Cultural Center, presents the various dimensions of love and relationships, using fruit as a catalyst.  

“Fallen Fruit” is a collaborative that was originated in 2004 by Matias Viegener, Austin Young and David Burns. Young and Burns have continued the work together since 2013. Part of their early work involved informing people about fruit that was available for the taking on trees in public places.  

“So, the origins of our project were looking at fruit as a system of knowledge, or a way of experiencing the world,” Burns, acting as spokesperson for the duo, recalled. “Since that time, the work that we do, or the projects we work on, has expanded in scope and scale and material. So we always use fruit as a connector, however, the way we present that to a public or a museum will be different every time.”

For their Skirball commission, they looked through the institution’s permanent collection of artifacts and were particularly intrigued by a 17th-century ketubbah, or marriage contract. Ketubbahs date back to biblical times and spell out certain protections for the bride — particularly necessary during the days when women were considered virtual property — in case she is widowed or divorced.

Ketubbah. Busseto, Italy, 1677. Ink, gouache, gold paint and cutout on parchment. Courtesy of the Salli Kirschstein Collection, Skirball Cultural Center

The artists, who are not Jewish, knew nothing about ketubbahs and got help with their research from the historians at the Skirball. The particular ketubbah they found was hand-illustrated with ornamentation, vegetation and scenes from biblical stories, including the story of Adam and Eve, who appear to be holding a pomegranate. Burns said they knew that the fruit has meaning for several cultures.

In Jewish culture, according to Linde Lehtinen, the exhibition’s curator, the symbolism of the pomegranate is multilayered. “It’s referenced as one of the first fruits; it’s used on Rosh Hashanah as part of that Jewish holiday. There were pomegranates that were shaped almost like bells that were attached to the robes of some of the rabbis.”

Lehtinen said the exhibition unfolded in stages. For the first stage, the artists used custom-designed wallpaper illustrated with pomegranates to line the Ruby Gallery, a lobby gallery that the museum uses as an experimental space, and can be visited free to the public. 

They then took the installation to the next stage. 

“We asked people to submit statements or language about how to have a great relationship with someone,” Burns said, explaining that the theme of the project is love. “We asked all kinds of people. We asked people in the museum; we asked people in the world as we traveled; we asked people from the Internet, via Facebook and other things.” 

Lehtinen said they got back a plethora of postcards for display. “This example,” she said, reading one of the cards, “starts with ‘Cherish the others in your life — spouse, family, friends.  Celebrate their good qualities. Forgive any faults. See through their eyes. Laugh often. Give hugs.’  And then someone signed, ‘Married 56 years — 4 children — 5 grandchildren. Very, very blessed.’ ”

The artists used the responses to create a document they called a “love score,” which contains three different voices — the voice of wisdom, of reason and of everyday actions.

“They distinguished the three voices in three different fonts,” Lehtinen said.  “And you basically have to follow the fonts in order to read the correct sequence of phrases and match the different voices.”

The first phrase from the voice of wisdom says, “If there’s something you love about someone, chances are that same thing will manifest itself in a way that you don’t like, so remember it’s the same thing that you enjoy.”

The artists also put out a call for pictures. One photo they received is of a young girl sitting with her father, who wears a military uniform. Captioned “Daddy and Sugar,” the photo was taken in 1946 when the girl was 2 years old. They were in Shreveport, La., where she had been born in an Army Air Corps hospital.  

Lehtinen read from the story that accompanied the picture: “My mother died, hemorrhaging shortly after I was born, and for several months it was difficult for my father to hold me, until my grandmother placed me in his arms and momentarily walked away. Obviously he overcame his reticence, and we had a very close, loving relationship. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful daddy.”  

“Some of them got to be incredibly emotional,” Lehtinen said.

The exhibition reflects a kind of cycle of life, she said. And, Burns added, while love can be simple and natural, it’s also complex.  

“The way we make art, and the way we express our feelings and our relationships with people, can move through time and space,” Burns said. “It can come with us in life, and that was the goal of the work in the project we made, [to show] that love doesn’t stop.  And it can keep changing effortlessly as you get older and as life goes forward.”  

And it all started with fruit.  

“Fallen Fruit of the Skirball”, Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.

phone: 310-440-4500

Hours: Tues.–Fri., 12:00–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Closed Mondays

Admission: Free

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.

Not feeling the candy hearts and kitsch? How to turn around 50 shades of abysmal gray

It’s that time of year … chocolates, flowers, jewelry. Sappy advertisements and red and pink store displays. There are reminders everywhere. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Sure, it’s a bit commercial (understatement) but it’s all good. We know that. It’s beautiful to celebrate love.

But what about if you don't have a special someone or even your favorite chocolate already lined up for a great Thursday night? (Or perhaps you have a loving companion but you've somehow lost yourself in the relationship.) Whatever the reason, this day, with its cards and balloons, candy hearts and kitsch, is turning your mood fifty shades of a rather abysmal gray. Instead of bringing you a great sense of joy and intimacy, this so-called celebration feels more about absence or loss. And over the course of a day that seems to have somehow overlooked your very own precious self, you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a valentine.”

To which we respond, what do you mean you don’t have a valentine?

Of course you have a valentine.

Walk right into the bathroom. Grab a hold of the sink and look up. Yours will be right there waiting, looking you straight in the punim.

Even if you feel very alone at times, you always have a valentine. It’s you.

That’s right. No matter who is or isn’t in your life, you are your own ultimate bashert.

And naturally, you’re fabulous. How lucky you are to have you for a valentine.

Because when you’re very your own valentine, you can celebrate any way you want.

How romantic it would be to buy yourself one perfect red rose. Not a whole bouquet. Just one perfectly closed bud representing your love for yourself. Take this vulnerable darling home and place it in a vase. All it needs is just a little bit of water.

Over the course of a few hours, watch your flower bloom as a symbol of you opening up to the undying expression of your own self love, showing yourself the greatest kindness, compassion and understanding, no matter what life brings.

Choose a song that opens your heart, and helps you dream a little dream, and dance with yourself. That’s right, ignite your own boogie fever. Don’t worry what it looks like. There are no rules here. You don’t even have to watch.

Yes, it's scary to be vulnerable. Even to yourself. But it’s also easy to be your own best valentine, the kind that promises extreme self care, extreme self empathy, extreme self respect. Because when you truly love yourself, every day is Valentine’s Day.

So when you're ready, grab a pen and some paper, or maybe even some broken crayons, and make yourself a good old fashioned valentine. That’s right, make some vows to yourself, to be true to yourself, and be your most authentic self. If you find yourself suddenly tongue tied, feel free to borrow these “Marriage Vows to Me” taken straight from the pages of my book, Hot Mamalah.

It’s true, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of sweethearts. Of relationships. Of your chocolate tooth. We're not denying that. But that doesn't mean it can't also be about celebrating the sweetness of your own life and the most intimate relationship you always have, the one with yourself. Isn't it about time you commit to love, honor and cherish?

Now go on. Get real with yourself and bring a little romance to your game. Valentine’s Day with yourself is EVERY day, forevermore.

That certainly sounds like a great romance to me.

Marriage Vows to Me © Lisa Alcalay Klug, 2012, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe

Mazal tov, now you’re a hot mamalah!

How do you know you're a hot mamalah?

Because you don't have to work hard to be hot. You just have to be you. Your most authentic self is the hottest thing of all.

How can you be sure you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a hot mamalah loves and respects herself.

How can you be positively certain you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a real mamalah is her own best valentine, today and every day.

And when you wake up the morning after, how do you remember you're a hot mamalah?

You. Just. Do.

Happy Valentine’s Day, You!

Navigating the dating world: Women in the meet market

Women over 50 who are determined to settle down without settling can think of Marcy Miller’s memoir, “Rebooting in Beverly Hills: A Wise and Wild Path for Navigating the Dating World” (Bancroft Press, $22.95) as a sort of boot camp. 

The willowy attorney and jewelry designer, whose book came out in June, uses her personal journey as a starting point for offering strategic advice about surviving the minefields of traditional and online dating in Los Angeles.

Miller should know. After two marriages and a bout with breast cancer, she believed her third marriage was the proverbial charm — until she accidentally stumbled upon a correspondence revealing that her husband had a mistress. 

So she ended up single again in midlife — she declines to give her age — and jumped back into the dating jungle. Once there, she was ambushed by gossip, online dating Web sites and a series of hilariously horrific dates.

The result? Plenty of advice about what to do — and not do — for other boomers who may follow in her footsteps. 

