"They're really nice Jewish people," says the twentysomething single, "hard working, very bright, nice looking, ethical Jewish people -- and they all have tremendous difficulty meeting other Jewish people."
So when the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles put together a Jewish Singles Task Force to study the dating habits of Los Angeles' Jewish singles, Lawrence got involved.
Headed by Task Force Committee Chair Marvin Gelfand and Tanya Labowitz, singles coordinator for the Federation's Council on Jewish Life, the task force has spent the last six months investigating the community's social scene in order to help its host organization better serve its unmarried constituents. The task force's information was culled from a combination of sources, including focus group evaluations, phone interviews, and sociological books and articles.
The resulting report -- completed last month -- produced some minor revelations, reiterated the obvious ("There is no one formula for finding a significant other and no uniform preference by singles for meeting others"), and confirmed many generalizations long held by local singles (the city's decentralized geography, it concluded, works to the detriment of the local singles).
Chief among the study's findings were some major discrepancies between "what singles say they want and their actions." For example, the report stated that respondents expressed an overwhelming desire to find Jewish partners and raise their children as Jews, but also admitted to dating non-Jews. Another contradiction described how, while singles claimed to favor small, intimate gatherings, many regularly attended the larger functions they derogatorily referred to as "meat markets."
Single parents, singles in their early 20s, and singles 40 and over were identified as groups least catered to by Jewish singles event organizers. Younger twentysomethings also voiced their uneasiness with attending functions frequented by their older counterparts. Many single parents who indicated they do not plan to have more children said that they do not exclusively date Jewish partners. And a majority of the questionnaires reflected a disenfranchisement with synagogue life, widely perceived as family oriented.
When asked by evaluators why they have not met their significant others, those polled blamed a paucity of quality people with common values, goals or interests. Many of the comments logged regarding the opposite sex seem downright stereotypical -- the men said that Jewish women care too much about a man's income; the women claimed that Jewish men prefer to date non-Jewish blondes.
"Both males and females believed that the other sex has unreal expectations," says Gelfand.
In addition, the study found that women were less likely to place or respond to personal ads, and women over 40 believed that men their age want to date younger women -- an opinion that the report's statistics overwhelmingly seem to support.
According to the report, at least half of the participants had Internet access. A similar number of singles -- especially those in their 30s and 40s -- received The Jewish Journal or regularly referred to its calendar of events listings. This age category has also seen the most growth as a group turning to the Internet and matchmaking services.
In light of the report's yieldings, the task force prescribed some recommendations, which include the following:
* Centralizing information on singles-related events and services (which the Federation has already begun to address since January at its Web site).
* Printing a directory of singles organizations for those without Internet access.
* An increase in events pitched at singles in their early 20s, singles over 40, and single parents.
* An increase of "special interest groups" -- smaller events centered around specific activities (Shabbat dinners, athletics, guided trips/travel groups, etc.)
On the latter point, task force member Lawrence believes that providing alternatives to bars and clubs is crucial.
"There are not enough appropriate venues...for Jewish adults to meet each other," says Lawrence, who is observant. "I've seen people meet over [smaller-scale functions such as] Shabbat dinners and classes because people get to talk to each other directly about deeper issues."
Lawrence does not think that the issues raised in the report are regional, as her single friends back East grumble over similar topics. While Jewish continuity is of foremost concern on her mind, Lawrence -- who will be executive director of Club Soda, a new Pico-Robertson-area afternoon teen center opening this fall -- can understand where the substantial population of young, unaffiliated Jewish singles are coming from.
"In my teens and early 20s, I thought Judaism was nerdy," says Lawrence, who has since discovered the richness of her culture. In regard to reaching that elusive demographic, the task force suggested adopting measures such as advertising in non-Jewish publications popular with young adults.
The Federation is currently in the early stages of devising ways to implement the report's recommendations. And despite some negative data, Gelfand is encouraged by the sweeping arc of the task force's research: "What was nice was the uniform desire for [more singles programming] and to foster Jewish family values."
For information on Jewish singles clubs, organizations and events, log onto the Jewish Federation's Web site at www.jewishla.org/singles or call the event hot line at 1-800-456-5544.
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