Connecting up: Events for singles means double the fun

When Sara Bronstein became newly single last year after a decades-long marriage, she wasn’t quite sure what to do next. She knew she wanted to join a Jewish community group, but she was a bit older than the YAD crowd and too young for the senior circuit.

After a little nudging from pals, she found the Bay Area Singles Havurah — a South Bay–based group specifically designed for 35- to 50-year olds.

“Somebody sent me a link to the havurah’s Web site, and little by little I became more and more involved with the group,” she says.

This year Bronstein, director of the Israel travel program for the Israel Center, had an expansive idea for the group: to host an all-day Israel in the Gardens event open to all singles in the Bay Area.

Sara Bronstein

The day will begin with a private architectural tour of the Contemp-orary Jewish Museum, followed by a group picnic, concert viewing and an after-event get-together with Israeli DJ Ronen Sabo at Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., San Francisco. The museum tour, to begin at 11:30 a.m., is the only part of the event that requires reservations and a fee ($5). The rest of the day is free and open to the public.

The point of the event is to provide a full day of Israel in the Gardens–con-nected activities for those weary of going it solo, and to create an opportunity for Jewish singles across the counties to meet.

“Because of my involvement in the community, I know a lot of people who want to go [to the event] but don’t necessarily want to explore it alone,” Bronstein explains.

The Israel in the Gardens connector event is a bit of a departure for the havurah, which typically hosts dinners or smaller get-togethers.

The group began in early 2008 as a simple monthly Shabbat dinner in creator Mark Tischler’s Sunnyvale home.

Mark Tischler

Tischler isn’t your everyday Jewish singles group organizer. He’s an aerospace engineer for the Army, researching innovations in helicopter functionality and safety.

As it turns out, he gets to practice Hebrew at work — his department is responsible for a longstanding collaboration between the United States and Israel involving helicopter technology. In his free time he has also taught Israeli folk dancing, and he currently maintains the havurah’s Web page.

Following his divorce, Tischler created the havurah out of frustration with the Jewish singles scene.

“It seemed like there was no real mechanism to communicate in the Jewish sense, outside of normal synagogue services,” he explains. “I wanted to do something more intimate, more home-based.”

After Tischler set up the Web page, the group grew rapidly — it now has 287 members. Of course, not everyone shows up to every event, though Tischler says some of those Shabbat dinners balloon to upwards of 40 people.

With the havurah’s growing membership, the key for Tischler has been maintaining the group’s Jewish identity.

“The idea is to try and keep the theme of Judaism and Israel,” Tischler says. “I think my job, my folk dancing and the havurah are all a reflection of my cultural connections to Israel.”

To learn more about the Bay Area Singles Havurah’s Israel in the Gardens event, visit www.sfjcf.org/gardens/2009 or contact sarab@sfjcf.org. For more information on the group, visit http://singles.meetup.com/1808.