School Is in Session

Miller, who is in a relationship now, says women re-entering the dating pool must first make sure that they are in good emotional shape, especially those who are recently widowed or divorced. Starting too soon is not a “proper way to heal,” the Beverly Hills resident says. 

After a woman is ready, the best way to integrate into the dating world is to do it slowly and choose one specific method of meeting prospective dates.

“I have divided the search in my book into four parts — pickups, fix-ups, Internet dating and matchmaking,” Miller explains. “Before you start, figure out which method [of introduction] you are most comfortable with. Though you can meet people through a combination of these methods down the road, doing too much too soon can be overwhelming.  If you are proficient with Internet dating, go for it, but if you prefer personal contact and introductions, the fix-up may be more your style.”

Whether you are filling out an Internet profile, trying speed dating or asking friends to fix you up, Miller issues a stern commandment: Thou shalt not lie.   Being truthful will weed out a lot of weaker candidates, she says.

“Who wants to start a dating relationship based on a lie?” she asks. “In a good relationship, everything is based on trust and integrity. Also, omission is just as bad as lying. If something key is missing from the other person’s profile, you should see this [as] a red flag. If your date lies in the first encounter, the universe is telling you that you need to move on to the next person.”

Another key step is getting a precise grasp on the qualities you are looking for in a prospective partner. Are you looking for a casual companion or a long-term relationship? Somebody to go to the movies with or something deeper? 

Fine Strokes

Dating can be a detail-oriented business, but it’s important to know when to get specific and when to broaden your expectations. When creating an online profile or talking about your interests, for example, it’s best to carve out a niche, says Miller, who is a member of Temple of the Arts.

“You need to establish pastimes that are not obvious or typical, such as ‘food’ and ‘travel,’ ” she says. “Establishing less-familiar interests, like visiting very specific kinds of museums, following politics and doing certain kinds of volunteer work will weed out some candidates who don’t share your interests.”  

However, Miller also believes many women make age specifications too limited when chronological age does not always tell the whole story. There are youthful, active men in their 60s and geriatric 45-year-olds. She also suggests being open-minded about how far away a potential date can live — instead of five or 10 miles away, consider those who live as many as 25 or 50 miles away. 

To make a good impression on a first date, steer clear of flashy jewelry and provocative clothing, Miller says. Think neutral, pretty and well-groomed, especially as most women would hope to see the same thing in the men they are meeting for the first time.

As details in dress are important, so are the subtle aspects of where you go and what you do on the first date.  Creative locations — as in, not Starbucks — and the content of the conversations will provide valuable clues about your date’s tastes, intentions and interests.

Working It

Think of dating as a second job, Miller suggests.

“Dating involves business strategy,” she says. “Put yourself in a networking situation where, when you go shopping, you talk to every woman you meet and make it known you are looking to meet new guys. Pick the longest line at the post office. Do [your] deskwork at the neighborhood Starbucks. Go to the movies by yourself. Do a vision board, cutting out pictures and words that depict the positive things you want to bring into your life.”

Miller also believes you are the company you keep. If you associate with friends who encourage you to settle for any guy you meet because of your age or imperfections, real or imagined, trust your gut — not them — and take the time to cultivate new friends who will support you emotionally.

Miller hopes readers of her book embrace the single life as she did, recognizing that even as they seek a companion, there are benefits to being independent and free to make choices without inhibitions.

 “Single women today seem so much healthier than [some married women],” she says. “The friendships with each other are stronger, and they can live life as they please. Furthermore, many smart single women today looking for committed relationships want to establish with their partners up front that they need alone time as well as opportunities to enjoy activities with their friends.”

All of her other advice aside, Miller says there are two main tools that will prove invaluable for anyone re-entering the dating world: humor and patience. 

“You have to see dating as a marathon and not a sprint,” she insists. “There are funny episodes that are all part of the fabric of your life. You can’t take everything so seriously, or your journey will be miserable.”

Money saving ideas: For richer, not poorer

Tying the knot doesn’t have to be synonymous with fastening a financial anchor around newlywed couples. It just requires great care, sufficient research and attention to detail.

Even with the best planning, however, it might be hard to believe you could pull off a dreamy wedding on a smart budget, given the average cost of a modern wedding. According to a recent report in USA Today, couples spend an average of $26,989 for their weddings. notes most couples spend between $19,223 and $32,039, not including the honeymoon. 

“Couples need to weigh their fantasy wedding against the financial realities of the fantasy wedding,” warns L.A.-based wedding planner Wayne Gurnick, who specializes in Jewish and kosher weddings. “We find that we are financial planners as much as event planners.”

Gurnick advises couples to engage in comparison-shopping for products and services, as the real goal should be getting the most value for the money. Even when couples have put together a budget, he points out that costs can still add up quickly if couples have not done their homework thoroughly.    

Here are several money-saving ideas to give couples a stronger start, according to Gurnick and fellow event planners Michele Schwartz, creator of, who boasts many L.A. clients; Los Angeles-based planner Sarajane Landun; and chef Jason Collis, an Oxnard resident and owner of Plated Events.

Food for Thought

Whether you choose to go the glatt kosher or kosher-style route with catering, there are several ways to stick to a budget without sacrificing flavor or being stingy.  

Many hotels will allow wedding parties to buy the use of  the entire kitchen, ideal for couples who have an affordable kosher caterer or a caterer through a family connection. In these cases, Gurnick says, the hotel provides the service staff, dishes and facilities, but allows outside caterers to use and prepare in their space.

Foodwise, consider serving heavy appetizers at the reception or stick with a dairy-based meal. Also, seated dinners are often less costly than buffets, as the hotel or caterer can account for the exact amount of food they need to prepare, Schwartz explains.

Instead of going the traditional cake route — which can run from $800 to $2,000 — Collis suggests trying a dessert table with a range of options for guests, along with a very small cake for the cake-cutting ceremony. 

Edible party favors that are part of the centerpiece can save money, too, according to Schwartz. A
cupcake bar and homemade party favors, such as preserves in pretty jars, are popular right now. Other examples of tasteful takeaways include personal cakes, teas and coffee, which can be packaged in do-it-yourself mason jars for added savings.

Location, Location, Location

Just as good movie-location scouts can sniff out ideal places to impart production value to an independent film, couples can find perfect backdrops for their nuptials and receptions without breaking the bank (after determining the size of the guest list, of course).

Look into city- or state-run venues, such as local beaches, parks, recreation centers, civic gardens and zoos. As each couple has its own unique personality, one of these nontraditional venues could be a perfect fit, Landun says.

Also, find a space that doesn’t require a lot of rentals and décor in order to spruce up the room.  Be able to work with what the venue already has in terms of chairs, linens, stage, etc., she says.

As for backyard weddings, they can save lots of money — if you get creative. Be forewarned, rental and décor costs may add up, and the backyard wedding can end up being more expensive due to the cost of bringing in tables, chairs, linens, dishes and other items, Gurnick says. 

No matter where the reception ends up, consider changing the “when.” Weekdays are less expensive than weekends and may be easier to negotiate with the venue, Landun says.  Think about getting married during non-peak times of the year instead of during peak season, which is generally the summer months.

Setting the Stage

Rather than go for broke on the décor — literally — with flowers, custom dance floors and pure silk linens, look for unusual alternatives. 

One hot new concept, Gurnick says, is a sophisticated picnic-style wedding where tables and chairs are replaced with beautiful, handcrafted quilts; elaborate gourmet picnic baskets take the place of a traditional sit-down meal. This also allows guests and the wedding party to dress in more casual attire.

According to Landun, reusing floral arrangements from the ceremony (chuppah, aisles) by putting them in the main reception area is cost-effective and eco-friendly. Collis directs couples to local growers and points out that neighborhood farmers markets can provide seasonal blooms. 

Bridesmaid bouquets can be used to line the edge of the sweetheart table, and the chuppah used in an outside ceremony can be recycled as a decoration for the bridal party table. 

It’s possible to save money on dance floors, too. Companies that provide custom portable dance floors may have a floor in stock made for another couple that can be rented at a fraction of the cost, Gurnick says.

Hidden Costs

Unexpected services beyond décor and food are just as important — and often expensive if they are not tracked carefully. That’s one reason why Schwartz says it’s worth it to invest in a planner who will help couples sniff out hidden costs, ask the right questions and negotiate contracts so there aren’t any surprises. 

Also, see if the venue can offer a self-parking arrangement. Self-parking costs typically run half that of a valet service, according to Gurnick.

