The Summer of Almost-Dates

2 Sep

Each summer comes with its own theme. Well, at least in my life they do. This happened to be a particularly eventful one, as I split it between New York City and various cities in Israel. My overall theme would definitely have to be adventure. Every day brought something I did not expect, from bumping into my all-time favorite rebbi, Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet (!!!!) to watching a shooting star fly across the heavens…no wait, that was the Israeli air force…same difference 🙂

And under that main theme of adventure falls the sub-theme of the almost-date. I experienced this awkward yet entertaining phenomenon more times than I thought possible. This is because I was Divinely put into the most unique of situations, all of which I proceeded with as casually as possible. Was I hoping to get at least one standard, traditional date over the summer? Sort of. With a schedule as hectic as mine was, I understood that dating would likely take a two month hiatus, but I always keep my mind open. Look, if Mr. Right wants to make his grand appearance as I’m heaving a 5-gallon jerrican up the side of a mountain, that’s not my judgement to make. He can come whenever he darn well feels like it as long as he realizes that he might find me  footloose and fancy free, lip syncing to a Miley Cyrus song. It’s better that he knows what he’s getting himself into from the get-go anyway.

I thought I had been exposed to every kind of date there was, but that sure did change this summer. I experienced, and witnessed some unconventional tete-a-tetes which I will now officially categorize as Almost-Dates. If an outsider were to see this happening, they very well could surmise, “they’re on a date,” but in reality that is not the case.

For example:

The Ambiguous Hangout Date: What is this exactly? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it is when neither party is 100% sure of the other person’s motive, but they are almost sure they know. But not quite sure.  For example, Guy asks Girl out on a whim. They’ve known each other for a while but never really spoke much. Now, Girl isn’t sure if he is really asking her out because he’s leaving for a semester abroad in Singapore the next day. Guy also never showed a particular interest in her and not because he doesn’t socialize with girls or is cripplingly shy. Neither is true, so Girl does not know what his intentions are. He brought food for them to share but he didn’t give the traditional date gesture of offering to buy a coffee. She excitedly accepted his offer to spend the afternoon together, but she didn’t seem too enthused when he played her favorite song on the Big Piano at FAO Schwarz.  The day could have been the start of something new, but both their hesitancy to ask, “what exactly is this” kinda left everything sort of  hazy. Whoops.

The Backwards Date: It starts out in the most ordinary of ways. A family friend has a marvelous idea to set up the children of two of her most beloved friends. The hashkafas match up, the goals in life are aligned and let’s face it, they’re both drop dead gorgeous. So the match is rhedt right away! Ah, yes! Girls is so excited! Finally a boy who sounds like an actual mensch. He learns Torah and does mitzvos, and attends Princeton Law School in between. Beautiful. There is just one little detail that makes this scenario radically different from the typical date– Girl has to meet the entire family first. It’s wonderful. They wine her and dine her, and the amazing bachur-of-her-dreams is sitting right across from her–but so is Mom, Dad and his three sisters. Look, if that is what it takes these days to get a good guy from a good family, I won’t object. I mean, think of the positive. You get the nerve wracking meet-the-family part out of the way, right away. There is no wondering if you’ll get along with your mother-in-law. You’ll already be BFFs by the time you get engaged. Really, it’s not as strange as it sounds…but it doesn’t quite qualify as a date.

Deja vu Date: The reason it feels like this date happened before is because it did. Yup, Guy and Girl who once went out end up spending  X amount of time together for no other reason than because. Because? Yes, just because. G-d runs this world and there is no way of knowing who you will run into and how many times. It’s not a date but it can sure make Guy and Girl wonder if they should be one one.

You know what I’ve learned this summer? That there are many, many ways to find one’s RD. G-d is the Ultimate shadchan. He’s the one Who calls the shots. Very rarely does He send a list of people to a shidduch-searching Yid and tell him, “pssst! It’s one of these ones!!!” No, for many of us, it comes through subtle heavenly hints and trusting one’s gut. Not knowing who your RD is can be frustrating, but as you continue on the search, just remember the lesson of the Almost-Date: sometimes Hashem brings the most precious gifts into our lives when we least expect them.

