Whys a good man either hard to find or already married

In my romantic dreams, I want to be with a man who has all the qualities of the nice Jewish dads I know. They have gentle voices, give warm embraces and play ridiculously fun games. I find myself studying these fathers closely, yet clandestinely. It’s Friday night and my 5-year-old daughter and I are filtering into the auditorium at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, joining about 30 other families for a potluck dinner. Warren, the silliest dad in my daughter’s preschool class, is throwing his little girl in the air as she shrieks with joy. During the blessing over challah, there’s Josh, gently resting his hand on top of his son’s. Then David hops up to get another serving of pasta for his two children, who sit on either side of their mom.

I do not consider myself to be the jealous type, but every so often a pang of envy hits me. It strikes the hardest at this moment, smack in the middle of our all-school Shabbat dinners. As we say the Kiddush, I catch Josh across the table from me, looking adoringly into his wife’s eyes. A moment later, their baby girl needs her diaper changed, and he’s off to the restroom, without even being asked. Then 5-year-old Uma accidentally knocks her grape juice onto her lap, and David is up, searching for a change of clothes.

As these big-hearted dads around me dole out love to their kids and wives, I find myself at the end of a long table, unaided, trying to persuade my daughter, Mae, to please take one little bite of rice.

“No!” she protests, jumping out of her chair.

And here I am, alone. I became a single mom when Mae was 7 months old. Her father, who suffers from manic depression, walked out one morning and did not come back. Never in my life had I imagined myself being a single mom. I love motherhood — more than anything else in the world. (And I don’t mean to sound so whiny, really I don’t.) There were long periods of anger and sadness, then shame and grief, and some more anger and sadness. But now I’m dating!

Somehow, though, a nice Jewish man — like Warren, Josh or David — doesn’t seem to approach me (or, he’s already married?). All my close girlfriends are Jewish, and I adore them. But one way or another, I’m not attracting any Jewish suitors. In the past few years, I’ve gone out with a couple of amusing African American guys, as well as a number of polite Baptist southern gentlemen. So, where are the nice Jewish men? And why can’t I seem to draw one into my little circle?

To be fair, I do get a lot of attention at these all-school Shabbatons, even if it’s not the mushy, romantic kind. That’s because I play the alto saxophone, and after we say the blessings on Friday night, I leave my picky girl to fend for herself while I climb onto the stage. Alongside Mae’s guitar-playing preschool teacher, I belt out tunes like “Bim Bom” and “It’s a Tree of Life.”

During our most recent Shabbat dinner, as I stood onstage and looked out at all those bouncy and vivacious preschoolers below, it hit me: Maybe I just need a different audience! That’s it, I thought, suddenly imagining all those children out there turning into adorable Jewish men with their eyes on me, rocking along to “Shabbat Shalom … Hey!”

Maybe I’ve got to find a local klezmer jam fest, complete with delightful single Jewish violinists and drummers. I go home that night and, after Mae falls asleep, I google “klezmer” and “Bay Area”. A list of local bands comes up on my screen, like San Francisco’s Red Hot Chachkas (www.redhotchachkas.com). I like the sound of that.

But then I remember that I’ve only recently picked up my saxophone again, after a 10-year hiatus, and my chops are truly out of practice. Who am I kidding here? Jamming to klezmer music? Maybe an audience of cute, bubbly, Jewish 4- and 5-year-olds is just right for me after all.

Rachel Sarah is a Berkeley-based writer. You can reach her at [email protected].