Finally, he urges couples to keep in mind: Every 10 people added to a guest list incrementally adds a significant amount to the final tab. That’s 10 more people who will require newlyweds to spend money on meals, centerpieces and chairs. 

My Single Peeps: Jeff O.

I mentioned to a friend that I interviewed a nice guy today and said, “You might know him. He’s in casting.” When I told her his name, she said, “You’re joking. He dated my mom. I love him.” It turns out that after breaking up, they stayed friends. I can’t think of a better endorsement for the guy.

Jeff’s from the Midwest. “Raised in a town called Munster, Ind., which is right outside of Chicago. I have a pretty decent sized family — two older brothers and a younger sister. My 82-year-old mom still does great. She travels from coast to coast to coast to see us.”  

After his sophomore year of college, Jeff dropped out to become an actor. He had been studying improv at Second City and wanted to be in Los Angeles. While in his 20s, he read about a contest to see who could live on a billboard for the longest. The winner got a screen test and a car. He actually lived — and slept — on a billboard for six months. Eventually he made a pact with the other three actors to step down together. “They said the female was the winner. Had her go back up.” Some lawyers got involved with the incident but nothing happened. And Jeff’s not bitter. “I went up to get publicity,” and because of the stunt he got an agent and a publicist. “I got a lot of exposure. And that was good enough for me. I got a radio show [on KRTH-FM 101.1] from being up there. I would get information from various casting directors around town.

“I gave myself a 10-year goal in acting and, quite honestly, if I didn’t hit that I’d start looking for different outlets and staying in the entertainment business.” He met a casting director who hired him as a casting coordinator. After he felt he’d learned everything he could about casting, he went into business for himself. “I do ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Private Practice,’ ‘Medium’ … just a lot of TV shows and movies.” It’s mainly background casting. “I’m doing a feature film right now where I’m doing principal casting. I’ve been doing background for so long that now I’ve ventured out and do anything and everything.”

Jeff, who’s 51, plays tennis and a bad game of golf. “I’m not good at it, but I enjoy being out there.” He loves to drive — especially while listening to music with the top down on his car. “If I can break away to go up to Solvang, Newport Beach or an art festival somewhere, I jump in a car. I don’t hold back.”

When it comes to a woman, he’s looking for a best friend. “I’m looking for someone who understands me, will be supportive of what I do and lend her thoughts and visions to my future as much as I’d do for her. A true partnership, which is traditional, like when our parents got into a relationship and you felt it. You got into it, you went on a date and you wanted it to continue not because you had to, but because you wanted it to. Nowadays dating is such a revolving door. People are going on dates and not giving it the full commitment of the date. They’re making up their mind in a minute because they know they can get back online and get another date. She doesn’t have to like everything I like, but we’d certainly have a lot of commonalities, and first and foremost we’re just two good people who want to come together and be a happy couple. Everything else doesn’t matter. What really matters is you have a really true connection.”

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,, and meet even more single peeps at


My Single Peeps: Bekah L.

When I was 5 I knew I wanted to try Froot Loops, but my mom wouldn’t let me. That was the extent of my goals.  Bekah wanted to be a teacher. And she became one. To be fair, I’ve also eaten a good amount of Froot Loops since then, so we’ve both kind of accomplished what we wanted to. She says, “If you came into my family when we were in elementary school, we all knew exactly what we wanted to do. My brother wanted to study germs. My sister wanted to study fashion. And I wanted to teach.” 

Bekah, 33, grew up in a Detroit suburb, the middle child in a family with a long line of doctors — “Dad’s a doctor, grandpa’s a doctor, brother’s a doctor, [my] uncle’s a doctor. They all went to the same med school. My grandpa was practicing until a few months ago. He just turned 95. He was Jimmy Hoffa’s doctor. He was the first doctor in Detroit to refuse to hold separate office hours for blacks and whites.”

She couldn’t get a teaching job in Detroit, so she moved to Tampa, Fla., sight unseen when a school there offered her a job. “I didn’t know a single person, so I just got really involved with [Jewish] Federation to meet people.” By year three, she was tired of Tampa and wanted to move to L.A. “I applied to only Jewish day schools, flew out here for interviews, got a job I liked, and moved. This is going to be my sixth year teaching [in LA].”

I ask her what she does for fun. “I go to a lot of concerts. I kind of made a home for myself at Hotel Café, and I’d say my best friends are either because of work or from hanging out in the indy music scene in L.A. I’m very social. I can talk to a wall. I like doing things by myself a lot, too. I go to movies by myself.  I go to dinners by myself.  If there’s something I really want to do, and I can’t find someone to do it with, I won’t let that stop me.”

Bekah’s looking for a man who’s motivated and driven. “I think in L.A. you find a lot of people who think they’re trying but they’re complacent where they are. Their definition of ‘trying’ seems to be different than my definition. I surround myself with hard-working people. It’s really important to me. Someone said to me, ‘If you were a janitor, you’d be the best janitor there’d be.’ And that’s my personality. I just want someone who’s trying hard. I don’t care if they’re making five dollars, as long as they’re really into what they’re doing.”    

A friend of Bekah’s once asked her what she wants in a man. She was tripping over her words and her friend cut her off and said, “Cute, smart and funny.” “It’s so generic but it hits the nail on the head. I think it’s from a movie — ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’ or something like that. I want to really like the person I’m with — and to love them even when you hate them. I want to be with someone Jewish. I’m not very religious but being Jewish is part of my everyday life. I work in a Jewish institution. It’s just kind of part of who I am.”

I ask her if she imagines doing anything else for a living. “No. I don’t know what else I would do. You could have the worst day, the worst things going on in your life, and the kids [say something] — they don’t mean to be funny — but it changes your whole day.”

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,, and meet even more single peeps at


My Single Peeps: Eric Z.

I like Eric right away for the most shallow of reasons — he’s got a New York accent and he dresses like my father did: jeans, tucked-in polo shirt, tassel loafers with colored socks. East Coast preppy. My father died 20 years ago, but sometimes little things can trigger my emotional memory and I find myself missing him out of nowhere. This was one of those times. 

Eric went to MIT and worked for years at Mobil Chemical as a chemical engineer. When he said it, I got a weird feeling in my stomach. How could a guy who reminded me of my dad work for a corporation making atomic weapons that kill puppies and babies? Granted, I should probably educate myself a bit on how chemistry works, but still … it sounded evil. I pressed him, like any good journalist would. And I got to the source of the truth. He made plastic foam for meat trays and egg cartons. Probably evil egg cartons, but I couldn’t be sure, so I moved on.

“Great engineers are tinkerers at heart, and I was more interested in the business side of things. So I went back to business school at Harvard. I said the only place I think I’d want to live that I haven’t been is the San Francisco Bay Area. So when I graduated, that’s where I went. I was in Silicon Valley back in the early ’80s. This was rock-and-roll heaven. There were always more positions than there were people.” After a few misses, he worked for Sun Microsoft Systems from the mid-’80s to 1999. “I came [to Los Angeles] to sell in 1988.” After 13 years, he grew bored and took some other sales jobs. Now he does a few small consulting projects. “But the women shouldn’t worry they have another guy who’s out of work. I don’t have a rent check to worry about or a car payment to make.”

He’s had a few long-term relationships, but they didn’t work out. At 58, “let me be the first to tell you, it’s no fun being single and alone. This was not my grand plan. Part of the challenge for me in L.A. is I don’t meet many women here that have enough East Coast umph behind them. They’re not sharp enough, quick enough, [or] worldly enough. [The] entertainment industry has a lot of New Yorkers here, but I’m not in the entertainment industry. Not even close. I’m looking for a woman who has some substance, a life of her own, a career, interests, [and she] brings something to the table that fascinates me. A woman also needs to be attractive and fit. I’m not talking model good looks, but she has to place some importance on it. I work out four or five days a week. I’m vegetarian. I think you just feel better when you’re healthy, and I think it just comes across.”

Eric’s favorite things to do are play golf on Sundays and go to Mulberry’s pizza on Friday nights. “I still think of myself as a New Yorker, even though I haven’t lived in New York in 40 years. I sit at the counter, eat a slice, and read the Post.” He smiles and laughs about it. The guys who work there, he says, “tease the heck out of me.”

“I did a lot of traveling when I worked for Sun. The travel part of it per se is just miserable. It’s just more of a hassle — and again, I want someone to do it with. I’ve been to a lot of places. It’s not as much fun alone. I’d much rather have a traveling companion.” 

