Shulamit Rosner of Vallejo has a plan that combines ancient partner-choosing rituals and modern dating trends into something she hopes will result in new relationships for single Jewish seniors in the Bay Area. Herself included.
“We’re celebrating Tu B’Av,” she said, referring to a very old, almost defunct Jewish holiday that’s been going through something of a revival in recent years, often described as “the Jewish Valentine’s Day.”
Rosner, a New York native raised mostly in Southern California, and her friend, Lynn Toveg, are organizing a nighttime Tu B’Av event on Thursday, Aug. 15 at Congregation B’nai Israel in Vallejo. “Tu B’Av: Jewish Evening of Love” is for Jewish singles 55 and over. “Come share a laugh, a cup and a nosh” says the invitation, noting that the food will be kosher.
The plan is to start with something resembling speed dating, Rosner said.
“Each lady will have a table, and the men will cycle through so each can get an impression of the other,” she said. “After that, it will be more like a typical mixer, with light refreshments and talking.”
Pleasant music will play in the background, but there may not be dancing, as Rosner said she wouldn’t want anyone to fall down and break a hip.
“The hope is to get some people married, to find companionship to enjoy their so-called golden years, which for some people are not so golden,” she said. “Also, this is a way to introduce people to CBI. It’s wonderful to revive this ancient custom.”
Sometime probably in the first century C.E., the Jews of the Holy Land celebrated a festival called Tu B’Av, or the 15th of Av (Av is the fifth month on the Hebrew calendar). It falls on Aug. 16 this year.
On that day, young single women would dress in white and dance in the vineyards, hoping that one of the young, single men assembled would select her as his wife.
No one knows exactly when the custom started, but it fell out of favor after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and “was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries,” according to My Jewish Learning. “It has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in the modern State of Israel.”
Helping guide a potential match is a mitzvah for all Jews.
The “Jewish Valentine’s Day” angle is pretty much what Rosner and Toveg have in mind for their event, the first of its kind at the 109-year-old congregation.
“Helping guide a potential match is a mitzvah for all Jews,” said Dorrin Rosenfeld, B’nai Israel’s president. “I’m proud to participate in a CBI event that purports to do just that … I’m happily married, but if I wasn’t, that’s where I’d be.”
Rosner, of course, will be there, but Judaism wasn’t always a foregone conclusion for her. Born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, the 71-year-old tried several different faiths before hooking into Judaism in her 40s.
“My Jewish grandmother always said she wanted me to be Jewish,” she said, adding that she’s had an official conversion. “She’s gone now, but I figure she’s pleased from up there.”
A Vallejo resident since 2017 and a state-certified Spanish interpreter, she even lived in Israel for a while. She’s also been married twice — and now is looking again.
“Maybe the third time’s the charm,” she said.
Rosner is a mother of four and grandmother of six. She moved to the Bay Area at the request of some important local residents (her daughters and sister), found an affordable house in Vallejo, and did her best to get involved and stay active.
“I’ve been in a play [local community theater], started a neighborhood watch group and started a basic Judaism class,” she said.
The upcoming Tu B’Av event is her latest endeavor. “It’s known that, very often, older people suffer from loneliness,” she said. “This is a way of possibly alleviating some of that, at least for some of them.”