Ari Teman heard the outlook for meeting other Jewish singles was dim.
"A lot of people have been complaining that it’s very difficult to meet singles," said Teman, a graduate of Brandeis University and founder of the product design firm 1’gurus. He thought, "How can you meet nice single people who have a good heart, in a way that’s not artificial and shallow?"
Teman, originally from Teaneck, decided to answer his own question and brighten the situation. He founded JCorps International, Inc., an organization that groups 18- to ‘8-year-old Jewish singles as volunteers in New York City. JCorps members volunteer mostly on Sundays so that opportunities in soup kitchens, food banks, nursing homes, hospitals, and tutoring centers won’t conflict with work or school. JCorps is nondenominational, Teman said, but no events will occur on Shabbat and holidays.
The two-month-old organization has a Website, JCorps.org, but much of the information about the team has spread through a different means: The primary base for communication about the organization’s events is a group on the Facebook networking site. The group has nearly 500 members.
JCorps member Dan Gross, a native of Newton, Mass., and a graduate of the University of Rochester, said he’s looking forward to doing good in his community.
The first JCorps event, on Sunday, Dec. ‘4, was termed a "beta" event to test its success. Fifteen singles doled out food and clothing at a soup kitchen behind the Church of St. Francis Xavier on West 15th Street in Manhattan. The soup kitchen volunteers served 7’3 meals and gave clothing to 130 people in under three hours, according to Cassandra Daigle, the church director of outreach ministry.
Teman knew JCorps was off to a good start when the event, which was limited to 14 participants at sign-up time, was booked within one day.
Orit Ryba of Brooklyn said she enjoyed helping out on a day when many others were unavailable. "All Christians are busy doing Christmas shopping," she said. "Who better to help than us young Jews?"
Lauren Gelnick, a Touro College student who volunteers regularly at a Shabbat program for second-graders, said the JCorps team was "spreading good cheer."
The event was successful for JCorps because by the end, all participants knew each other. They chatted as they helped clean up the cafeteria and then went out for pizza. "With JCorps you’re working with others on a task you form a connection as part of that team," Teman said. "Go to a singles event with ‘0 people and tell me you know everyone’s name when you leave."
The simple goal is to make friends. "Even if you never go to another JCorps event, it still made your social life that much easier," he said.
JCorps plans to return to the same locations on a weekly basis. "We are going to be a reliable source of volunteering," Teman said.
JCorps has plans to expand nationally, too. Future JCorps teams may develop in Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami, Teman said.
JCorps will look to Hillel and other campus organizations to help the group grow further. Two team leaders at every school in the five boroughs will recruit volunteers to join the team.
Teamwork leads to JCorps’ success. At the beta event, "everyone accomplished something together. When you’re on a team with someone, the connection is so much deeper than when you just show up at some singles event," Teman said.