San Francisco’s Noe Valley might not resemble an Eastern European shtetl, but it does have a modern-day yenta in its midst.
Shira Levine, 38, a tenacious, auburn-haired new mom, has quite a track record as a matchmaker — three of the couples she has set up on dates ended up getting married.
“Give me 15 minutes,” Levine says, when asked to estimate how long it would take her to sit down with any single man or woman, and then find them a mate. Levine has set up numerous friends on blind dates, matching people whom she feels share a similar neshama, or spirit.
Being a matchmaker is a passion and a hobby for Levine, who has no qualms calling herself “Yenta,” the name of the matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof.” However, to “add some dynamism to the old concept of the traditional yenta,” she says, she goes by Super Yenta, a title that combines her matchmaking prowess and her love of comic books.
The three successful marriages Levine has set up thus far have been among close friends she’s known for years.
Still, arranging to actually get each couple together for a first date was a challenge, even once she realized they were great for each other.
“One of the couples I fixed up, it took them three years to meet,” Levine said. “He’s from London, she’s from New York. I mean, it took three years for them both to be single, together in the same place … but it made them more ready to be in love.”
After the nachas she got from attending that couple’s wedding, Levine was eager to help more people — and her idea for Super Yenta was hatched. Her services, which she advertises at www.superyenta.com, range from Dear Abby-style written advice (at $30 or $50 per question) to reviewing and editing online dating profiles ($100) to phone consultations ($150 per hour).
The regularly updated Super Yenta blog contains wisdom of her own, such as Levine’s top three rules for a blind date, as well as advice from relationship experts.
Matchmaking runs in Levine’s family.
Her brother arranged for her to meet a man at the New Orleans Jazz Festival — and Levine ended up marrying that man shortly thereafter, in 2006. Moreover, Levine’s parents were set up at a wedding by relatives.
Speaking from experience, Levine asserts that outside help can be a great way to find someone. “Everyone needs a yenta … a little push,” she says. “No one is above it.”
The ketubah hanging prominently over the front entrance of Levine’s home and the mezuzahs on the doors are indicative of Levine’s proud Jewish heritage, and she says that Judaism plays a large role in every aspect of her life. “Judaism informs everything I do,” she says, “and I find answers to all questions about relationships, love and fidelity through Judaism.
“I think in the Jewish community, we have so much going for us culturally. If you’re Jewish, and you want to meet someone who’s Jewish, that just takes 30 percent of the fumbling away versus if you were in the secular world.”
One of Levine’s matchmaking principles is that when single Jews come to her asking to be set up on a blind date, she will only set them up with other Jews.
“Every Jew has a Jewish mother,” she explains. “That’s all my future husband needed to know about me — and all I needed to know about him. It informs your worldview. You’ve all got that same ‘Jewish mother relationship’ that is hard for non-Jews to understand.”
Levine herself has recently become a mom. Nine months ago she gave birth to a son, Gabriel. She said the new joy in her life, from both her son and her husband, have inspired her matchmaking pursuits even further.
“Everyone deserves to be loved in a committed way,” she says. “It’s an incredible gift, and having a child makes all the most important things crystal clear.”
As for being a yenta, Levine says, “there’s nothing more gratifying than seeing people that I like, like each other. … If I love someone, they’re obviously lovable. I just want to share the love.”
Before Shira Levine goes forward on a matchmaking quest, she asks people to read her list of rules. You don’t have to pledge to follow them, but, writes Levine, “Please note that if you stray from my rules, I cannot be accountable if your first date is a flop.”
Here are excerpts of her rules posted on www.superyenta.com:
Manage expectations: Stakes rise when you try to start a relationship over a candle-lit dinner at a top-rated restaurant. Keep your first date very low key and promise yourself you will not do any activity that costs more than $15 total, not for each person, but total. That can mean meeting for coffee, walking the dog, or just meeting at the beach or city park. Do not extend your time together beyond whatever time you allotted for this date. If the person is worth seeing again, set up another daytime date … before you see them at night.
Be a mensch. If you say you’re going to call, call. If you don’t intend to call, don’t say you will. Better yet, if you are not interested and you know it after the first meeting, politely say, “I enjoyed myself but I don’t think we have a future. Can I reserve the right to fix you up with anyone I know who I think might be a better fit?”
Be honest with your yenta. A yenta wants to help you! Follow up with your yenta, telling him or her exactly what you thought about the person, good or bad. This way, your yenta can pat himself or herself on the back and offer encouragement — or know how to do better for next time.