Log off and still click: A guide to dating off-line

Fed up with computer dating? So try the non-digital options

By Anna Sheinman, March 14, 2013
Mia Serra met her husband Elliott at the Saatchi Synagogue Purim party

Mia Serra met her husband Elliott at the Saatchi Synagogue Purim party

Online dating sucks. It’s exhausting, it’s demoralising and the people you date have invariably lied about their height. For young people it is even harder because it is still considered embarrassing to have to resort to looking for love online. This means there are many thousands of young Jews asking what are the alternatives? Here are five ways to log off and still click with someone:

A trip provides a long period of time in a relaxed environment to get to know the people you’re travelling with.

Sarah Pilchick, a 23-year-old Master’s student who lives in London, met her boyfriend Joel through a holiday run by Taglit-Birthright (www.ujia.org/israel-experience), which organises free group trips to Israel for young people.

She says: “Spending 10 days together makes it easy for a relationship to blossom. Joel and I met before the trip through the Facebook group for our bus and we got together on day two in Israel. I knew it was love when he held my hand as I cried all the way down Masada because I’m scared of heights. We’ve been together now for 18 months.

“A lot of people hook up with the Israeli soldiers who join the trip too — they’re very pretty to look at. I’d definitely recommend Birthright to my single friends, not just as a dating tool, but being split up into age groups and all being from similar, pretty secular backgrounds, does help.”

Cassie Matus, UJIA Birthright Coordinator, says: “We are proud of the love we nurture for Israel, but we also have a good track record of creating love among our participants. There have been a number of Birthright relationships and even a few weddings.”

Also try: Trips abroad organised by JLE or Aish.

Talks and events
Organised by Jewish organisations, these attract an engaged, intellectual audience and provide an obvious topic of conversation over nibbles afterwards.

Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, public affairs and policy director at the Board of Deputies, met her husband Andrew at the UK’s ultimate talk/event — Limmud (www.limmud.org).
They first set eyes on each other while Andrew was on a blind date with someone else at the Limmud bar.

Elizabeth says: “I was sitting on the other side of him, catching up with a distant relative, but Andrew kept breaking off his conversation to talk to me.”

They hit it off. “After that, according to his friends, he followed me around Limmud trying to find a way to talk to me, which he eventually did,” Elizabeth says.

She has a clear view on why Limmud works as a place to meet a potential partner. “It’s inclusive, people are passionate about their Judaism and there’s such a huge range of people. It’s also less embarrassing than online dating and there’s no pressure. For many people, it’s the best opportunity of the year to meet someone.”

Co-chair of Limmud Conference 2013 Richard Verber points out that, although “Limmud isn’t a dating event, people-meeting is often a happy side product. In a piece of research by Limmud International eight per cent of the people asked said that Limmud participation helped them find a spouse or partner. Volunteering to help run Limmud is an even better way to meet people because you work together and there are specific sessions for young volunteers and a great after-party.”

Also try: Events organised by the JLE, Moishe House, Israeli Dance Institute.

Admittedly it’s old school, but parties are an upbeat way to meet people. There are a variety hosted by community groups, mostly in London and Manchester.

Sarah and Joel got together on an Israel holiday

Sarah and Joel got together on an Israel holiday

Mia Serra, from Queen’s Park, who is a committee member of the Saatchi Synagogue (www.saatchishul.org), met her future husband, Elliott, at Saatchi’s Purim party in 2008 when they were in their early 30s.

She says: “Purim at Saatchi is always magical. I turned up on my own with trepidation, but found myself talking to people all evening. Not the usual suspects — many of them wouldn’t normally go to a Jewish event.

“It was 1920s themed, my husband was dressed as a gangster. I gave him my number and the rest is history.

“These events have a really friendly vibe — no one ends up standing on their own.”

Rabbi Mendel Cohen, rabbi of Saatchi Synagogue, says Mia’s story is hardly unique: “A lot of phone numbers are swapped, there’s a lot of dating — how many get married, I don’t know. But with 700 guests, there’s bound to be someone new to meet.”

Also try: Parties hosted by youth committees of Jewish charities, Nana Events.

Friday night dinners
If good conversation is what you are after, a Shabbat dinner is an easy and low-key way to get it.

Josh Kendall, 27, from West Hampstead, went to a New North London Synagogue young adult’s dinner (search ‘Young Adults’ Dinners @ NNLS’ on Facebook), hosted by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and his wife Nicki at their home.

He says: “Everyone brought a vegetarian dish — the food was excellent. There were about 40 people there but I was told there are often double that number. It was very welcoming.”

The regular dinners are not just for NNLS members and are preceded by a service. “There were some really interesting people there, from all over the world,” Josh says. “I didn’t meet anyone, but I’m sure if I went again and got to know more people, I could,” Josh says.

The meals, which are held every six weeks, attract young adults, both singles and married couples alike

Also try: US Young Professionals dinners, Jewish Vegetarian Society Friday night meals.

Dating specific
There are, of course, plenty of events aimed specifically at singles.

Twenty-six-year-old Eva Topp, from Leeds, attended the first Young Jewish Singles weekend (www.youngjewishsingles.co.uk) in Cheshire in October. For her, it was an immensely practical option.

“I don’t have time for online dating. You can get a better measure of someone over a weekend without spending time on dates,” she says.

Although she did not meet anyone on that occasion, she says she would certainly go again.

“I think these kinds of weekends are better for shy people. I’m quite shy and I don’t always go out of my way to talk to people, but the organisers worked really hard to make sure everyone met each other.

“There was speed dating, a date auction and at meal times the guys were asked to move places between courses.”

Charles Simmons, founder of YJS, says: “A lot of people feel they know all the single young Jews in their area, so this is an opportunity to meet people from all over the country. And having that extended period of time gives you the opportunity to get to know someone.

“Some people really don’t like online dating. We are providing another option.”

Also try: Speed dating at Gilgamesh, Date on a Plate.

Last updated: 3:03pm, March 14 2013