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

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


My Single Peeps: Rob T.

I had a lot of difficulty with this interview. It’s actually the hardest one I’ve ever done, simply because Rob was so difficult to figure out. He’s a grown man drinking soda from a Marvel Avengers reusable cup. He looks lost. A little on the fringes. He’s out of work but receiving money from his last employer because of a pending lawsuit. He’s licensed as a chiropractor but doesn’t practice for money. Instead he volunteers to work on the backs of amateur wrestlers who can’t afford proper care. He runs a lot of Web sites.  One of them is called “I’ve devoted my life to helping children, so if children have a dream to become famous, I connect them with an agent or manager and give them advice.” He claims he makes no money off of the site and insists that children be with their parents at all times when auditioning or meeting with an adult. I press him on this one a bit, because it just seems so creepy. But in the end I think he’s just a guy who’s fascinated by fame.

He also runs a Web site on which he offers himself up as a Sober Companion.  He says all it requires is spending time with the addict so they have a distraction from using — and if he’s unable to do it, then he finds them someone who can. He tells me more than once that he doesn’t charge for referrals. He does it because he cares.

I tell Rob that he comes off a bit odd to me, and I’m not sure if I have a handle on him yet. I say, “I’m not sure what to make of you.” I tell him why I’m uncomfortable, and then we sit quietly for a moment before he says, “You said some things that make a lot of sense to me.” He tells me that the “Today” show had him on to talk about addiction and that he seemed off when he watched the show. I find a clip of it online — he has trouble forming sentences. We talk about his thought process and vocal patterns, which he says have always been unique. But it’s worse since the alleged harassment he received at his last job. As he starts to open up about his flaws, I start to get a better idea of his struggles. “[I’m] more of an acquired taste. I’m more actions than words, and anyone who spends a certain amount of time with me sees the love and caring that I’m about. In the writing I’m able to express myself a little bit clearer than in talking.” But, as he says, “It’s not how we communicate in real life.” And that’s his struggle.

He loves spinning class — “I’ve spun at almost every club in Los Angeles, but when I went to Crunch, I seemed to fit in the best there. The other places seem more like a clique.” And he wants a woman in her 30s or 40s with a Jewish identity. “Traditions and customs mean a lot to me.” He also wants an educated woman who has the time to spend on a relationship. “Somebody who has more than weekends,” because he likes to travel and take road trips. “I don’t mind if [she has] children or not.”

Rob’s way left-of-center, but he’s not off the map. He’s just struggling to find his place, and I have no doubt there’s at least one woman out there who would appreciate who he is. She’s probably sitting by herself in a screening of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” hoping Rob takes the empty seat next to her. If only he would get up the courage to ask.

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

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

My Single Peeps: Aviv A.

Aviv, 34, shows up to our interview dressed to the nines. He’s wearing khakis, a blue chambray shirt and a plaid blazer. He’s wearing Gant — a label I like a lot. And I appreciate how fastidious he is about clothing. “When you work in video games, everyone around you is a nerd or geek. They all wear the same shorts and T-shirts. Two years ago, I decided to start dressing like a grown-up. I find I get compliments from everyone. I know what I like, and I’m very picky, so it usually just works out.”

He works as a video game animator. “I make them, but I don’t play them. I do it all day at work; I don’t want to do it when I come home. I prefer to cook or read a book.”

Aviv was born in Israel but spent most of his childhood all over the world. “I grew up in Africa, Italy and Portugal, so I was more exposed to Western culture and traditions and ways of thinking. In Israel, it’s very different, and I have a hard time fitting in there. [It’s] a very rough-and-tumble place.” Yet after graduating from high school in Nairobi, he went back to Israel to serve in the army.

He’s an intellectual. Growing up, he said, “My father insisted that there was an unlimited budget for books and knowledge. Know as much as you can, think, discuss politics and philosophy. It’s almost a sacred duty to do that. Epicureans are the most appealing to me. In America, we’re taught happiness can be bought; philosophy teaches you about friendship and the value of sitting around, talking and [eating] good food.”

He’s a small guy, but athletic. “People seem to love hiking here for some reason, but I consider it just walking.” He hikes to relax and takes Krav Maga to work out. “I like the pragmatic nature of it and the fact that I can hold my own in a fight if it comes to that.”

But when it comes to women, he was, in his own words, “a late bloomer. Maybe because I moved around so much.

“College was a very different experience here than what was expected in Israel. In Israel, it’s your time to start getting serious; here, it’s your last party before you start work. I spent all my time studying, working or being in the lab.

“I was married eight years ago in New York City. I met her through a friend in college. I didn’t take New York well. I was always stressed out and always on edge, and we just stopped spending time together. I wanted to get out and go somewhere else, and she wanted to stay in New York. I think one of the reasons we didn’t work out is because we didn’t talk to each other. We were different people, and we were stressed out and worried about jobs, and we didn’t take the time to stop and smell the roses.

“You can’t really appreciate something that’s [of] value until you lose it. My parents didn’t have a good relationship. They were always at each other’s throats, and the lessons I took from them was what not to do. And the lessons on what to do, I’m still figuring out. I think it’s communicating and spending time together. You have to take a day or two and turn the phones off and just talk. I spent a lot of time on my own, so I can appreciate being alone, but I don’t like it. I miss having someone to talk to.”

I’m guessing that after this article comes out, Aviv will have plenty of women to keep him company.

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,, and meet even more single peeps at

My Single Peeps: Guershon M.

The most embarrassing aspect of Guershon’s life is that he’s 34 and lives with his mom, so of course I’ll lead with that. “I started film school and I [moved in with my mom], and the hardest thing for me was it seemed like [my friends] had all their s—- together. It was really hard for me to really go out a lot and date … and it’s gotten progressively harder. It’s kind of hard to say, ‘Yeah, I live at home.’ It was really embarrassing — especially when I hit 30. Then I started seeing my friends where I lived saying, ‘I got laid off. I can’t believe it, but I have to live with my parents again.’ So I said, ‘OK, this leveled the playing field a little for me.’ ”

Guershon’s not a lazy guy. He and his writing partner had some heat on a script, and when it fell through, they sat back down and kept writing. “I picked up the book ‘The Perfect Pitch’ and [the author, Ken Rotcop] had a workshop, and I called him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, come in.’ ” Ken has become a mentor to Guershon. “We got an agent through him, and our writing’s gotten better — more commercial. I’m right on that cusp — it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.” 

Guershon’s family is from Mexico City, though he was born in Houston. He was raised Jewish, went to a Jewish day school and had a bar mitzvah’d — but he never felt that he fit in. “I kind of had this disdain for the religion or how judgmental I felt people on Pico were, because they’re like, ‘You speak Spanish and you’re Jewish?’ ” A lot of that changed when he met Rabbi Drew Kaplan, the rabbi for Southern California Jewish Student Services. “I started connecting as a Jew, not because it was forced on me. And while I’m not a perfect fit, it is my community, and I do care about it.

I look to his feet. He’s wearing what appear to be shoes, but they’re in the shape of feet — Vibram FiveFingers. I imagine they make sense for a guy who works out as often as he does, but there’s no hiding the fact that they’re ugly. “You’d wear them on a date?” I ask. “Yeah, I would. I even have a suede pair.” I guess he saves those for finer dining.

“I want a serious relationship. I’m not playing anymore. I haven’t wanted to play for a long time. And I’m not a huge drinker — I don’t like going to the bars or clubs. So if that’s what I wanted, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. I’ve never really had a problem getting a date; it’s, ‘What kind of date?’ Truth is, every one of my girlfriends have been beauty queens and models. I admit I’m vain. That’s what I like.  That doesn’t matter as much anymore, but I like a girl who’s thin and athletic.”

“What kind of person are you?” I ask. “I really care about people. If you’re my friend and you call me at 2 a.m. because there’s something wrong, I’ll get my ass in the car and drive down just to make sure you’re OK. I can sometimes come across as very forward or cocky, but it’s just because I’m very open. You always know where you stand with me. I’m never going to hide how I feel. If I’m sad, you know I’m sad. If I’m happy, you know I’m happy. If I’m angry, you know I’m angry. I’m the worst poker player in the world.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Isaac S.

When Isaac sits down to speak with me, I see the rugged beard with a shot of gray around the chin, the athletic build and the tight-fitting Israeli-style clothes, and I think, “I know exactly who this guy is.” He has an Israeli accent, so when he first says to me, “In Israel I was in the army and then came here and worked as a professional dancer,” I’m not sure I’ve heard correctly. A dancer? I ask him to repeat himself.

