50ish singles expanding databases

Do you have parents who are Jewish, single and over 50? Are you in that category yourself? If so, hold onto your computers! Though only eight months old, the chatroom for this age group on AOL's Jewish Community Online (keyword: JEWISHCHAT) is booming. And while it isn't strictly for singles, it's a place with a fair amount of singles activity.

"We're not just a singles room," says Miriam Toth, otherwise known as JCommMalka, a Jewish Community Online hostess. "The room was created originally for singles, but it changed within a month because the marrieds complained that they didn't have a place. Then the singles complained — Oy! For a while it was back and forth, but as of December everyone seems happy."

The 50+ chatroom opened in October on America Online and it's one of the liveliest on the system. A new member may well be greeted with the following cyberslap on the back: "Welcome to Jewish Chat 50+ — the asylum for the ADDICTS!"

"That's one subject we all agree on," says JCommMalka. "We're all addicted to the room. We know each other and we enjoy the online company."

"I live in a suburb," says Latke, a divorced Boston-area Realtor whose screen name has been changed to protect her privacy. "It's very `married,'" she continues in an IM, or instant (private) message. "The temple doesn't have any programs for single older folks, and I can't seem to find a suitable place to meet interesting men. That's why I like the chatroom."

Latke, who is active in her local Jewish community, has dated two men from the 50+ room — one "f2f," or face to face, and one in cyberspace.

If you're dating a guy whose signals are purely binary, does it matter if he's Jewish?

"Strangely, yes," says Latke. "It gives me a feeling of safety and community to be amongst Jews. It allows me to express my feelings and ideas more freely. And I can't seem to deal with non-Jews in romantic relationships."

MsKeno, a 55-year-old divorcee from Las Vegas, agrees. "I don't put a label on anyone; I take them for who they are, but still I want a Jewish relationship."

MsKeno could also leave a message on the 50somethings singles message board (keyword: JEWISHBOARDS). Equivalent to a personals page in cyberspace, the board has more messages than any other singles board on the system. "Rocky Mountain Teddy-Bear in search of permanent soul/cave mate," reads a recent post. "All cubs are grown and living independently."

There is also a Life Discussion bulletin board for 45+ Jewish singles. Since bulletin boards are not real-time conversation forums like chatrooms, the discussions here can perhaps run a little deeper and are often private, with subscribers responding to particular postings.