Most of the singles events Adina Judovin knew about were in New York, and the Ramsey resident didn’t want her social life to depend on that commute.
In September, Judovin and her friend, Amy Hamerling of Fair Lawn, created North Jersey Jewish Singles to provide a social outlet for area landsmen (and women) in their 20s and 30s, a population that seems to have gone largely ignored by the local Jewish community.
“You’d see singles events for ages 65 and older,” Judovin said. “I went to a singles Shabbat once and I was the youngest person there by 10 years.”
The group meets at Cong. Beth Shalom in Pompton Lakes. It has garnered 14 fans on Facebook and 20 followers on Twitter – small numbers by the standards of those social media outlets but significant in an area that offers little programming for that demographic.
“It’s a real issue,” said Esther Mazor, singles director at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly. “A lot of [the lack of programming] stems from Internet dating. That age group makes an effort to find people on the Internet.”
About 20 years ago the JCC regularly attracted at least 60 singles in their 20s and 30s to a weekly volleyball group. Now, Mazor said, the JCC doesn’t attract anybody that age. On the occasion that somebody does call, Mazor will usually point him or her to Jewish social groups in New York.
“If I had a couple of people willing to take it on themselves I would help get it started here,” she said.
“We really need to fill that gap,” said Rabbi Ely Allen, director of Hillel at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. “By and large we don’t have that much going on, unfortunately. We recognize the need for it but we don’t have anything going on.”
Until two years ago UJA-NNJ had a Young Leadership Division that catered to the 40-and-under crowd, but after its director left, the federation decided it did not want to group its younger volunteers “artificially,” said Elliot Halperin, director of UJA-NNJ’s annual campaign.
“What we found was that when we brought people together just because they were young, it wasn’t enough,” he said. “Younger volunteers and donors gravitate naturally to parts of the federation they have an interest in and where they can connect with others they share interests with, such as our Commerce & Professionals Division. We’ve learned there has to be a reason to come together, one that resonates with them, whether it’s on a personal or professional level, or a combination of both.”
He cited last week’s Super Sunday, which drew “a significant group of younger volunteer callers for the first time.”
Rabbi Meir Berger of The New Synagogue of Fort Lee organized a preliminary singles meeting on Sunday meant to cater to those in their late 20s through early 50s. His purpose, he said, is just to provide a place for people to meet and socialize. If they end up getting married, then “all the mazal to them,” he added.
“That’s not my purpose,” he said. “I’m just providing a venue for them.”
Thirty-five came to the synagogue on Sunday to learn more. Of those 35, however, only two were in their 20s.
“I’m a little bit disappointed we didn’t get a few more younger people,” the rabbi said Tuesday. “I have to try it again to get another date just geared toward younger people. I have to try something.”
Berger plans to hold another meeting as early as next month specifically for younger singles.
“I feel guilty not doing it in this area,” he said. “I want to do it. I know they need a place like this to open up [for them].”
In Pompton Lakes, Judovin and her group are making plans to get together for a movie and Chinese food on Christmas eve. More than finding dating prospects, her members want to create a local peer group.
“We hope to keep gathering more members and have a fun time each month,” Judovin said. “Movies, dinners, visits to theater, whatever – we hope to have a bunch of people in our 20s and 30s getting together, having a good time. And if something comes of that, great. If not, it’s nice to have a social group.”