“Ballroom dancing. I got an offer to come here and dance with a company, but after two months I didn’t like their style, so I opened up my own group.”  Two things about that sentence make me smile. One, the fact that this macho guy loves to ballroom dance. And two, I’m always impressed by the Israeli chutzpah to be in a new country for only two months, and, not liking the way something is run, they’ll start their own company.

“At that time, I was working two jobs — dancing and woodworking. [Carpentry] was my father’s work; since 10 years old, I was working with him.  And I was running from it.  I hated it.  But when I came here, I thought, ‘Let’s make money doing something I know.’ The dance group was running — it was my passion — but the woodworking was doing well.”

Although his company was growing, he hit a wall. “I felt stuck. Then I was introduced to Landmark Forum [and it] changed my life. I understand that I’m capable, and I can do way more, [so] I opened another company. And [with] this company right now, I’m actually living my dream. I know what my path is. I’m very successful — 2011 was really bad for everyone, and mine was the best of the 11 years I was here.” His new business helps brand companies, as well as build and design their facilities — often kiosks, or retail stores, restaurants and malls.  “What I like here in L.A. is there are more opportunities than [in] Israel. When you want something, go and do it. No one will stop you. No limitations. If I see any limit, I lose my drive. If I don’t see any limit, my drive can go on and on and on.”

I ask him about women. “I want a woman who has her own life, and [we] can grow from there.” He doesn’t want a woman who’s getting into a relationship from a needy place. “I want to wake up in the morning and see a beautiful woman who takes care of herself and cares about herself.” Isaac is 34 but thinks 27 or 28 is a good age for a woman: “A good state of mind for a girl. But if I meet a great girl, I’m really open [to any age].”

I ask him what he’s like as a boss; I think it says a lot about a person. “I’m very understanding, because I came from where they come from. Everyone says the customer is the first thing. For me, it’s my workers. I’ve done jobs where they mistreat my workers, and I leave the job. They are like my family — no matter what position they are.

“My vision is 10 years from now I live in my house in Costa Rica, my kids running around and a beautiful wife in a bikini running on the beach. I already have land over there. My vision is to make good businesses that work without me, and then I can really enjoy the time. Go back and forth. And that, for me, would be a good success.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Lawrence J.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Single Peeps: EG Daily

The first time I saw EG I was just starting to train at the Howard Fine Acting Studio.  She looked familiar, but I didn’t put it together immediately.  Then it clicked — Dottie!  From “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”!  After we became friends and had worked together on various scenes for class, it was always hard for me to resist saying, “I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.”  It still is.

Her family is European.  She’s one of five kids — one was born in France, another in Israel.  She was born in L.A.  “I was raised in a normal, middle-class neighborhood with kids.  We walked to school, whereas my kids now go to school in the Valley, so you have to drive.”

EG was more of a dancer and singer than an actor … “but I learned to be good at it.  And once I graduated high school, I started booking movies.  Lots of cult films.  Simultaneously did music, wrote songs and was on soundtracks.

“I was married maybe seven years — had two kids. [The ex and I] get along fine.  I love my girls.  I put a lot of attention on them — make sure my kids are priority.”

“What did you learn from divorce?” I ask.  She says, “You know that game — ‘Hot, hot, hot, you’re getting cold, cold, cold’ ”?  I nod, yes.  “It’s pretty simple.  If it feels good, it’s hot, hot, hot; if I want to get out, it’s cold, cold, cold.  How does it feel, is the big question.  I think when you’re with the right person, your life gets better.”

We talk about the difficulty in meeting men.  She’s now more known for voicing cartoon characters on projects like “Rugrats,” “Happy Feet” and “The Powerpuff Girls,” so her fans have changed.  “I started doing a lot of voiceover because I was being a mommy, so it sort of just worked itself out for me.  I was able to be there for [my kids], so voiceovers just blew up.  It was fun for them, too, to have the mommy who was the successful cartoon mommy.  I still have a lot of guys who are in love with me from ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.’  I had to weed through a lot of people at that point.”

I ask her what kind of men she likes.  “I like funny, connected, kind and sensitive — not out of touch, [where] you don’t feel like you can share what you’re really feeling.  Someone who’s comfortable with himself and also works on himself and is growing.  Someone who brings to the party, rather than a taker.  Someone who’s your best friend, who you’re super attracted to.  That’s ideal.  And where you feel at home.  I always say, where you feel like you’re sitting in a warm bath.”

“How do you meet guys?” I ask.  “At my car.” I laugh.  “Seriously, I get notes on my car.”  “Do you respond to them?”  She doesn’t.  But I get the feeling she finds it flattering.  “Guys come over to me in stores, in a market, in the gym. … I was at a party and met someone I dated that way.  I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, so I meet people out.  I’ve dated other dads from the kids’ school.  It was cool.

“I’d say he should be between 40 and 55.  I’m in a different place now.  I feel like I’ve been out of the loop, because I’ve been raising children. … Some dating, but nothing serious.  But now I feel like there’s more of an opening for having a partner.  Because what else is there?  Printing up resumes, doing your auditions, but at the end of the day, what else is there besides companionship?”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Ruthie B.

Ruthie, who is 81 now, was raised in Chicago. An abused child, she was sent away to live on a farm called Glen Eyrie in Delavan, Wis. “You know what it was like in the ’30s if you had a mean mother — no one talked about it. I know how to milk cows, kill chickens.”

Although she’s Jewish, she learned every Christian hymn in the book there. “That’s where I started to become a musician.” She took the train there every weekend, and in the summers for many years. “I still take trains today.”

When she was 17, she went to a music school in Aspen, Colo., run by the folk singer Richard Dyer-Bennet. She lived with him way up in the mountains for two years, until she got a scholarship to Bennington College, where she majored in anthropology. Her teacher, a Nobel laureate, told her to major in literature and she responded, “No. If I major in literature, I’d have nothing to write about.” She flew out to California to finish a paper, and that’s where she met her first husband, a clinical psychologist and father of her three children. I say first husband, because Ruthie has been married three times. Her second and third husbands passed away; six years ago, she lost the husband she calls her beshert.

She speaks so quickly — and jumps from tangent to tangent so often — that I finally grab her by the arms to ask her something, hoping it will slow her down. I hold on as she answers, but this leads her to another story, and she’s off and running again. So I give up and let her speak.

Ruthie’s spent most of her life on the radio, where she got the nickname “Uncle Ruthie” after doing a sketch satirizing all the on-air personalities with the nickname “uncle.” At some point she got a teaching degree, with a focus in special education. “I have worked with every single kind of special-needs kid there is. For the last 10 years, I’ve been with blind kids. I’m a music teacher at the Blind Childrens Center. I teach children from birth to second grade.”

I ask her when she’s retiring. She says, “Someone asked me about retiring and I said, ‘Maybe one day,’ and the principal said, ‘Never. She won’t ever retire.’ ‘What if I were to drop over dead?’ ‘We’ll sit you against the couch and go on with the song.’ ”

Her philosophy about school is, “Learning has to be fun. If you’re not excited about what you’re learning, there’s no point. The purpose of school isn’t to have knowledge thrown into you, it’s to teach you to teach yourself. To be self-winding. All your life, you’re going to be learning.”

“What do you want in a man?” I ask. “He should be breathing,” she jokes. “He should be progressive and vital and living in the world. I will not go to football games. I like tennis, and track and field. I like Olympics. I want someone who’s a left-wing, politically active person who does not object to taxes being raised. I want somebody who likes theater, arts and music. And has a very active life of his own. I don’t want anyone who says to me, ‘How come you’re so busy?’ I want someone who’s also busy. Someone who’s had a happy marriage. Someone who’s had good relationships with women. At this point, I could sum it up in one word who I’d like to meet — anybody.”

If you want to hear more of Ruthie, tune in to “Halfway Down the Stairs With Uncle Ruthie” on KPFK 90.7 FM on 8:30 Saturday mornings.

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

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

Opinion: Norma’s love

I’ve always been fascinated by romantic relationships that seem to last forever. When I hear of couples who remain deeply in love after 40, 50, 60 years of marriage, I imagine the thousands of meals they’ve shared together, the thousands of shared conversations, road trips, stories, arguments, conflicts, moments of silence, even moments of boredom that must come from knowing someone so well you can predict their every move.

In today’s dating scene, when a one-hour coffee date can seem like a long ordeal, I marvel at how a couple can go on a few thousand “dates” and still love each other. I mean, seriously, how much is there to talk about?

