You dont have to be married to enjoy modern Jewish lifestyle

In fact, Silver couldn't imagine living any other way.

"I always assumed that I would get married in `five to 10 years,'" Silver recently wrote in a personal essay about her conviction to stay single. But "it occurred to me, at age 30, that I might be kidding myself. At age 40, 50 or 60 would I also say `five to 10 years'?"

Silver, a professional workshop facilitator and program planner for the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, knew that others must feel the same way. Surely, she reasoned, she was not the only healthy, attractive and successful individual choosing to be single.

Believing she had something significant to add to the dialogue, she decided about five years ago to add her own workshop to the many that addressed the needs of single Jews.

However, rather than offering tips and strategies for finding a partner, Silver focuses on both the joys and the challenges of choosing to remain single. She covers such topics as financial planning, travel, entertainment, discrimination against singles and the importance of maintaining friendships.

She also discusses single Jewish women's role in preserving tradition.

The Shulchan Aruch or code of Jewish law says it is a man's duty to find a wife and propagate. Jewish women are not bound by the same injunction.

Nonetheless, singles can benefit from and enrich Jewish communal life, Silver said. While in the past, people have often become active in the Jewish community as part of a family unit, singles who are willing to put forth the effort can become full participants.

"I see people marrying and having kids and not leading Jewish lives. One who is involved Jewishly, married or single, fulfills one's obligation to one's people," Silver explained.

While acknowledging that in synagogue life, most major rituals surround marriage and children, she encourages single Jews to use the synagogue for social, cultural and spiritual enhancement.

Silver also suggests that single people create their own meaningful rituals — Jewish or not — to celebrate such personal milestones as leaving a batterer, getting clean and sober or adopting a pet.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein concurs in her book, "Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones" (Jewish Lights Publishing, 432 pages, $24.95).

In the book, Orenstein suggests using Jewish wisdom to create rituals for "invisible life passages." She adds that perhaps adult b'nai mitzvah have grown popular in recent years because they are a way for single women to be recognized and celebrated in the synagogue.

Meanwhile, Silver contends that, based on her experience with workshop participants, the happiest singles tend to be those in their late 40s and 50s. She cites a 1993 U.S. Census Bureau study revealing that the desire to marry drops with age.

According to the survey, 93 percent of single women and 88 percent of single men between 18 and 24 wish to marry. For both sexes between the ages of 35 and 44, those numbers diminish to half. After 45, the percentages drop further.

Meanwhile, the number of single women choosing motherhood through artificial insemination and adoption is growing steadily. Silver says this proves that Jewish values and heritage can be maintained through the generations even if parents choose not to have partners.

"Single Jewish women do have children. It's a viable alternative today," Silver said, adding that she and others "want choices. And one of the choices is to be both single and happy."