I’m a rabbi, and I’m working with my local Jewish community center to form a singles group. There are a lot of singles in our community, and we’re concerned about the escalating intermarriage that goes on.
We want to develop some programming to attract Jewish singles so that they can meet each other and socialize — and maybe, from there, relationships will form. We’re thinking of targeting those between the ages of 40 and 60, people who have never been married and those who have been married but do not have a partner anymore.
It’s very difficult for singles. Many of them are dissatisfied with the singles events and groups that currently exist in our area. I think that many of the people who go to such events feel intimidated. If they’ve gone once, they come back a year later and they see the same people. They basically receive a lot of negativism and are turned off.
We want to create a more attractive environment. Do you have any ideas how we can accomplish this? Your guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Shoshanna Rikon replies:
Singles events and mixers sometimes can be more harmful to a single or newly single person’s ego than not meeting anyone new at all. Unfortunately, many people who patronize these events are socially awkward. They are men and woman who are not able to meet singles through conventional, modern-day introductions (i.e. through co-workers, friends and family; in bars, through on-line dating sites or using personal ads). Many of these singles events end up seeming like old-school junior high dances where the men are all gathered around the refreshment stand while the woman sit with the friends they came with and either hope that a gentleman talks to them or, more commonly, hope that no one who knows them sees them there at all. I have attended a singles event or two in my day and, unfortunately, I experienced the same results. It is sad, because many of these people would like to find a meaningful relationship but do not have the tools or confidence to approach a stranger and introduce themselves. Many people are intimidated by being single and are fearful of being rejected, so they sit by themselves and meet no one at all. Other people who have attended these singles events get disenchanted quickly if they do not see people they are interested in. (Meaning: They do not find the gathering of people to be attractive and leave in a hurry.) That is the exact reason why I created my company, Shoshanna’s Matches. I realized that some people need another set of eyes and ears looking out for their best interests, and that’s where my business model began. I do understand that not everyone is open-minded or ready to outsource their pursuit of the perfect mate to someone else, so here is my suggestion to help out those who are single in your community: Instead of a “singles event,” how about organizing a fund-raiser or a community outreach program where singles can sign up and use their time to give back to the community, as well as meet new people with similar interests. Volunteering one’s time is not only good for the community; it also enables a person to feel better about his or her own self-worth. Every day many single people join organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters or sign up for charitable events like the Avon Walk (proceeds going to treatment and cure for breast cancer). Before I was a matchmaker — which seems like a lifetime ago — I worked in human resources. My first boss after college was a gentleman who had a Rolodex of the “who’s who” of Manhattan’s social, political and financial circles. So it came as a complete shock to me that he had met his second wife at a political fund-raiser. At first, I was perplexed, because this is a man who could be introduced to everyone and anyone. As I got to know him and his wife, I realized that it was their common interests that solidified them as a couple, and that if it weren’t for their love of the Democratic Party, they would never have met and married. My advice to you, rabbi, is to do something for your entire community and organize a fund-raiser or an event to sponsor a charitable cause that your congregation and community can get behind. Give singles an opportunity to meet people who share their interests in a more natural environment than the pressure-cooker of a singles mixer.
Shoshanna Rikon is the founder of Shoshanna’s Matches, which serves Jewish singles in the New York tri-state area.