Well, I met a woman the other day, Norma Zack, who can’t remember ever being bored during the 63 years she spent with her husband, William, who passed away five years ago. Norma is a hopeless romantic. Her love for her husband was so deep that after he died, she had to move to another retirement home because the memory of his absence was too painful. But that didn’t make things any better. The hole in her heart was still there. She missed him more every day.

As simple as it sounds, she needed to find something else to love. She didn’t just miss her husband, she missed the very act of loving him. That act of loving kept her alive. She needed to fall madly in love again.

So she rekindled an old love affair — with words.

At 92, she decided she would become a full-time poet. She gathered some of her old poems and started writing new ones. Each day, she would work on her poems on any kind of paper she could find — from yellow legal pads to the backs of envelopes. After a few years of this, she had accumulated hundreds of papers filled with old scribbled poems and scratch marks.

But who would ever get a chance to enjoy these poems?

As it turns out, a UCLA English student, Laura Rivera, had started a weekly poetry class at the retirement home. She met Norma, fell in love with her poetry, and decided she would edit and publish a book of her poems.

For many months, Rivera met with Norma to go over the random pages of her poetry. She had to decipher the handwriting and the scratchy notes; some of the poems were incomplete. Eventually, they selected 28 poems and published them in a little booklet called, appropriately, “Simple Poems.”

The poems are about love, loss, renewal and simple encounters. In “Will I Be Content,” she wonders how she will cope without her husband: “Will I be content to hear the day’s sounds and songs/And know that he does not?/How can I stop dreams for him/When I have lived within his dreams?”

In “A Fable,” she writes about her search for wisdom: “Come, old man, sit by my side/What’s in the paper bag you hold so tight?/ I will tell you, he replies, if you promise to stay/Listeners are scarce.”

In “Marriage,” she reflects on marital bonds: “I had taken a vow. That was a blanket/To cover all life’s events/Some cracks appeared/Many healed unaided/Others became accepted/We let no space grow too far apart.”

In “Care Giver,” she speaks of the eternity of love: “When we were young lovers/You called me by many names/I answered all with pleasure/Today you call me without a name/I still answer your call.”

In “Too Late,” she writes about their last moment: “You cry out, ‘I’m sliding…’/I jump to hold you tight/To save you from the darkness/Beyond these walls.”

In “Visiting,” she sees a time when they will reunite: “I have watched the fields for many springs/Grow green with tender grasses/And have walked on the fallen winter snows/Clinging to the mound encircling your special space/You’ve seen me, slightly stooped, arms crossed/Walking silently round the markers…/Someday I shall cross the many miles/And on your grave I shall place/One small pebble and next to it/My heart.”

In “Forgetting,” she fears the loss of memory: “I look into the mirror to check myself/I am wearing my pearls/My hair is not combed/Lipstick is on/Wrinkled hose sit in mismatched shoes/Will everything soon be forgotten?/Will even I become/ The last thing I can’t remember.”

In “Unsaid Words,” she laments life’s missed opportunities: “How sad to have crossed paths frequently/Not knowing each other at all/It would not take too long to be strangers no longer/To you, I’d gladly spill all my memories/I’d let them fall as petals shaken from a tree/In exchange/ Talk to me, talk to me/I will clasp your words like lost children/Close to my heart.”

And in “For Simple Poetry,” she explains her art: “What’s wrong with simplicity/Sincerity enjoyed immediately/I hope that one poem reaches you like a summer breeze/Wonderfully cooling and refreshing/That will lie in your memory like the past/Of some lovely day.”

“I love words; I always have,” Norma told me when I met her at her retirement home. “It’s important to love a lot of things. That’s how I stay alive.”

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Valentine’s Day: Use what you’ve got

Valentine’s Day can be a tough time for a young Jew. Fancy restaurants do not cater well to our people. The last time I took a lady to a snooty eatery, the special was baked swiss-cheese-topped-pork stuffed into a lobster served on a picture of Jesus.

Why do we put ourselves through this fahklumpt meshugas? Why not treat your special someone to a romantic night right in your own home? What if you prepared this same sexy evening, from ingredients that you have left over from Jewish holidays? The possibilities, my friends, are endless.

Set the mood with candles. Hanukkah candles.

You’ve got a menorah just sitting on a shelf as a decoration? If that menorah had a Jewish mother it would get yelled at for being so lazy. Put it to work softly lighting the room, and watch your significant other marvel at your ability to create ambiance and your resourcefulness. If she asks why a menorah, look deeply into her eyes and say “because I never stop believing in miracles,” and kiss her, you smoothie.

What’s for dinner? What isn’t?

A romantic dinner comprised of Jewish leftovers from around the house could be any number of tantalizing combinations. When you think of a sexy dish, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Gefilte fish, I knew we were on the same page. What if you upped the ante and served up some Manischewitz-marinated Gefilte fish?  That latke mix box you’ve got lying around doesn’t make latkes, it makes, “salt-encrusted potato medallions.” You just created a fancy dinner and freed up pantry space (for more Gefilte fish).

Sukkot: The gift that keeps on giving.

What is the point of a gift like chocolates? They’re gone when you eat them, and then you forget about them. A gift should be something practical, something you can really use in your daily life. I say, take the wood and hammers you used to make your sukkah, and gift them to your lady. She’ll always have them as a reminder of your romantic gift-giving skills and thoughtfulness. Who knows what she could create with them? As long as she doesn’t build a chuppah, you can’t go wrong.

Sprinkle rose petals on the bed? More like sprinkle matzah.

Why would you waste perfectly good flowers creating a sexy atmosphere when you’ve got what you need collecting dust in the back of the pantry since last April? Keep those flowers in a vase and crumble (let’s be honest—it’s already crumbled) some matzah on that bed. What you lack in traditional symbols of love you will gain in the cute, uniting task of gathering all the tiny matzah bits when they get everywhere. And have you ever been with your lady on top of a bed of matzah? I won’t make a find the Afikomen joke here, but she will, and she’ll thank you for it.

Put all these steps together, and you’ve got yourself a sexy dinner for two followed by an intensely romantic evening. A successful evening and using all your Jewish holiday leftovers? Now that’s a good Tuesday. Just be sure to save the Purim noisemakers for some fun in the bedroom.

My Single Peeps: Gary L.

Gary’s brother, Jason, is a recent single peep. And, like Jason, Gary’s a nice, easygoing guy. But, he tells me, this wasn’t always the case. In college, just as he was launching an online magazine, his personality started to shift. He became moody and paranoid, and he was riddled with anxiety. And then one morning he woke up with double vision. He went to a doctor, who thought it might have been from a hockey injury. During a CAT scan, Gary fell asleep and had a nightmare that he was being chased by the hospital staff. Suddenly he snapped awake, and found himself strapped down to a hospital bed. It wasn’t a dream. They ran tests, discovering his glucose levels had dropped so low that his brain was no longer functioning properly. They also found a tumor on his pancreas. It had been slowly growing for 10 years. As soon as it was removed, all the strange behavior disappeared and the old Gary came back.

Gary now lives with his younger brother, who is a partner in their T-shirt line, Nerdy Shirts. He is also relaunching his online magazine, A.Refuge — the Web site is “The goal is to inspire people and motivate them to get involved with charities, and highlight artists that we look up to. I’m trying to focus on inspiring people. That’s my No. 1 goal.” I ask him what that means. “Inspire them to be better versions of themselves. I’m pretty persistent.”

When it comes to dating, he’s looking for a real relationship. “I’m like a prude in some ways. I’ve never had a one-night stand. If it’s something that’s not purposeful, it feels like a waste of time to me. Once I’m with a girl, if it feels like it’s building toward something, the whole prude title goes out the door. It’s like a two-stage process. Looks get them in the door, and personality keeps them there. And they’re both pretty rigid requirements, I guess. The last girl — who happened to be a model — loved comic books, video games, cartoons … all the goofy guy things that nerds like. I was like, ‘Oh rad, we’re gonna be best friends.’ All of a sudden she started flirting with me, and I realized she was into me. Then she bailed on me when I got sick. She was perfect except for that.”

I ask about personality preferences. “It’s like one of those things where you need enough of the pieces lined up, but a few jagged edges to show you new things.” He continues, “A good sense of humor, someone who understands sarcasm and is OK with a little bit of back-and-forth ribbing.” Ambition is also important to him. “I don’t care what it is. If you want to be the best goddamn waitress in the world, that’s fine. But aim for the top.”

