SINGLES SUPPLEMENT: Blame it on Mercury Matchmaking misses mark timing askew

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Maybe it was because Mercury went retrograde that the first-ever Matut & Associates matchmaking party didn't go as well as planned, mused Leah Matut, professional yenta and shiduch-coordinator.

"When Mercury, the planet of travel and communication, appears to hide behind the other planets, you can be sure some things will get foiled," agreed Matut's partner-in-matchmaking and credentialed astrologer, Rochelle Khalfhy.

Matut and Khalfhy held a matchmaking party at Matut's luxuriously modern Anza Street home in San Francisco May 24 — the day after Mercury went into hiding.

An anticipated 20 or so people were expected at the singles event, said Matut. Less than half that showed up.

"I took an ad out too late in the Jewish Bulletin," confessed Matut, a blond, 40-year-old, Polish-born New York transplant. "People said they would come and bring friends, but I guess that didn't happen. Next time, I'll bring people from New York."

Matut's grand plan is to match couples between San Francisco and New York — where she has another home and has spent four years building up a large client base. Khalfhy is also from New York and has some connections there, too.

Who are these clients? Mostly 20 to 45-year-olds, many modern Orthodox or Orthodox-leaning, some non-religious, but all single Jews.

Despite the small turnout, the people who attended the affair said they enjoyed the event. Pam Kimbell of San Francisco said she loved "the religious aspect of the evening." Matut had invited Rabbi Aaron Grush to read some midrashim to educate the partygoers and provoke them to think about spirituality.

"The drash [religious commentary] was so deep and so interesting. I think it's great to integrate Judaism and romance in one party," said Kimbell, who attended the party because she is ready to meet a husband and start a family.

The purpose of these matchmaking parties is not only to meet and mate, explained Matut, but to learn more about Judaism. You don't have to be religious to attend, but Matut admitted her hope is that non-observant Jews would meet someone more observant and become attracted to religious practice, which happened to her when she met her husband.

That's why Lynn Bell, an attractive 34-year-old mortgage banker from San Francisco, attended. As a modern Orthodox Jewish woman, she said it's difficult to meet a man of similar belief. When Khalfhy invited her to the party, she hoped to meet the type of man she wouldn't meet in a bar.

Ziv Herchkovitz, a 32-year-old Israeli-born San Franciscan, said that's where he usually meets women — in "sleazy bars" — but he came to the party to meet many single "beautiful Jewish women."

Jack Kirby, a 52-year-old piano player from Marin and the only other single man at the party, said he wasn't really interested in necessarily meeting a Jewish woman and declared himself a proud atheist who doesn't like organized religion. "But I've had a lot of fun meeting all these nice women here tonight," he said.

At the end of the three-hour party, after shmoozing and noshing on homemade bread, turkey and Mediterranean rice, Khalfhy gave everyone a free astrological consultation, something she thinks goes nicely with Judaism and the mystical study of kabbalah.

Khalfhy told the singles: "You've got to search for the astrological sign that best suits you. Of course, if you meet a person that's great but is the wrong sign, you can still end up together. You just might need to overcome some difficulties."

"And remember," warned Khalfhy, "it's always a little hard to get things together right during Mercury retrograde."