‘I’ve got the apples. Now all I need is you, honey.”
Okay, so maybe no one’s using that line. But come the High Holidays there’s more than one reason tickets to synagogue cost so much. It’s the hottest singles scene in town.
“When I was younger, my mom and I used to sit in the back and rate everybody’s outfit,” says Californian Kerri Zane, explaining her High Holidays m.o. “But now we’re just rating the men.”
“We” in this case includes a female friend who is making the 30-mile trip from Los Angeles to Long Beach in order to meet the single guys Zane is going to point out to her. This is a mitzvah Zane — author of the upcoming “It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the Real One” (Morgan James) — has done for other L.A. friends over the years. “They kind of like the fresh meat down here.”
Yes, fresh, uh, faces are a big part of the holidays’ appeal. You’ve got your college kids coming home to be with their folks. You’ve got the young professionals (and not-so-professionals, as long as they’re happy!) doing the same. You’ve got your divorcees venturing into the fold. Everyone’s dressed up. And everyone’s introducing everyone to everyone else because there’s always a connection: “You remember Myrna’s son who went to Vassar with Zoe from Camp Kinder Ring? This is his cousin!”
“Not only do you reconnect, but it’s an opportunity to see their family dynamic,” notes Long Island “love coach” Robin Gorman Newman, author of “How to Marry a Mensch” (Fair Winds Press, 2006). “Do they seem friendly with their parents? You always kind of wonder how a guy is with his mom.”
For years, Chicagoan Gigi Cohen had her eye on a young man whose family sat a few rows ahead of hers on the holidays. “He’s tall so I could see him with his dad, who was a trustee of the synagogue and would carry the Torah for Kol Nidre, and he’d come back and they’d all hug each other and they looked like such a nice family.”
During the rest of the year she’d run into the guy at Jewish singles events. And then one Rosh Hashanah, he was in his usual seat… with a baby on his shoulder. “And I was like, ‘Ah, another one I missed,’” Cohen recalls.
But, strangely enough, the fellow showed up at another singles event after that. And that’s when Cohen learned the baby was his nephew. Reader, she married him! (The grown-up. Not the baby.)
Is it wrong to go husband/wife-hunting on the high holidays? On the contrary, says Rabbi Mark Wildes, founder and director of the Manhattan Jewish Experience. “It’s actually a huge mitzvah” — as long as it doesn’t interfere with praying.
If you ask me, flirting is praying.
Wildes’s group holds Jewish classes, dinners, services and get-togethers in, obviously, Manhattan. Most Shabbats he draws a crowd of 150 to 300 at the organization’s three sites around town. But on the High Holidays, he gets about 700 people — mostly young — and one of his goals is to encourage them to get to know each other. To this end, he has gone so far as to install mini bars in his three locations. “I want people to feel comfortable mingling in the environment they’re used to,” he explains. And does it work? “Are people picking each other up?” he asks. “Listen, I’m facilitating it!”
So is Benzion Klatzko, a Monsey, N.Y., rabbi and founder of Shabbat.com, a website that helps people find places for
Shabbat in 101 countries. “The world has it a little backwards,” Klatzko says, about looking for love. “They think that everyone wants the party girl or the cool dude. But the truth is people want to see that somebody is devoted to something and has principles and they’re earnest.”
Comedian Esther Paik Goodhart puts it a little more bluntly: “If you want to marry a particular kind of man, you gotta go where they are.” She did. And now she’s married, teaches Hebrew school and braises a mean brisket — even though she grew up the daughter of a Korean minister. She always knew she wanted out, and as far as Judaism goes, she wanted in. The key was attending High Holiday services with her friends.
And this technique, by the way, has an ancient pedigree. “We’re talking [back] in Talmudic, if not Temple, times,” says Rabbi Wildes. “On Yom Kippur, the women would go out to the fields dressed in white looking for their potential spouses.” Really, that was the thing to do. Meanwhile, back in shul, the rabbis read aloud from the Torah texts dealing with sexual mores.
In other words: Sex and the High Holidays go together like apples and honey.
Maybe that’s the line to try. Good luck!
Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and author of the book and blog, “Free-Range Kids.”