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How to be Single

31 Aug

There seems to be a very distinct issue in the Orthodox community with being single. I get it. I too want to have a home of my own according to Torah and Halacha, but right now I don’t have that. I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a boyfriend, heck, I don’t have a date for Labor Day Weekend. At this moment none of that is part of my reality. Tomorrow may very well hold a different reality, or the next day or the next…but until that day, I have to keep living my life as a single person. There are two ways I can do this:

1) Be happy with myself and my life

2) or not.

There is no question that many, if not all of us in search of the Real Deal, are taking every measure possible to find that special someone. Whether it be networking, making the time to date or seriously considering whether the person across the table is someone we can build a home with, each of us are taking the steps to get married. However, for those of us who do not have someone yet, there is no reason to be down in the dumps. Is it okay to get frustrated from time to time? Yes. There is no doubt that this can be a frustrating experience at times. But in the mean time, recognize the gifts of singlehood. G-d gives us each stage of life with a reason. Being single has its perks! And though you may long to have the comfort of having a full-time side kick and partner-in-life, enjoy being yourself as an individual. If you don’t enjoy yourself as an individual, it will be that much more difficult for someone to enjoy your company.  So…

A) Pursue Your Interests: Be ambitious. Don’t be afraid to do something with your life because it might get in the way of marriage. If you don’t have the need to achieve, that’s okay. Not everyone has the desire to be the most competitive, top-notch contender in their field. But choose something you like; something that you find meaningful. People like people who are passionate about life. One of the most intriguing people I ever met was an insurance agent. Why? Because he spoke about his job with excitement, humor and a sense of importance. Which leads me to…

B) Be Jessica: And by that I mean be excited about what you have. If the mirror thing is too much for you then mention a few ‘thank you’s to Hashem before ending Shmona Esrei or make yourself a list. Personally, I find myself quite entertaining. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

C) Be Confidant: Let’s break this down into very simple concepts. You only live once. You only get to be yourself. One day, please G-d after 120, you will kick the bucket and be dead. So enjoy being yourself. Know your beliefs and live them with conviction. No one wants a wimpy neb who doesn’t see the good in themselves. So if you keep complaining about being single, chances are you will give off the above impression. Learn to love yourself and others will love you naturally.

D) Eat Ice Cream: Not because you are depressed, but because you can still afford it! Once you get married you have to start being economic, you know, for the sake of paying rent, car/commuting costs, health insurance, college loan payments, food bills…all very good things but things that put “weekly run to Baskin Robbins” at the very bottom of the list.

E) Have Sleepovers with your Galpals: I think that is what I will miss the most when I get married. No one understands the thrill of watching Newsies like my girls do.

F) Stay Off of Facebook: The overwhelming and most common message that people extract from Facebook is that everyone else is having more fun than you. This is true. They are out living their lives and you are watching them live their lives. I am not against Facebook. It can be a handy tool, especially for those of us involved in outreach, but don’t let it be more than that. Have sincere, genuine conversations with other people. Remember what it’s like to dial the phone and hear a voice on the other line. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in the elevator. Put your social efforts outwards into the world rather than inward toward your smartphones and iPads.

G) Be Social: Now is the time to meet new people, go new places, visit various communities. Unless you are marrying the traveling rabbi type, you ain’t gonna have time for this later. Working, planning and socializing with new people might give you a new perspective on who you are and what you want to do with your life. Enjoy their company and presence. Enjoy being a smiley, happy, flirty-face if that’s the way you roll. Whoever you are, just be yourself, your best self because marriage isn’t the magic wand that makes you happy– you are.

