You never know what a night of vodkas and latkes will bring

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Perhaps it was the 40-degree weather outside. Or that I had had a long day at work and the notion of socializing seemed more like a chore rather than late-night fun. I also didn’t want to miss the latest episode of “Top Chef.”

It took a good deal of self-motivation to leave my warm apartment in San Francisco last week and make the trek to Berkeley for “Vodkas and Latkes,” a Chanukah event at Pasand Lounge organized by the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay

Now in it’s fifth year, YLD provides young adults in their 20s and 30s with opportunities to connect with the Jewish community through social events, study and tzedakah.

Ever the journalist, I entered the party with notebook and pen in hand. My goal for the evening wasn’t really to shmooze, but to observe Jewish young adults mingling, eating latkes and sipping cocktails.

The party was set for 7 p.m. I made my entrance at 8:30. Apparently, being fashionably late to one of these events is not in style. I was advised that next time, I should by arrive by 7:45. Maybe then, I won’t miss out on the edible goodies.

My initial reluctance to attend quickly vanished as YLD director Adam Roberts instantly welcomed me to the party, stamped my wrist with a blue dreidel and shuffled me into the crowd.

A mixture of ’80s hits with a flamenco vibe pulsed through the darkened space, lit only by red mood lighting. An empty plate with latke crumbs sat flanked by oversized bowls of applesauce and sour cream. Golden wrappers from opened pouches of chocolate gelt were sprinkled on the tables and dreidels dotted the bar.

The scene had all the makings of a successful Chanukah party, plus the guests truly looked like they were having a good time. Sure, a lot of the partygoers knew each other before that night, but the socializing appeared to be genuine.

As I gazed across the packed venue, I realized that organized social gatherings for Jewish young adults (single or attached) could indeed attract a sell-out crowd. This was all new to me, considering many of the events I attended with Jewish friends in Orange County often fizzled.

The rest of my night turned into an odd combination of encounters, including an unexpected surprise. I waded through clusters of people, ordered a drink and perched on one of the black leather stools, wanting nothing more than to take it all in.

Almost immediately, an energetic guy approached me asking why I would bring a notepad to a bar. I explained my job, and almost instantly, his eyes turned to the crowded room. He was on the hunt to find an angle for my story.

Our search was interrupted when my eyes met those of my roommate from sophomore year of college. She was totally stunned, and I asked myself what else was going to happen at this party I nearly skipped out on.

After nearly seven years of no communication and a quick catch-up session, she told me she’s somewhat of a regular at the YLD events and we agreed to meet up at one of these shindigs in San Francisco.

So what’s the lesson to be learned? Well, there really isn’t one, except that I came away with a refreshed view of the Jewish young adult social scene.

Roberts tells me more than 65 people packed the venue that night, many of them looking to “take ownership of YLD and steer it in the direction of where they want it to go.”

All in all, “it was a great group of people,” said the 29-year-old Roberts. “I was really pleased with the turnout. People found new friends and reconnected with old friends. There was a really great energy.”

And you know what … I think he’s on to something good.

Amanda Pazornik can be reached at [email protected].