July 24, 2013
Tu b’Av love fest puts yentas to work
“Come on! Come on, everyone, we’re here to make mispachah [family].”
That was the rallying cry in the crowded courtyard of Wilshire Boulevard Temple on the night of July 20, as well-dressed young women skilled at walking in heels circled boys in button-downs, looking for a man who would make their mothers (and grandmothers) proud.
It was Tu b’Av — the Jewish answer to Valentine’s Day — and the young, single Jews of Los Angeles were on the prowl.
The event, Love Fest, attracted a crowd of about 350 over the course of the evening, and was put together and publicized by a number of organizations, including East Side Jews, Reboot, IKAR, Jewlicious and Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Organizer Jill Soloway, a TV and film writer, director and producer who founded East Side Jews, said that the idea was something she’d been kicking around for years.
“You’re always getting e-mail chains about how people want matchmaking events, a way for single people to meet people that isn’t JDate,” she said.
But where to hold such an event? They wanted it to be outdoors, and they wanted to be able to serve alcohol, a tricky combination.
“The location was the missing piece,” Soloway said.
So when Rabbi Susan Goldberg, whom Soloway knows through involvement with East Side Jews, became one of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s rabbis, the two walked through the space to see if there was anything on the synagogue’s campus that might fit the bill.
The courtyard proved to be an ideal place for a singles event, especially on a balmy Los Angeles evening. Guests could drink and mingle or take personality tests, get in-person dating consultations from online dating expert Dear Mrs. D or talk to one of the be-kerchiefed yentas floating through the crowd.
A DJ played just loud enough that potential matches had to lean in close to hear one another, and clips of classic movies looped and overlaid with pattern and color were projected onto the courtyard’s walls.
“We specifically didn’t say Wilshire Boulevard [Temple] on the invitation, because we wanted it to feel like just a courtyard in Koreatown,” Soloway said. “We wanted to attract people who would never go to a singles event at a temple.”
The idea was to allow people to mingle organically, but also to use the circulating yentas and two on-stage comedians, Brett Gelman and Morgan Murphy, to do some more serious matchmaking. But the event quickly grew too crowded to keep good track of who was where and who wanted what.
“Once it got crowded, it was just impossible,” Soloway said.
Tu b’Av (the 15th of Av) is mentioned as a sort of matchmaking day in the Talmud. It is a celebration, mostly because it comes on the heels of the most sorrowful day on the Jewish calendar: Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of both Temples.
Singles events can be pretty awkward, vibes-wise — there’s a lot of aborted eye contact and even more stilted conversation — but that didn’t faze guests like Victoria Amoscato.
“It’s really hard to meet people in the real world, so I figured I’d give this a shot. It’s way more plausible to say, ‘I met someone at temple,’ than, ‘I met someone online,’ ” said Amoscato, a 26-year-old graduate student who attended with friends. “Plus, I think my mom would be thrilled.”
And there’s always some comfort in having your singleness out on the table.
“Mostly I’m just looking for someone who’s also really looking,” Amoscato said. “At an event like this, at least it’s out in the open — there’s no pretense, and that’s nice.”
Apparently there were at least three or four connections made at the event. Who knows if the love will be lasting, but if it is, the lucky couples already have the perfect anniversary — Tu b’Av also is said to be the luckiest day for a nice Jewish wedding.
The busy yentas brought Amoscato a few possibilities, but none of them was a match.
“Still,” she said, “it was fun to look.”