“Sukkot on a Boat.” “West Coast Jews Cruise.” “Safari Purim.” Jeremy Doochin has a flair for snappy names. But for the 31-year-old Harvard MBA and co-founder of Jewbilee, a series of events for young Jews in the Bay Area, it’s not just about clever gimmicks and fun times — it’s about community.
“That’s essentially why I founded Jewbilee,” he said.
When Doochin moved to San Francisco three years ago, he wanted to socialize with other Jewish young adults. While a lot of people he knew were interested in the same thing, he found that they weren’t keen on meeting up at a synagogue mixer or a lecture on current events.
“I looked around and thought, there’s really nothing unaffiliated where Jews can hang out with other Jews,” he said.
So he and his brother, Jon Doochin, decided to create Jewbilee with the help of some friends. They’ve thrown around three dozen parties, including, most recently, a bar mitzvah–themed event on Feb. 2 complete with a photographer, a cake, a DJ and the same ’90s music and dances most of the attendees remembered from their own early-teen years.
“We had people doing the limbo, and the Macarena, and the hora,” he said.
“Sukkot on a Boat” featured river rafting and sukkah building on the South Fork American River. For “Safari Purim,” on Friday, March 22 at San Francisco’s Rouge nightclub, guests are encouraged to come dressed as animals. And from April 5 to 8, “West Coast Jews Cruise” will bring together participants from Northern and Southern California for a Carnival Cruise to Mexico.
Although Doochin initially was trying to fill what he saw as a need for unaffiliated social events, Jewish institutions have started to reach out: “Safari Purim” is co-sponsored by the Israeli American Council, and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation asked Doochin to organize its recent Christmas Eve “Latke Ball,” which drew 500 people to Oasis nightclub in San Francisco.
Doochin isn’t just a party planner. The Nashville, Tennessee, transplant comes from a family of synagogue founders and helped set up a Chabad student center as an undergrad at Vanderbilt University. He came to the Bay Area for a job in the solar industry, and as a new arrival he didn’t hesitate to start organizing the kind of social events he would want to attend.
“I didn’t see that when I came to San Francisco,” he said. “And that was a real motivator.”
The late-20s, early-30s crowd, Doochin’s peers, are the most stalwart Jewbilee attendees, he said, but he said participants range in age from their early 20s to their 40s. Some have an eye on finding a date, but others just want to party.
“We really get the full spectrum,” he said.
And whether it’s a trip to Vegas, the Sequoias or a bar in San Francisco, Jewbilee events fill a niche for young people who want to meet other Jews, but on a different turf than the one offered by organized religion.
“We’re not a religious thing,” Doochin said.” We’re more of a ‘Jews hanging out with other Jews’ thing — the cultural piece of that.”