The Best Part: Chapter 1

3 Jul

Looking back, it all made sense. All the events that lead up to this moment and all the crazy “coincidences” that had to take place. Who could have guessed it? But as they stood yards away from the Kotel, there was no question to be asked. This was bashert. This was what had been worth the wait all along:

It all began at a USBG shabbaton…

It was Shifra’s very first. With home being six hours away, she knew she has to find something consistent to do with her shabbatot. Pittsburgh wasn’t much of a party anyway. Besides, it was finally her turn to be a USBG advisor. Throughout high school, she just knew that one day, she’d be the one leading circles and midnight DMCs. She wasn’t all that involved back then- she went to the occasional event when it came to her community- but somehow she knew that this is something she was meant to be a part of. 

Her wistful dreams abruptly melded with reality as her arms were stuffed with information packets, a community map, a plastic poncho and a candy dish for the hosts. An advisor meeting was quickly assembled. Ice breakers were strategically put in place, with favorite flavors of ice cream and comic book heroes ricocheting from all ends of the circle. Predictions of the next day’s weather forecast were exchanged from person to person as rides to host’s homes were quickly dosed out.

“I’ve got room in my car for one more!” a blond-haired, Lacoste kippa-ed guy called to the crowd.

“I’ll take it!” Shifra responded. She quickly grabbed her trusty rolley suitcase and hanging clothes. She had been meaning to get a garment bag since moving to the city, but never got around to it. Hopefully the local pigeons didn’t have anything too pungent for lunch that day.

Shmu had been waiting in the car for quite some time now. As a chapter advisor, he did not have the privilege of having USBGers that weekend, though generally they never had enough guy staff to man the ground. 

“Alrighty we’re ready to rumble!” Dovid cheered as he clicked himself into the driver’s seat. “Tell me where you’re supposed to be headed and Sally will take us there.”

“You mean to tell me that having gone to school here for four years didn’t familiarize you with the area?” Shmu gaped with mocked disdain. 

“Look buddy, that’s better than you can say. You don’t even know what side of the road to drive on.”

“I could easily say the same about you,” Shmu smirked.

“Not in this country. Oh, move your knapsack over. We’ve got another advisor coming in coche de Dovid. “

Just as Shmu lifted his bag from the vacant seat, a wad of black, grays and purple whizzed onto it. 

“Sorry,” the owner apologized, “I have to put my luggage in the trunk, I’ll move that in one second.”

Luggage? What would it take to convince a girl that all she really needed for a day and a half can be stored in a good ol’ fashioned Jansport? Or an Eastport. Or whatever -port did not require wheels and a handle.

A moment later, Freida Lappin, director of the NY USBG division took her spot in the front passenger seat. She was completely zoned into her cell phone; working out last-minute catering catastrophes before sundown. Shmu was hoping she’d be available to talk since he had no idea what was expected of him this shabbos. He took this job out of curiosity, really. USBG needed him, USBG was paying him…now if only he knew exactly what he was being paid for.

“Aight, I’m plugging in the addresses,” Dovid announced.” 

“2347 Washington Ave,” the new girl advisor answered as she slipped into the seat next to Shmu. “Oh, I’ll take those.” She quickly huddled her mob of shabbos clothed onto her lap.

Shmu considered being a good chapter advisor and formally introducing himself, but he wasn’t in the mood. Sometimes he enjoyed being outgoing, sometimes not. Now was the time for a power nap. Tonight he was expected to lead circle– though he wasn’t quite sure what that meant yet. 

“And where am I taking you, Shmu?” Dovid asked.

“The corner of Jefferson and Adams, please.”

“Whoa, you’re from South Africa?” the girl queried, picking up on his foreign dialect.

“Gibraltar, actually.” He had gotten used to the mix up, though no one had been quite so oblivious as to confuse his accent with a South African’s thus far. No matter, it was power nap ti–

“I’m Shifra, by the way.”

“Shmu,” he politely extended a nod of the head in her direction, then turned his gaze to the inside of his eyelids. Frieda wasn’t getting to him anytime soon. He might as well enjoy some rest while he could.

To be continued…

Mind Blowing Thought…

17 Jun

Most of my friends have become engaged/married to people I already knew. Is that what usually happens or is my world particularly small?

Meme-tastic!

