Bay Areas largest singles group reaching out to new Americans

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When Ella Morgulis attended her first YAD meeting, an event for newcomers, she recalled, "I was the only emigre, and didn't know anyone. But everyone was so nice that I soon felt comfortable."

Determined to get others from the former Soviet Union involved in the activities of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Young Adults Division, the native of Odessa is now chairing YAD's emigre committee. She recently held a brainstorming session with more than a dozen fellow emigres to plan events designed to attract new Americans.

"The main goal of this first meeting was to familiarize young, single Russian emigres with YAD and let them know what a great entry point into the Jewish community it is," she said.

The largest Bay Area Jewish singles organization for those between ages 21 and 39, YAD is taking on a new direction with outreach to emigres, a stronger newcomers program and a new marketing effort.

Calling YAD one of the Jewish community's "best-kept secrets," marketing committee co-chair Karin Newman wants to "strengthen the YAD image and create awareness among the unaffiliated."

Last year YAD's outreach committee created a Web page, listing YAD activities on Usenet newsgroups. Through a heightened online, advertising and direct mail campaign, Newman, along with marketing co-chair Lauren Sekular, hopes to reach out to underrepresented young Jewish adults. Target groups include Marin and Peninsula residents, recent college graduates and those in the high-tech field.

Emigre chair Morgulis became involved with YAD after volunteering at a JCF Super Sunday phonathon. She estimates there are around 35,000 Jewish emigres in the Bay Area, with a large number of singles.

The goal is to reach them. Newcomer receptions play an important role. Over the years the quarterly receptions, which take place in San Francisco and the Peninsula, have become increasingly popular, attracting up to 80 newcomers per event.

Grant Edelstone, vice president of the outreach committee, said he wants "to change people's impressions of what YAD is. We are not just a singles group for Jews; we are a group comprised of single Jews intent on building a stronger Jewish community."

Although many of the Bay Area's top Jewish community leaders got their start in YAD, Newman said that some people think "all we do is Blue Mondays." In fact, said Newman, strictly social activities like Blue Mondays are just a small part of a wide calendar of events.

She is currently developing a marketing plan to get the word out about the range of YAD activities. In addition, YAD supports the JCF's annual campaign.

Said Edelstone: "Our mission as a committee is to encourage people who haven't tried us, or who have but not for years, to become involved."