Connecting with someone compatible can be a frustrating struggle, whatever your religious background. The field narrows if you're looking for someone from a minority population. But the search for a Jewish mate can also be a process of clarifying one's beliefs, interests and values.
The first step to finding the right Jewish mate, says Jenny Helbraun-Abramson, assistant director of the Northern California Hillel Graduates and Professionals (GAP), is to do a bit of soul-searching. She gained many insights from her own successful mate search.
"Know what really can touch you," she says. "Know what it is in your life that makes you feel great."
She suggests looking at the qualities of your close friends: "A lot of these qualities are what we need in a partnership."
Often when people are actively pursuing a relationship, their friends and families get less of their time. Helbraun-Abramson encourages those aiming for relationships to instead focus on "upping the level of closeness with other people," to help you project the warmth that others find attractive.
Once you understand your emotional needs, the next step is connecting with the Jewish community.
"If you want a Jewish mate," says professional matchmaker Gene Sadoff, "the secret is to go where the Jews are, to get active in the Jewish community."
Sadoff, who owns the 5-year-old dating service Jewish BayDates Introductions, (415) 905-4151 or (408) 377-8111, suggests getting involved with the local Jewish Community Center or volunteering for a Jewish event, such as the Jewish Federation campaign.
If you are observant, or if you simply enjoy rituals, Jewish festivals provide many opportunities for bringing people together. A few people can invite Jewish friends to help build a Sukkah. Passover seders tend to bring single Jews out of the woodwork. After the obligatory four glasses of wine, a table of acquaintances can become quite friendly (especially when it's necessary to share haggadot).
Aside from celebrating the holidays, local Jewish organizations offer a number of activities and events where you can meet people who share your passions.
If you enjoy folk dancing, try one of the Bay Area's Israeli folk-dancing groups. Tirtza Rosenberg publishes a listing of these groups in her monthly newsletter, The Grapevine. For a subscription, call her at (415) 668-1487.
If you like folk singing, Congregation Beth Shalom in San Francisco hosts a monthly folk-singing group. For those with political interests, there are Jewish organizations geared for people at both ends of the spectrum.
If you don't have a lot of extra time to volunteer or participate in activities — or if you simply want to meet someone with a common background-there are several dating services you can try. There's the Jewish Connection , (800) 6-MATCH ME, and Jewish Singles, a nonprofit computer-dating service sponsored by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism , (415) 377-0733. If you hate to venture out sight unseen, Visual Profile is a Jewish dating service that provides photos and profiles of eligible singles. (800) 829-0404. And the Jewish Bulletin provides Such-a-Match Personal Listings and sponsoring Singles Schmoozes where people can meet. To place an ad, phone (415) 263-7200; fax (415) 263-7222; e-mail email@example.com
America Online offers a Jewish chat room and message board. Keyword: Jewish. To receive a free month's subscription to AOL, call (800) 729-4499.
A matchmaker — a professional, an aunt , or a friend — can be particularly helpful, providing encouragement for the faint of heart. The most common mate-search mistake, says Sadoff, is that "people give up too soon." He says he tries to push his clients to go beyond first impressions. He suggests that members of his service meet as many people as possible so that they will find the right person.
Sadoff's Jewish Bay Dates, with 700 members, has resulted in 18 marriages in the past two years. Seventy-eight members are currently in relationships with people they met through the group; one couple is engaged.
Helbraun-Abramson met her husband through the personals. "I wasn't necessarily looking for a partner," she says. "I was doing research." By spending time thoughtfully writing personals, she was able to develop a clear idea of whom she wanted to attract. "One nice thing about the personal ads," she says, "is that people can be very up front."
Like many singles, Helbraun-Abramson had been in several previous relationships and at times felt discouraged. How did she keep motivated?
"I made the decision that it was going to happen," she says.