Tara Lyn Gordon, the 26-year-old founder of Artists 4 Israel, says she averages three dates a week from the fundraisers she’s been attending for three years. “Last week [I had] five: two in the same day,” she said.
Gordon goes to the fundraisers as a way both to network and to meet potential matches, and she feels that the benefits of meeting people at events are numerous. “I’m not a big drinker, and I’m not a fan of meeting people at a bar at 2 a.m.… the people you meet have similar mindsets as you, and since the events start at 7 or 8 p.m., people aren’t bombed yet,” she explained.
And she noted that even if you don’t end up with a date, there is a good chance that a person you meet there will set you up with a friend. Charity fundraisers in major cities across the country are quickly becoming an increasingly popular way for young Jewish singles to meet potential dates and help causes close to their hearts, all in one shot. Web sites like charityhappenings.org and masterplanneronline.com, master calendars for charity events that cater to the under-45 set, are springing up in surprising numbers.
“It’s the absolute best place to meet people,” said 27-year-old Justin Baer, founder and publisher of the for-profit site charityhappenings.org.
And young singles, sick of the bar scene or of JDate, seem to agree.
Baer’s site has gained 30,000 followers since its launch in December 2007. The site, which is free both for browsing and for posting events, caters to singles in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington and Palm Beach, Fla. A typical young-professional event that Baer lists costs $75 to $100 and usually includes an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. “These are not events that are $500 or $1,000 a ticket,” he said, noting that the they are mostly young-leadership events, and priced accordingly.”
For those who can’t afford to shell out that kind of money, there are other events that are cheaper or donation optional. The last Sunday night of every month in Manhattan, for example, Artists 4 Israel has something called the (S)kin Life Drawing class (the model is nude) for $15 that includes mingling before and after and an open bar.
Baer said that the people who attend fundraisers are classier than the men and women you’d find at bars, and “less sketchy” than the online dating crowd.
Of the 2,000 parties listed on his site throughout the year in New York City, a young person can find at least one explicitly Jewish or pro-Israel charity event in New York City each week to attend, Baer said.
Zvi Lantsberg, 28, met Naomi Dabi, 26, at one such event — a Jewish National Fund fundraiser — less than a year ago, and the two were engaged 10 months later. “I saw that she really cared about philanthropy, and that’s a big portion of my life,” Lantsberg said. “She actually came to the event because she wasn’t involved in a lot of charities. We talked for an hour and a half. It wasn’t like a meet-market thing.”
The couple plans to marry in Israel next May.
Tired of the bar scene, Eric Shaffer, a 28-year-old currency trader who works at Citigroup in New York, began attending fundraisers three years ago as a way to support his favorite causes and to meet women. He said that Jewish events in particular mitigate the awkwardness that occurs in other social scenarios of asking a potential date her religious affiliation. “At these events, you don’t have to ask those questions, it’s just sort of a given,” he said.
Baer himself has long been involved in charity; his family’s foundation, the Baer Family Foundation, funds various Jewish outreach programs. He said he thought of the idea for charityhappenings.org after realizing that two Jewish organizations were throwing fundraisers on the same night. “I thought, ‘You need a master calendar,’” he recalled.
He said his single lifestyle also played a role: “I was a single, young guy. I knew the best places to meet girls were at these events, and there was no one comprehensive place where I could say, oh, I’m free this week; it’s $50 for the JNF happy hour.”
One encounter at an event led to a year-and-half-long relationship, but in the end, it didn’t work out.
So after two years, has the master planner met his match? “I’m still single,” Baer said.