I ask him what he’s learned from his experience with the tumor. He says, “There’s no way I don’t feel super lucky and appreciate that it was averted. No one would wish this on anyone, but it wasn’t a bad experience, because of everything I learned and the people I met. The hospital staff at Cedars-Sinai — I felt so loved. They’re strangers, but they’d come in on their off shifts just to say hi.

“My favorite thought to have in my head through it all was of Calvin’s dad from ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’ Every time something bad would happen, Calvin’s dad would justify it and make it OK by saying, ‘You’re building character.’ I love that. They’d say, ‘We’re taking out the catheter now.’ I’d say, ‘OK, I’m going to build some character now.’ ”

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

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

My single peeps: Aimee L.

Aimee was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., but went to college in upstate New York to get as far away from the South as possible. “Memphis was kind of racist and conservative, and I felt like there was a different world out there that I wanted to check out. When I was 12, I went to New York and thought, “Dang, this is the place for me.” All traces of her accent are gone, until I hear her say “dang.” Let’s face it, even without the accent, you’d never hear a New Yorker say “dang.”

“I’m an artist. As a way to kind of integrate my creative self with supporting myself and being a grown-up, I moved into design.” She works at an architecture firm. “I’d technically call myself an environmental designer more than an interior designer. It’s about looking at spaces as a whole environment and designing every part of it.”

After living in various cities, she settled in Los Angeles eight years ago. “New York had changed. It wasn’t the bohemia it had once been. I went on dates with investment bankers. And the city was turning into a mall — there was a Gap on every corner.”

She flew to Los Angeles to look at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and when she saw the mountains from the plane, she said to herself, “I’m moving.”

“The first few months, I felt like all these shingles that had encased me while living [in New York] fell off. I like a little bit of a softer lifestyle. A softer city. Not that L.A.’s so soft. [But] New York takes itself so freaking seriously.

“I love L.A. I feel like it’s a city with a sense of humor. There’s so much irony and wit — just in terms of the architecture, colors and signage — and layered on top of that, all the crazy people. I think it’s super beautiful in and among all the ugliness. Whereas New York and San Francisco are already established who they are as cities, [in L.A.] you can put up a hedge and never know there’s a restaurant or store back there. Because L.A.’s so huge, and this kind of massive amoebic monster, L.A. doesn’t need to be one kind of thing. I can be in one part of town and there are roosters crowing, and in another part of town it’s urban. I can do something in one part of town that might be a success and something in another part of town that might not be a success.”

Aimee is looking for a youthful guy between 36 and 42. “I’m the typical Jewish woman who never finds herself attracted to Jewish men. Well, I mean I do. But it’s hard. It’s complicated. I can’t handle a mama’s boy. He needs to be somewhat developed, and — this sounds so cheesy — on a path of self-awareness, growth and inner reflection. Just an interesting dude. He doesn’t have to party all night. He can be interested in gardening.

“I feel like what I’m good at, and really passionate at, is just making things. My fantasy is to have a beautiful piece of property — doesn’t have to be huge — but has a house and a studio and a big wooden table where I can work on my stuff. And in my dream, everyone’s barefoot. The one thing I like is working on multimedia. One day I like working on pottery, next day making jewelry, maybe that afternoon I’m painting. I’m a crafty/arty girl. I just want to be making stuff … and selling it. And maybe teaching a little. And ideally there’s a kid or two in there somewhere. And I’m cool with adopting.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Ian L.

Ian grew up with two much older sisters, but “I was kind of like an only child … good life, good childhood, maids … I even had a wet nurse.”

He was a very bright kid —“not like jerky smart, but like an old soul.” In second grade, his parents moved him to a Jewish day school. “My friends went to shul, my parents didn’t.” He taught his parents about the Jewish laws, though they never got them right.

He went to Vassar College, where he was dating women, but secretly fooling around with guys. “I went to the quintessential perfect college, and it would have been perfect to come out, but AIDS hit, and I said, ‘I’m sticking to women.’ It was one thing to deviate from the norm, but, at the time, it went so hand in hand with an emaciated corpse with lesions, and it was sensory overload. So I stayed with women, and got loaded and got high.

“By senior year, I couldn’t do it anymore. I got sober. My legacy at college is I founded the first continuous AA meeting at Rockefeller Hall, Monday night.” After graduation, Ian moved to Israel with his girlfriend — “to avoid real life and to delay the inevitable.” He started drinking again. It was 1990, and he was taking classes in an ulpan to help Americans who want to join the Israeli army. “We’re handing out gas masks, because Saddam is threatening to send out Scuds. I’m thinking, ‘Who am I? I’m probably gay, I have a drinking problem, and I’m about to go in the army. I get a letter from my mother on beautiful embossed stationary. It reads, ‘Ian, I know why you’re doing this. It’s because you found your adoption papers.’ ” He was thrown — adopted? “My first thought was, ‘I’m not Jewish. Get me the f—- out of here.’ My second thought was, ‘How do I protect my mother?’ I knew I loved my family, and my identity, and in that one letter I had nothing — or so I thought. And it afforded me the opportunity to create my destiny. I came home, got sober, came out of the closet, and here we are today.”

I ask him about the kind of guy he’s looking for. He says, “They have to be smart. I want someone opinionated, with passions and beliefs. I love a good argument. For me, the most important quality in a guy is kindness, and ‘kind’ holds more than the basic definition that he’s nice. Kind goes to the soul — empathetic, nurturing, helps a stranger. And if they value themselves, they value the world. I’m a social worker. I work with the poor, I work with the downtrodden. With all the advantages I’ve had in my life, I’ve had my share of crap — more so than most — but I was lucky I had a foundation where I knew I was loved. I don’t get depressed. I barely get upset. When people are upset or aggravated, I look at them and say, ‘That’s a choice.’ A lot of that comes from my sobriety and working the program.”

I ask him if he dates a lot. “It’s just easier to be single these days because I have such a full life, so I have to put the energy toward bringing love in my life so at the same time I don’t feel any void or anything lacking. I’m certainly open to it; I’m not closed off to it, but I’m open to making it richer. I’ve become very wise. I’m an old soul, but at the same time I’m incredibly immature and silly, and I love that balance. It’s who I am.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Altara M.

Altara is an only child, raised in New York. She wants to find a man from the East Coast. And when she wants something, she goes after it. That’s how she got in this column.

“At 27, I bought myself a little Mercedes. I focused on something I was really good at. I sold advertising. Because I had so much success in that, I was able to go to Sundance and become a journalist, do my own radio show, do some acting work. Because I know my pattern of behavior, when I say I’m going to do this as my full-time job, it frees me up to do it.”

She’s 32 now and wants to get her real-estate license and start selling homes. But her passion is entertainment. “When you’re passionate about something, you’ll put all your energy into making it successful because you deem it important.” She tells me about the documentary she’s been working on — “It’s going to be out of this world.”

She’s an only child, and, unlike someone like me — the third of four siblings — she is brimming with self-esteem. She doesn’t seem to have a fear of failure, or any self-deprecation. “A casting director called me in to play the younger version of Barbra Streisand. So when I get things now, they’re pretty big.” I ask her if she got the job. “No. It went to a girl who had her nose and her eyes.”

She takes charge of the interview and asks me, “Do you want to know what I like to do?” I shrug. “Sure.” She says, “Hiking, working out, anything that has to do with working hard and pushing myself. I like to do Bikram yoga when I feel like being really cruel to myself. I hike Runyon [Canyon] five to seven days a week for about an hour and a half per day. I go to the gym for body-sculpting classes and Pilates classes, and I like to use the treadmill and talk to my friends. I love movies, of course. I love to do new things. When I go on a date, I like to do new things. If they do the same thing the last guy did, it’s unoriginal.”

“So, no dinners?” I ask. She says, “It comes down to original conversation. Show me your real personality. Even if it’s just grabbing a bite to eat, if the person is interesting, who cares what we’re doing.”

She wants to meet a man who isn’t on the same page as her — “maybe a little further ahead. Maybe a little older. I’d like to meet someone in the business out here, but I’m not opposed to meeting a doctor.” A Jewish woman looking for a doctor? Shocker.

“I’m looking for the real deal. I’m looking for a soul mate. My parents have been married for 39 years. I think they’re perfect for one another.”

