Where they meet: Personals to cyberspace

"Witty and smart may be his best traits/The women have a good time when he takes them on dates…"

Larry Klein had no idea he'd end up with a wife, rather than just a date, when he placed his cyber ad on the Internet in January 1996.

But within a few weeks after "Kleinoo" typed his ad and zapped it into cyberspace — the Jewish Community Online Matchmaker on American Online — he'd met his wife-to-be. In August, he and Sherrie Callis, aka "SherylEON," were married in Walnut Creek, where they now live.

Their unusual wedding invitation makes no secret of the fact that the two met online. The cover features the colorful Jewish Community Online "front screen" off the AOL site.

Beneath it, in large print, is the familiar refrain "Matchmaker… Matchmaker…" Inside is a reprint of Klein's original cyber ad and her cyber response. Then a quote from the Ba'al Shem Tov, followed by the official invite.

Meeting people through singles ads in newspapers or computer e-mail is becoming the method of choice for busy individuals who hate the meat-market scene, don't care for singles clubs or doubt the merits of fix-up dates.

In the Klein-Callis union, it took a few weeks of back-and-forth e-mailing and then telephone calling before the two met in person.

Callis finally agreed to a meeting after a friend informed her that Klein was the brother of Marc Klein, Jewish Bulletin editor and publisher and JCOL publisher.

"Suddenly I was no longer this unknown Jack the Ripper," he jokes. He, of Oakland, met she, of Walnut Creek, for a date at Square One restaurant in San Francisco. From that point on, their relationship quickly bloomed. Both had been married before, he notes. "We're both older so it happens fast!"

For Gwynne Levy of San Rafael, answering an ad in the Jewish Bulletin was "a nice way to dive right in and take that first step. I really can't stand going to singles events," she says.

Michael Karchem, to whose ad she responded, "sounded great on the phone," she recalls, "and I was sure he was going to be another dud. Thank goodness I didn't pass it up!"

They became engaged five months after the meeting and married five months after that.

The couple, both in their early 30s, did not enter the relationship for the purpose of marriage, though the thought certainly crossed their minds.

Both did know, however, that they wanted "a Jewish partner for life." That's why they used the Bulletin personals.

"It's not like you can go to a bar and ask someone, `By the way, are you Jewish?'" she says.

Like Klein and Callis, Berkeley artist Nancy Katz met Harry Greenberg of Minneapolis through JCOL. "For me, it was important that it was a Jewish connection," she says. The two corresponded extensively and ran up enormous telephone bills before he flew out for a weekend visit.

"One of the things that was really great about this dynamic was that we really went back and forth. We wrote these long essays to each other. My feeling was that unless he got off the plane with three heads, then I knew there was something really special going on here."

Katz, recently back from a 12-day reunion in Minnesota, reports that the relationship remains strong. "I think this is bingo, to tell the truth!"

For the director of a San Francisco Jewish community program, meeting her husband-to-be was practically happenstance.

She placed a Jewish Bulletin ad, which he saw but chose not to respond to. He did, however, "surf" the voicemail, and liked what she had to say.

"The wild thing is," she says, "I would never have met him otherwise. He had no connection with Jewish life at all. Basically, his mother bought a Bulletin and rammed it down his throat."

He proposed the weekend after Valentine's Day of last year. She was teaching a class at a Jewish conference in Southern California when, after driving all night to see her, "he walked up behind me and said, `I have a question for you.'" They married Dec. 21.

This bride highly recommends the personals, provided one has the right attitude.

"Mine was to not have any expectations," she says. "Whatever happens, happens."

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.