We met in shul — at the right time for us
Freelance journalist Jo Weitzman, 40, married accountant Joel, 49, two years ago.
“When I was in my late 20s, I went on a few singles holidays and weekends,” she recalls. “One was a ski trip, run by an Israeli company and I made a lot of friends — but there was no romance. These friends introduced me to the alternative minyan at Raleigh Close [Hendon United Synagogue]. That’s how I met Joel, 10 years later.
“We’d both been going to the minyan for years and knew each other by sight, but no more than that. Then one day I was waiting for the kiddush — we’d heard there would be a good one that day as there was a barmitzvah in the main shul. I was talking to friends, they knew Joel, he came over and we started chatting. After Shabbat he sent me a Facebook message asking me out on a date and I thought it was worth accepting. Six months later we got engaged and six months after that we were married.
“The funny thing is that when I joined the minyan, it was known as a place for singles. But in 10 years it’s become more of a family community. There’s nothing formal the shul does to help singles meet — there are Friday night dinners, but not specifically for singles. Having been to some Friday night dinners, it’s still hard to meet people. You tend to stick with your friends. I once went on a singles weekend to Portugal. There must have been around 100 people there but I ended up only talking to people I knew.”
She adds: “I had signed up with a shadchan [match-maker] but she hardly ever found me anyone to meet. The funny thing was that the evening we told our parents we were getting engaged, she called up with an introduction for me.
I’d turned down a blind date with Joel a few years before. But I don’t regret that. We met at the right time for us.”
Trying to meet someone is tiring
Lawyer Paul, 49, got married at 39, having met his wife, who is five years younger, a year earlier.
“I went on lots of dates — internet dating, speed dating. I was set up on dates, dinners where you moved from table to table meeting different people, charity dating dinner nights. It’s actually quite tiring.
“Some of the friends I grew up with got married in their late 20s. But many of my friends were doing internet dating, being set up, going to various dinners. Sometimes people would have two or three blind dates a week.
“The irony is, I met my wife at a party. We had both been internet dating but hadn’t been matched.”
Paul had reached the point “where I just wanted to put my feet up and enjoy myself, not become consumed by having to meet someone. Your spare time should be spent doing things you enjoy.
“My worst experience was when I was set up on a date by a friend. We arranged to meet for Sunday lunch and as I drew into the pub car park, I recognised two cars. It dawned on me in horror that it was my mum and dad and my uncle and aunt, who were at the same pub.
“Fortunately I managed to divert the date to another venue. But I remember getting home and thinking: ‘This isn’t the trauma and pressure you need on the weekend.’ I had three or four vodkas and then just pulled the duvet over my head and didn’t go out again that day.”
Paul believes synagogues need to create “a safe space where single people can go and be part of the community, doing things they enjoy. If they meet like-minded people, they can develop things themselves.
“You might want that window where you are not having attention drawn to the fact that you’re single. If I went to shul and got a form to fill in, I’d just think ‘well, when is there a break’?”