YAD: Suddenly you find this whole new group of friends

They came from as far away as Australia and as close as down the street.

Many of the 37 singles at the recent newcomer's reception were new to the Bay Area. Others had been calling it home for years. But they were all new to the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Young Adults Division.

Rob Shapiro came all the way from Reno to attend the reception at the Jewish Community Federation building in San Francisco. The young physician was having trouble locating a vibrant Jewish singles group closer to home when he called YAD, asking to be put on its mailing list.

"This was my first YAD event and it turned out to be a great way to meet people. I hope to become more involved over the summer. After all, Reno is only a four-hour drive away from San Francisco."

Welcoming Shapiro and the other newcomers, event co-chairs Larry Kluger and Harriet Rotter suggested participants think of the evening as an introductory session: "YAD 101."

"This is your introduction to us and a chance to eat, drink, shmooze and get to know each other," said Kluger. "Remember, this is a nonmembership organization. If you're Jewish, you're in it."

The largest Bay Area Jewish singles organization for individuals between the ages of 21 and 39, YAD offers a wide range of programs, from educational lectures to social activities and spiritual events. In addition, YAD supports JCF's annual campaign, which raises money for Jews in need locally, in Israel and around the world.

After leading several ice-breaking games and presenting a slideshow highlighting such group activities as monthly Shabbat dinners, social gatherings and visits to sick children at the Ronald McDonald House, Kluger turned the floor over to Rotter.

YAD involvement, said Rotter, typically begins with biting the bullet and saying, "`OK, I'll do it. I'll go to something by myself and hope it won't be horrible.' So you go to one thing and discover it's not so bad. You even meet a few people. You go to another, you see them again, and suddenly you find you have this whole new group of friends!"

YAD president Dan Lavin revealed that it took him over a decade to realize having a supportive network of Jewish friends was more important than a life revolving around computer software.

Lavin was working in "the industry" in San Jose when he started questioning why he was spending all his free time going to computer parties, which were really all about networking. "Now I spend my off-hours as part of a community, a community of givers doing good things around the world."

For example, explained Lavin, two months ago when Katyusha rockets rained down on Shmona — the JCF's sister city in northern Israel — the federation was in constant contact with residents in bomb shelters "who we rushed medical equipment and communication gear to."

Joining a group of young Jewish community leaders involved in social action appeals to YAD newcomer Heidi Alhadeff.

"I've been involved with socially committed Jewish youth groups in the past and this seems kind of like an adult version of that," said Alhadeff, who arrived in San Francisco from Seattle almost a year ago. She found out about the newcomer's event from a friend who had been "cruising the Net" and, by looking under "singles" and then "Jewish," discovered YAD.

Long after the newcomer's welcoming reception had officially ended, participants like Alhadeff and Shapiro lingered to talk, eat and form new friendships.