Singles seek out options as Kaplen JCC downsizes its program
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Singles seek out options as Kaplen JCC downsizes its program

Come September, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly will refocus its resources on building its adult department and disband its singles department, at least for the foreseeable future.

“Right now we have limited resources and space,” said Esther Mazor, director of the singles department. “Each part [of the building] is being redone.”

Construction has made space in the building a prime commodity. Singles programs have also experienced decreasing attendance in recent years, Mazor said. The annual Super Bowl party drew 70 to 80 people in the past, but this year fewer than 30 attended. Two years ago, about 20 pairs showed up for a speed-dating program. This year, 14 came to a similar one.

Some of the department’s programming will be integrated into the adult department for a more general target audience, according to Mazor, but the singles-specific receptions, brunches, and lectures will be discontinued.

“There’ll be programs for [singles] to come to, but [they won’t be] just for singles,” she said.

“I just want people to come to the adult programming that’s appropriate for them. And maybe somebody would like to take charge or volunteer their time to be a central person.”

Mazor is hopeful that the singles department may one day be restored. In the meantime, she pointed to the JCC’s open house, which gives participants the opportunity to form interest groups.

“A number of people who have been our loyal followers are disappointed,” Mazor said.

One of those followers, Jeffrey Geller of Hillsdale, wrote to The Jewish Standard about his positive experiences with the JCC singles department and his disappointment that its programming will not continue.

“So how will the singles mingle now? The JCC will play a reduced role and other groups will pick up the slack, but it will not equal the fun I had in Tenafly,” he wrote.

Singles programming has been slow to catch on at other area JCCs and Ys, which previously directed people to the Tenafly JCC for such events.

The YJCC of Bergen County in Washington Township offers no singles programming, as the center is geared more toward families, according to adult services director Jill Brown. When people called for singles events, Brown directed them to the Kaplen JCC.

“What we have found in years past when we used to have a singles program,” she said, “the comments were it’s the same people at the JCC on the Palisades. It didn’t pay for us to have duplicate programming.”

She noted that she receives three or fewer calls a year about singles events.

The YM-YWHA of Clifton-Passaic also receives few inquiries about singles programming, said assistant director Rosanne Mendelowitz.

“We are much more focused on families, young families with kids,” she said. “People haven’t come to us looking for it.”

Cheryl Wylen, director of the cultural arts and adults departments at the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne, said she has received a number requests for singles programming. Last Sunday, the Y held its inaugural program for singles in their 40s through 60s, which drew about 30 people. This is the age demographic that needs attention in that area, according to Wylen.

“The younger singles will travel farther,” Wylen said. “They’ll go into the city. They’re more apt to do online dating.”

Singles in the 40s or older, meanwhile, may be more reluctant to meet people through the Internet, she said.

“I’m feeling really good about this,” she said of the Y’s new program. “It’s about time we offered it. I expect even a bigger turnout the next time.”

Martine Jaffe, a member of the Clifton Jewish Center, saw a need for singles programming in her synagogue and decided to fill it. Two years ago she created the North Jersey Jewish Singles group, geared toward singles in their 30s and up. The group mostly attracts people in their 40s or older, and it regularly draws 40 to 50 people at monthly brunches, she said.

“It’s a wonderful outlet for older singles to network, to meet friends,” she said.

While some older singles may feel uncomfortable on sites like JDate, Jaffe pointed to Meetup.com for social opportunities. The Website hosts thousands of interest groups based on hobbies, religion, and other interests. Jaffe maintains a singles group there that has a membership of 600.

“Technology has really, really made it a little easier now for the single who’s willing to reach out,” she said.
The community does need more events for singles, she said. Middle-age singles have been largely ignored. In recent months, an unrelated group, North Jersey Young Jewish Singles, began at Cong. Beth Shalom in Pompton Lakes. This group is geared toward singles in their 20s and 30s, and Jaffe praised its organizers for their initiative.

“When you see something is missing, do it,” Jaffe said. “Just do it. If people are complaining that there’s not enough of something, make it happen.”

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