A friend of mine told Reuven to contact me. I was told he was a 31-year-old Orthodox Jew who runs Elite Cuisine, a kosher restaurant, with his family. To be frank, I expected someone a little dorky. But he’s not. Reuven’s more reminiscent of Jax from “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s blond, has a bit of a scruffy beard, and has the confidence of a guy who knows he can beat you in a fight. His daily ride is a 1951 Chevy, but there’s no AC so he pulls up in an old convertible — the kind that takes up half the block.
He said he was “born and raised here in L.A. The whole Yavneh, YULA circuit, so to speak. My family back in Europe was very religious. Here we just consider ourselves Modern Orthodox. Both my parents are immigrants, so that adds to the mix. My mother’s from Ukraine. My father’s from Slovakia.”
Reuven rides a motorcycle and fixes up old cars with his father. His favorite is a 1972 Grand Prix. “It’s black and loud, and the girls are usually in shock because most Jewish guys don’t drive old cars. It’s different. When I was young I always thought different was good, but as I get older I realize different isn’t necessarily better — it’s just different.”
I’m leading most of the conversation — he’s hard to pry stuff out of, and I tell him so. He says, “I work best off others’ enthusiasm,” and I wonder if he just took a jab at me. But I don’t think he meant it that way. Comically, I realize how hard I’m trying to get him to open up to me. To like me. To laugh at one of my jokes. What the hell is wrong with me, I wonder.
“Are you tough?” I ask. Am I trying to get in a fight? He laughs. That’s right — I get him to laugh. I reword it — “Did you get into a lot of fights growing up?” He says, “Never. Whenever someone bumps into me, they say, ‘Sorry.’ ” He tells me about a smaller friend of his, who when he gets bumped into, “They give him an extra shove.” “That was me!” I exclaim, a little too loudly. It turns out I have Reuven pegged completely wrong. “We’re not the Joneses or the Cohens down the block,” he explains. My dad’s like a European cowboy.” They ride horses and started a kosher beef jerky business — kosherbeefjerky.com.
After high school, Reuven “went to Israel for a year for yeshiva — a good Jewish boy. I had a great time.” He graduated from UCLA with a history degree. “I had a few jobs here and there, but nothing that was my speed, and I slowly started working for Elite Cuisine.” It’s hard work — they’re open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., so he doesn’t get much time to go out with friends or to meet women. “I never appreciated Shabbos more than the first [Friday after work]. It’s the first time I said, ‘Thank God it’s Friday. Thank God it’s Shabbos. No phones, nothing … just reset.’ ”
Reuven wants to get married and have kids. “I didn’t think I’d be 31 and single. I’m not that guy looking for a 10. Some guys just want a face. I want someone to talk to — a best friend, you know? I’m looking for someone to excite me, someone to make me smile … now I’m getting corny.” He’s comfortable now — and he keeps talking. “I’m looking for a good person. Sense of humor is a must.” He’s easygoing and wants the same in a woman. “I’m looking for the whole package — family, white picket fence, red door, dog. I have two dogs. I’m a dog person.”
Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.