30 May

I’l be honest, I had to visit the Merriam Webster website to figure out what a “meme” is. But now that I have, I’m gonna give it a shot! Thanks for including me, SiBaW!

1. I wish I could…have more knowledge of my family history. I know that I am a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, and that many of my ancestors made difficult life altering decisions in order remain Torah committed Jews. The small bits of info that I do know are highly inspiring, and I feel that if I knew more, I’d have a better idea of what my Tafkid (purpose) is in this life.

2. My biggest fear is…not living to my potential. G-d blessed me with so many glorious opportunities and I pray that He helps me recognize which ones I should and should not take.

3. I hate to…ask for help. But thank G-d, I’ve gotten better at overcoming this nisayon (test).

4.  I love…the depth of Torah. The fact that my favorite quote from the Gemara is based on my favorite pasuk in Tanach is a small example of that. The greatest part is,  did not realize this interrelation much after I had learned each one in a separate context.

5. Today I will…thank Hashem. Every day G-d gives me is a new opportunity to be more focused, more committed and more joyous in my service of Him. Every day there are multiple things to thank Him for. Today happens to be particularly joyous day, for today I start a new journey; a summer program will allow me to grow in more ways than I can imagine at this moment in time.

6. Yesterday…I was able to participate in two regional NCSY convetions and go to my friends’ wedding (yes, my friends married each other!). If that doesn’t scream Chasdei Hashem for you, I don’t know what else will.

7. My hair is…brown, slightly wavy and long. The last lady who cut it left some uneven strands, but Baruch Hashem, I’ve never gotten more compliments about my hair. Strange, but I’m not complaining 🙂

8. I will never…say never about something, because in my experience, then I’m tested in what I say I’ll never do. The only thing I can say never about is that I will never be anything but a Jew. That can’t be changed, Baruch Hashem, and IYH, I will not have to be harshly tested in that area (please, please, please).

I think that now I am supposed to tag someone else and ask them to do answer the same questions. Well, PNN, if you have a spare moment to write a meme  (which means “same” in French), go for it!

Boston: The Dare

27 May

We’re members of the 21st Century, right ladies? We aren’t waiting for Tatte to bring back the butcher, tailor or chazzen home for dinner or waiting to see who will offer the most cows for our hands in marriage. In today’s day and age, a girl can cannot only choose who to marry, but who to date. I don[t know about you, but I find In-Town dating to be a tad competitive. The old-fashioned being-set-up-by-a-family-friend-and-seeing-where-it-goes just doesn’t cut it anymore. He’s got to have your resume, high school transcript and five-year plan on the table before he even looks at your picture. And let’s say he does get around to verifying your six points of ID, he has plenty more to look through.

Even the “informal” way of getting a date has its hoops. You want to go out with Shimmy, so, you ask your friend what his story is.

“He’s single,” she informs you, “but he’s supposed to go out with Yentel first. You’ll have to wait.”

Never mind that Shimmy considered her five months ago and never did anything about it, nor does Yentel have any interest in going out with him. The word on the street is, he’s going to ask out Yentel, and she hasn’t had a date in six weeks so don’t mess.

Now, if you’re a stubborn gal like me, you’ll just find another way to see if Shimmy is interested in going out with you. But let’s be realistic here…though we are women of the 21st Century and we’re more educated and worldly than our matriarchs before us, why are we chasing after the men? It’s supposed to be the other way around. We are supposed to be the pursued, not the pursuers. Ever read The Glass Menagerie?  They’re called “gentleman callers” because they are supposed to do the calling.

Well what can ya do, we live in the times that we live in. But if you do dream of being treated like a lady, if you are interested in getting a taste of the Amanda Wingfield courtship, there is a place to go.

Out of Town.

