February 5, 1998
A Woman’s Voice
By Marlene Adler Marks
Stop the presses: The Jewish communityis ready to discover...singles. That's right. What intermarriage and"continuity" were to the 1990s, singles will be in the years ahead: agroup to study, court, serve and, finally, value.
Why are we discovering singles just now? Thearrival of singles is foretold in a soon-to-be-released populationsurvey of Jewish Los Angeles, which shows that 38 percent of Jewsover age 18 are currently unmarried. Moreover, that singlespopulation is lodged squarely in both the baby boomer group andGen-X. The numbers break down by age as follows:
Ages 18 to 29: 33 percent (of all thosesingle)
Ages 30 to 59: 39 percent
Ages 60 and up: 28 percent
There's really no surprise in this, especially ifyou read single ads or sit in on chat rooms. In fact, the Los Angelessurvey generally repeats figures first seen in the 1990 NationalJewish Population Survey. Apparently, no one read them in thehysteria over intermarriage. Until now, the part of the singles worldthat got attention was the frail, elderly grandma or grandpa wholived alone and needed Meals on Wheels.
But better late than never. Today, the passion isfor singles, and I say it's good news, indeed.
"They're a silent segment of the Jewishcommunity," Sandra King, director of Jewish Family Service in LosAngeles, said of singles. "They've gotten lost in the hierarchy ofneeds. Now, attention must be paid." Pini Herman, researchcoordinator of the Federation's Planning and Allocations Department,which oversaw the study, calls these singles the "bellwether" of theJewish future.
What does it mean to pay attention to singles?That is ticklish. Jewish singles, professionally competent and oftenwell-educated, learn quickly to fend for themselves. They are used tocreating what sociologists call "compensatory systems" -- supportgroups of their own to celebrate holidays or help with childcare.
But Sally Weber, director of Jewish communityoutreach programs for Jewish Family Service, tells me that whilesingles don't organize or complain to the powers that be, their needsare great. (On Sunday, Feb. 15, Weber and I will participate in adaylong program, "Creating Family Life as a Single Parent," at theWestside Jewish Community Center, sponsored by JFS's new JewishSingle Parent Network. For information, call  761-8800.)
"They feel isolated, spiritually and personally.You're supposed to know how to be an adult, to raise your own kids,find your own friends, your own dates," she says. "Singles are nothappy about asking for advice." So get ready for a lot of singlessupport groups, for grants and symposia and commissions. I'm surewe'll learn a lot.
But singles are, by nature, suspicious; they'vehad one too many bad dates and one too many unreturned phone calls.They've gone to networking parties where the testosterone level isabout -3. They know a line when they've heard one. And they'll besuspicious of being discovered only just now, when fund raising inother parts of the community is drying up.
Can they be reached? My guess is that singles willput cynicism aside if, and it's a big if, our community offers themsomething they can't get anywhere else.
What will that be? Over the last few years,synagogues and community organizations have tried to become more opento singles. Synagogue rituals are no longer strictly reserved forcouples. There are singles havurot, and a small but growing "men'sclub" revival. The old institutional bias against the unmarried isfading, if not gone.
So there's only one service the Jewish communityalone can provide to singles: a dating service. I'll know the Jewishcommunity is committed to serving the needs of single Jews when itfunds a full-time matchmaker and does personalized matchmaking on alow-fee basis.
A shadchan: Am I serious? Totally. Until now, ourcommunity has generally left the singles market to privateenterprise. If you're not the kind who responds to young leadershipprograms, then you're left to seek out personal ads, GreatExpectations, a private matchmaker, Aish HaTorah. This neglect of theone matter closest to a single's heart sent a message: You're on yourown.
The fact is that most single people who doeventually marry meet their spouses through acquaintances. Eightypercent of married couples were introduced by family and friends. Ofthese, 10 percent were via blind dates. Nothing, not the Internet,not networking parties, replaces the comfort of community and what iscalled "the human credential" -- someone to vouch for me.
This need for personal references, for someone whocan bring man and woman together, is great and untapped. What is atightly knit community about if not to make connections? And in a fewJewish communities, such a "someone" is already on the payroll. InSt. Louis, for example, Dr. Leah Hakimian, a math professor, isdirector of Connections of St. Louis, sponsored by the JewishFederation. She charges a modest $35 for registration, and she knowseveryone in town.
It's nice that we're about to discover oursingles, to let them know officially that they're not alone. But whatsingles want are not more programs, conferences or committees; whatsingles are waiting for is an old-fashioned phone call with theheartwarming words: "Have I got a guy/gal for you!"
Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist at TheJewish Journal. Her e-mail address is email@example.com. Join herthis Sunday morning at the Skirball Cultural Center for aconversation with writers Lisa and Carolyn See.
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