Altara didn’t grow up religious, but she recently started going to Shabbat dinners hosted by a Chabad rabbi. “Everyone I met most recently in the Jewish community is amazing, and it’s like everyone knows each other. I realize I like having that “family” out here. I didn’t realize how powerful it could be. The people I’m hanging out with are amazing, and I guess I didn’t realize that until I needed it.”

She’s decided to start saying yes to more things in life. “I think that’s the moral of the story when it comes to my life. Sometimes you just have to keep moving forward when it comes to doing things. Choose new avenues — and keep yourself open and not be closed off.”

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

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

JDate study claims more Jewish marriage matches than its competitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Single Peeps: Michele K.

As soon as Michele sits down with me, she says, “I’m crap at talking about myself.” Hear it with a British accent, and it’s 10 times cuter. I’ve known Michele for years — she’s a friend of a friend — and I realize I don’t know a whole lot about her. She really is crap at talking about herself. She’s a great listener. And unlike the rest of us who moved to Los Angeles because we’re desperate for attention due to getting lost in big, loud families and having dead fathers (just me?), Michele is quietly comfortable with who she is.

Michele grew up in England, in a small Jewish community outside of London. “We grew up kosher, Shabbat, and that’s kind of how everyone was there.” But, she says, “There were very few Jews in my high school.” To counter that, her parents sent her to a Zionist camp, “which was all about Israel. I spent a year in Israel when I was 18 and made aliyah when I was 27. I lived in Israel for seven years. I grew up to be a Zionist.”

She moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago. “Israel’s not an easy place to live. I had the best time, a great life socially, but work-wise and living-wise it’s a tough place. Israelis are tough. Energy’s tough.” 

Michele runs her own business, Mak Designs. “I do design consultancy. I go to homes or events and help people figure out what colors they want. I don’t even need to buy new stuff. I’ll help them organize their house. I do a lot of weddings.”

She’s 43, but is open to dating anyone between 35 and 50. “I want to have a family. I think that’s important. I’m definitely interested in someone who wants to have kids.” She’s also spiritual and looking for someone similarly minded, who’s “not just living in the physical.” Although she wasn’t raised in a spiritual home, it always appealed to her. “I was always interested in angels and going to psychics and meditation, and it just grew and grew. I was always looking for ways to change and ways to grow. I don’t think you can change in this world unless you have some kind of faith, some kind of spiritual path, some kind of connection to God initially.”

I ask her more about being spiritual, and she says, “I don’t want to freak people out. I wouldn’t use the word normal, but I’m a very grounded, practical person. I believe in the physical, I’m grounded, I’m on this planet. I think you have to balance the spiritual and the physical. Some people go off on a mountain and meditate, but what are they actually doing with their lives?”

I wind my way back to the subject of dating and ask her if she works at it. “Oh God, no one can fault me for not trying. I date. I’ve been in lots of relationships. I broke up with someone recently and started dating again. Even though I get to the point of ‘I’m not going on a f—-ing blind date ever again,’ I do. I just think I haven’t met the right guy. I’m not looking for Mr. Regular. I think I’m always looking for something more. And I think those guys aren’t easy to find.” 

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

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

My Single Peeps: David B.

David grew up in Miami — my mother was his elementary school teacher. Apparently he was always a nice kid. I’m not even sure he ever had a rebellious teenager phase. He’s a musician — and not only are his songs in the safe styling of Michael Buble, they’re also for children. “Every time I thought creatively of writing a romantic song, it came across as stupid, so I started writing kids’ music. I try to write things that say the world is a silly place and try to connect to that. From a writing standpoint, it opens you up to anything. I have a lyric in my song that says, ‘She built a ladder out of carrots that can reach up to the moon,’ and that’s probably not in a Pearl Jam song.”

He’s 35 and runs a DJ entertainment business called Groovy David Entertainment, where he performs at parties, bar mitzvahs and some malls around Los Angeles. Los Angeles magazine named him Best Kids’ DJ this year. “I love working with kids. They’re the most honest critics you’ll ever have. If a kid’s not digging you, they’ll pretty much express it right up front. It’s the same high of anyone who’s doing something creative. When you have the gratification of seeing something that was in your brain causing joy and wonder, and you can see it in their face, it’s not a fake golf clap reaction. It’s very addicting — and it’s why I keep doing it.”

He had a short marriage — six months — and is just starting to get back to dating. “I’m open to what I bump into. I’m looking for the happy accident. I think those are great. I’m trying not to have too many preconceived notions anymore.”

I ask him what he learned from his divorce.

“I’ve learned that you never know — it’s always the stuff that’s behind the scenes that’s the real stuff. The foundation thing is kind of important. My favorite couple is a friend who’s Israeli and she’s English. And if you lined them up, you’d never have thought they’d be the couple to end up together. But they’re the best. They are always ragging on each other all the time but they love each other, and they take care of their two kids, and the rest is noise. They’re so dedicated to making their family work.

“In terms of a girl, it’s cliché but you gotta both laugh — not the same sense of humor, but have a sense of humor and both be able to laugh at life. Even at the unfortunateness of it. I think we try to delude ourselves that life’s predictable — but it’s not. And if you’re going to be with someone, you need to be able to laugh at that stuff together. When your kid spills her drink all over your shirt, you have to just go with it.” 

I guess being a kids’ DJ has given David some insight, because as a father, I completely know what it’s like to have a warm bottle of milk dumped on my shirt … and as an actor I know what it’s like to show up at an audition wearing that same wet shirt. “Hi, I’m here to play the hip single guy. No, it’s not raining outside. My daughter spilled her milk on my shirt. Yes, that is a “Dora the Explorer” sticker on my elbow. Thanks for pointing that out.”

David continues, “It takes a long time to be OK with being yourself, and you still work on it no matter how old you are. Whoever you’re going to be with has to respect you for you, and you for them. And that’s it. I think the rest you can kind of figure out as you go along.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Rachel C.

A close friend e-mailed me that he thought Rachel would be good for My Single Peeps.  “I think you guys will hit it off well, as you have a lot in common — a dead dad, childhood ADD, you both write and act, and you’re ‘good people.’ ”

Like me, Rachel moved from the Northeast to the Southeast when she was a kid. She was brought to the idyllic, suburban streets outside of Atlanta; I was brought to the multi-lingual, chaotic suburban hodgepodge of Miami. Still, we both ended up with ADD.  Blame television. Or Jew genetics.

She went to Yeshiva High School in Atlanta, where boys and girls were kept apart. “We had a kosher house, but we’d order cheese pizza and eat it on the porch. There was no kosher pizza in Atlanta then.”

She grew up with parents who dirty danced at bar mitzvahs and made out in public. “This is why I’m still single. My parents met. Ten day later, they were engaged. Ten weeks later, married. And they were happily married until my father passed away eight years ago.”

Her brother would bring girls home and run into her room whispering, “You have a stutter,” and she’d go with it, stammering through words as she introduced herself to his date. “We have fun like that. My family has food fights. We’d be at dinner, and my brother would turn to my mother and throw a drink at her. And everything would go flying. We’re crazy.”

Her first kiss didn’t happen until she was 18 because she thought it needed to be perfect. This time, television really was to blame. “So my first kiss was in Haifa, on a deserted beach, standing on a rock, with the waves crashing up, and Phil Collins’, ‘In the Air Tonight,’ was playing in the background.”

After the first kiss, she caught up quickly to the other kids her age. But her first boyfriend turned out to be gay. “For our first date, he sent me a note that said, ‘Please dress semi-formal with a casual flair.’ I don’t know how I didn’t know.”

An aspiring actor, she toured with a children’s play after college and got to see almost every state in the United States, except Hawaii. So, a few years ago, she flew there and ran a marathon. She’s run four half-marathons since then. Moving to Los Angeles was a good move for her acting career, but it hasn’t been great for dating.

“I’m looking for someone funny, and someone who makes me laugh and kind of gets that I’m super independent but still love to have the door held open for me. I want a partner in crime, really. I was driving back from Arizona once, and my wheel busted on a Sunday. It was a small town, and nothing was happening. I got a tow and sat in Wal-Mart for six hours. I called my friends and said, ‘Give me a list of items,’ and I created a scavenger hunt where I’d run around and grab things, take a picture, and call them when I found it. I want someone to do those things with me.”

She has no strict dating requirements. “Yes it’s about first impressions, but also so much more. A guy threw up on our first date, but we had great chemistry, so I went on a second date with him. That’s how good a dater I am.”

Contemplating what hasn’t been working up until this point she says, “I’m not going to the right store.” I feel like I keep on looking on Melrose, when I should be looking at the Beverly Center.” 

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

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