Where can single Jews meet Dont overlook synagogue

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It just worked out that way.

The 27-year-old Alamo resident said she joined the singles group at Congregation B'nai Shalom — a conservative synagogue in Walnut Creek — in a deliberate attempt to get away from the Jewish "meat market."

Hankin explained that unlike many other singles groups, the one led by Rabbi Gordon Freeman at B'nai Shalom is not focused around social activities. Instead, group members, ages 24 to 35, meet for in-depth discussions on a variety of Jewish issues.

"We sit around talking about the Jewish viewpoint on anything from mixed marriage and sexuality to keeping kosher in the workplace," said Hankin, who eventually became so involved with the group that she volunteered to help organize it.

The singles group at B'nai Shalom is just one of many open to both affiliated and non-affiliated Jews at synagogues throughout the Bay Area.

In San Francisco, Reform Congregation Sherith Israel offers a range of events through its singles group, Simcha. Hundreds of singles, ages 25 to 40, take advantage of Simcha's lectures, dances, retreats, holiday celebrations and monthly Shabbat services.

"We are really like a synagogue within a synagogue," observed Simcha vice president Debbie Abrams, 27, who first joined the group, now in its 13th year, some five years ago.

Abrams said she had just moved to the city from Pennsylvania and was having a hard time meeting other young Jews when she heard about Simcha. "I didn't want the pressure of a secular Jewish singles group and thought it would be nice to be affiliated with a synagogue."

Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue in San Francisco, believes one reason synagogue singles groups have so much appeal is that they offer participants the chance to meet others in a safe environment.

Last summer, Emanu-El began a new monthly program, Now's The Time, for Bay Area Jewish singles in their 40s and 50s. The group most recently met for a Super Bowl potluck.

"Most of the people that come are not temple members," said Cohn, adding that the group, with a current mailing list of 175, is still in its formative phase.

In San Jose, singles of all ages and religious backgrounds attend Congregation Am Echad's Tables for Ten, modeled after a successful synagogue singles program in England. Couples from the Orthodox congregation host monthly get-togethers where singles meet in a friendly atmosphere.

"We serve light food, wine and beer, typically in a garden setting. The job of each table's host couple is to help facilitate conversation," said Am Echad board member Leah Kaye. "So far we've been very successful. Our last event drew a crowd of several hundred."

For years, the group for singles at Congregation Beth David, a Conservative synagogue in Saratoga, had enjoyed tremendous success. But when the president and treasurer of Beth David Singles decided to get married, the group almost broke up.

Charlie Klein, one of Beth David Singles' most active remaining members, is trying to revive the group, which now consists of Shabbat services followed by a social hour the first Friday of each month.

"I've been through the singles scene. And, as far as I'm concerned, if you're looking for something spiritual, it's just not there," said 47-year-old Klein. "I'm more content to go to services, where the main goal is to daven. If you happen to meet someone afterwards, that's all right too."