Sonia doesn’t look or sound like your typical Jewish girl next door. Sure, she’s loud — but her accent is more Charo than Bette Midler. Her clothing is, too.
Sonia was born in Costa Rica to a Catholic family. Her uncle, who is now a Vatican priest, told her that he knew she’d never be a Catholic. He taught Bible classes to kids with disabilities, and Sonia volunteered with him. She liked working with the kids. But whenever it would come to religion classes, she thought, “I don’t like this s—.”
After her mother divorced, they moved to Los Angeles. She was 14. “I hated it at the beginning, but now I love it and couldn’t live anywhere else … [except] maybe Israel.” At 16, she read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in school. It was her first Jewish experience. “At that point, I didn’t know realistically what Judaism was. I knew Israeli dancing, and I did know the story of Judaism.”
Her family is educated about religion, she said. “So when I decided to convert, they didn’t make a big deal. … I talked to my boyfriend at the time about Anne Frank, and he said, ‘I have to show you a film.’ What did he show me? ‘Schindler’s List.’ I felt depressed for a week. It impacted me.”
Sonia dated mostly Jewish men after that. Eventually, she married an Israeli. She actually started the conversion process during a break-up, while they were still dating. “I said to my best friend, ‘I really don’t miss the guy, but I think I’m going to miss celebrating all the traditions and stuff, because that’s what’s become me.’ ” A year later, she converted through the Conservative beit din. When her ex heard about the classes, they got back together. Then he proposed. “The power of a Jewish girl. All of a sudden, he pops up with a ring.”
Sonia is divorced now. He was a good man, but they weren’t a match. She now has their house in the Valley and the ability to understand Hebrew. “I’m shy … I don’t want to speak it.” When a co-worker in the law firm where she works as a paralegal told her she was strong for going through a divorce, she said, “I’m not strong. I just deal with it. I’m not going to sit in a corner and cry.”
I tell her, “You don’t seem shy.” She’s actually quite talkative, confident and, to use her word, “charming.”
“What is being charming?” I ask. She says, “People always tell me, ‘Oh, I like talking to you.’ I have fun talking. I’m very blunt … you might love that or hate it.”
I ask her what she wants in a man. “I like Jewish men. I like somebody who is in tune with his religion. I don’t think I can identify with someone Orthodox, even though I’m religious — I keep kosher, I keep a kosher home, I attend shul. I like someone who celebrates Shabbat, but not too Orthodox.
“I like a sense of humor. I like smart people. If you saw pictures of my ex-boyfriends, you would believe me when I say that looks have nothing to do with it. I’m very outgoing, I have a lot of friends, and I want to be with someone secure.
“A friend said to me, ‘You can find perfection in imperfection.’ You need to find someone who complements you — not completes you, like in that movie ‘Jerry Maguire.’ ”
You had us at imperfection, Sonia.
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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.