Ninety-five young men and women gathered in Woodmere for a unique singles’ experience last Shabbat.
The Shabbaton featured interactive activities, family meals, a dvar Torah, seudah shlishit and a musical havdalah. It was a joint effort by the Young Israel of Woodmere Singles Initiative Committee, YUConnects, JSMatchpoint, and SawYouAtSinai.com.
“Woodmere is not a singles community, it’s a family community,” and most participants were not from the neighborhood and needed accommodation and a meal Friday night, explained committee member Marjorie Glatt.
“Woodmere ramped it up,” she said, adding that the community was “gracious and hospitable” and the “biggest challenge was selecting community members to help— so many volunteered!”
The gathering was an outgrowth of the DineNMeet initiative already making strides in Washington Heights, the Upper West Side and Kew Gardens Hills. In those communities, the single young people who participate live nearby and do not need housing; if they do come from out of the neighborhood, they have to arrange their own housing and other meals besides the one group meal. Reserving space at the Dine N’ Meet meals requires an $18 donation to a charity listed on the registration form.
The YI Woodmere’s 20 member Singles Initiative Committee plans events, activities and programs to facilitate matchmaking, and began working on this Shabbaton after Pesach.
Orthodox men and women aged 23 to 35 registered and were pre-screened through Dine N’ Meet. All the Woodmere girls who applied were accepted; others came from all over.
Guests had Friday night Shabbat dinner in the homes where they slept and had the Dine N’ Meet meal for Shabbat lunch.
After early mincha they participated in a speed-dating style, “connect four program” with two men and two women in each grouping at the shul, where all participants could rotate and get to meet each other. Each table was set with water and snacks and conversation starter questions on the tables.
At 7 p.m. they all had a buffet seuda shlishit at Aliza and Alan Miller’s home on Green Place.
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, a warm Shabbat atmosphere with the well-dressed young men and women talking and circulating through the house. As Shabbat came to a close, the men gathered in the den to daven maariv. All the men and women then gathered around Rabbi Eliyahu Wolf and Rabbi Sholom Axelrod with Dr. Ari Goldsmith on guitar for a musical havdalah, with spontaneous singing, a group of men dancing in a circle and others clapping, ending the Shabbat with a feeling of warmth and unity.
The singles initiative at YIW started over a year ago, said volunteer Sheri Hammer. She said that they “felt the need to do something” with “so many singles in our shul.”
Hammer said that the next event will be for older singles sometime during the summer.
“The goal is to have as many singles meet each other as possible because you never know where a connection is made. It’s not a tremendous chidush (innovation). We are trying to find creative ways to do something about it. She reported “overwhelmingly positive feedback” with many “inquiries within 24 hours after the event.”
She also wanted to thank the Woodmere community. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.”
YUConnects runs numerous singles events as part of their educational and matchmaking program and partnered with the organizers and assisted in the logistical planning. Glatt emphasized the attention to detail in the planning and actuation of the Shabbaton, led by Hammer, Shari Kaufman and Gail Elsant, with input from local singles and enthusiastic shul members.
Neighborhood volunteers picked up participants from the train on Friday afternoon, and a caravan of cars returned the men and women to their hosts’ homes after Shabbat from the Green’s home. Volunteer facilitators including Sima Greenstein, Sandy Klein, Baila Sebrow, Malky Galler, Nechama Weinberg and Mindy Eisenman, YUConnects Staff Connector, circulated with the guests, introducing the men and women, making suggestions and will be working on follow up connections and events in the weeks to come.
The event was heralded as successful since so many came, there was an equal number of men and women, good conversation, enthusiasm and positive feedback, noted Glatt.
“The Young Israel of Woodmere will continue their own programs and hope to have another Dine N’ Meet in the future,” she said.
For more information go to: www.dinenmeet.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com to be added to mailing lists for future events.