It’s really not as ridiculous as it sounds. Gather up a friend or two, decide on a place to go, ask the community rabbi to set you up with hosts and meals if you cannot find on your own and let them know why you’re coming. I know you’re crying inside as I say this. I know you’re thinking, “my gosh this girl is BONKERS!” That’s okay, I get that sometimes, and I also get that finding the RD requires stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. There are plenty of G-d fearing, Torah dedicated, genuine young men outside of the NY area. For whatever reason, they decided that their city, be it Boston, Detroit, Baltimore or beyond, is the best place for them to be. Some stayed for sumptuous scholarships, specific academic programs or growing businesses. Others just don’t like the NY lifestyle. It’s not worth parking having to park 20 blocks away from their $800/month room in the Heights. No matter why they chose to stay put, they want to get married just as much as In-Towners do. They just don’t have the same pool to fish in.

And that’s where we come in. All it takes is one visit; one trip to show that we each want to meet a great guy. We’re willing to meet people who don’t live where we do; we’re willing to make the extra effort to meet them. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’d rather go through all the boys in the Five Boroughs before stepping foot onto unknown territory. Could be. But for those of you who are ready to put yourself in a world where women are courted, go out with an OOTer. I dare you.

I don’t know how it works it other cities but I do know how it works in Boston. E-mail the Young Israel of Brookline. Tell them who you are and who’s coming with you. Tell them why you want to come. And while you’re at it, fill out one of the rebbetzin’s Shidduch Connection forms. Hey, you never know 🙂

Boston: The Lowdown

25 May

There are several standard facts of life that one grows up with when born in Boston:

1)      “R’s” are optional

2)      Wicked is a compliment

3)       “T” is for trolley

4)      Curses are meant to be broken, no matter how long it takes

But when growing up in the Jewish community, there’s a fifth fact that is unique to our community:

5)      There are always more boys than girls

I was all of thirteen when this truth registered. Though I had moved out years before, I returned to my beloved town of birth for summers. I scrambled after energy-high children by day and reconnected with friends and family by night . Ah yes, those Boston summers…learning to throw a football in the *Kleinstein’s backyard, barbecuing hotdogs  to the rollicking cheers of a Red Sox game, taking tutorials of mud-castle building…my experiences were always unique. None of my peers were very interested in talking to me, but then I realized why: pre-teen boys don’t like to talk, and I was surrounded by them from all sides.

“There’s a reason we like having you here, sweetie,” a family friends used to joke, “we just don’t have as many girls around here as boys. And as they grow older, the odds grow higher and higher.”

*********************************************************************************************************************************

Some claim that there’s something in the water, but I think my father explained it best: Boston is a great place to live. It’s clean, pretty and spacious. The Jewish community is big but not bursting at the seams, with easy access to kosher food, shuls, mikvah, schools and family services. There is one pizza shop instead of twenty-one and one Beis Yaakov instead of seven, but it’s enough. Baruch Hashem.

Yet once it’s time for a young Orthodox Bostonian to go to college, there begins to be a split. Many students begin to out-of-town, or as the rest of the Jewish community might call it, In-Town. The girls know their marriage options in Boston by this point. If they really want to go out with someone from the area, they can have it set up chick-chock, but most of them are interested in broadening their horizons. The Rav went down to YU every week, why not them? Let’s be honest, the best place to find boys from all over the country is the YU library. Boston is nice, but why settle for its windy winters when you Prince Charming may come from Miami, LA or Beit Shemesh? And once they do find that chivalrous lad, they’re gone for good. Bye-bye, Beantown.

Yet guys have a different attitude. For many of them, the fast paced life of New York is of no interest.  Think about it. You’ve grown up with trees, brownstone buildings and quiet streets for the first 18 years of your life. All of the sudden your entire life is limited to the same four nasty, smelly, Spanish graffitied blocks and to make matters worse, you’ve got GWB traffic  jammed up your ear 24/7. The natives are pushy, nosey and indifferent to your existence. Amsterdam Ave is not Harvard St. and when you measure the pros and cons, Harvard St. starts looking better by the millisecond. And with schools such as BU, MIT and Harvard within a 3 mile radius, there isn’t much concern about getting an education. There are places to join a morning and/or evening seder, thrice-daily minyanim and grab a slice of pizza. It isn’t New York, but it’s home.

*Name has been changed. If there are Kleinsteins in the greater Boston area, I am not referring to you.