How do you grow up one of 12 kids in a house full of people, with a congregational rabbi father who hosts strangers for weekly Shabbat meals at home, and still feel ill-equipped talking to women? You grow up in an ultra-Orthodox house, attend a yeshiva — where you’re taught that touching any woman other than your immediate family is forbidden — and, upon graduation, continue your studies so you can become a rabbi by the age of 21. Shmush, 26, did just that. But he never wanted to work as a rabbi — “It’s just something that our Chabad families do. It’s just another year of learning. I didn’t really want to rely on other people for income.”
“I wish I’d be better at the social cues with girls, but I’m definitely missing a few,” he said. I’ve known Shmush for some time; he’s pretty social. But I can see his blind spot. Still, he’s learning quickly.
“Being religious used to be a big part of my life, and I’ve kind of taken a break from that. I’m doing what’s right for me now. I don’t feel every person is the same. I think different things work for different people. I like Judaism, but not all of it makes sense for everyone. It’s a time in my life when I’m thinking for myself. For right now, this is good for me.”
Shmush — he goes by his nickname — makes his living as a health-insurance broker specializing in supplemental Medicare coverage. “It’s really exciting. It’s not something I thought would fit with me. At the end of the day, it’s a sales job, and I didn’t think of myself as a sales guy, but I get to talk to old people — I’m good at talking — they’re patient, I’m helping them out, doing a mitzvah, I guess, but at the same time making a living from it. I went somewhere last week, and the people were thanking me. Medicare is basically covering everything, but I’m the expert on which plan is best for them. We make sure we’re doing it kosher and people are happy with their plan.”
When he’s not working, he keeps in shape with Krav Maga, and he plays guitar in his band. “My youngest brother, Koby, is the singer. It’s fun for me. And it’s at the same time something else that’s a big part of my life.”
“What do you want in a woman?” I ask.
“I’m looking for somebody fun. I hate being bored. My No. 1 pet peeve is not doing anything. Somebody who’s not scared to go out on adventures. Obviously smart, sexy, put together. … I guess someone who’s as immature or mature as me — depends on how you look at it. Kind, for sure. Real. L.A.’s cool — I have met girls here. But I feel that people from the East Coast have more authenticity. I also like feminine girls. I’m not really into the tomboy type of girl.
“I want marriage, [and] I want kids. I’m looking for a meaningful relationship — something that adds meaning and satisfaction to my life. I guess that’s why people get married — companionship and a best friend. I’ve never had someone I was totally into. I know it’s a possibility — some of my friends have that, some don’t — and it looks like their quality of life is just substantially better than my other friends. They say you just need that chemistry. I’ve dated a girl that people have said was perfect for me, and I was totally shocked how there was no connection there at all. Sometimes it’s just being with that person. I’m definitely not an expert.”
Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.