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February 24, 1989 - Image 85

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-24

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Phoenix members of Black Tie Optional: from left, Lonnie Zinder, Jodi Remer and Patrice Remer.

Angeles, a reform synagogue set on a
magnificent hillside in Bel Air, noted that
singles themselves contributed to the
problem.
"If a single person wanted to join, the
synagogue would be willing to make
allowances or concessions," Rabbi Miller
said. "We don't turn people away. But peo-
ple simply don't ask."
For the most part, however, Jewish iden-
tity for singles seems to find its expression
through "singles programming," be it
singles dances, singles newsletters, singles
services or singles match-making.
Jeff Frankel, president of the -JCL's
singles organization. in Phoenix, said some
15 different singles groups have sprung up
in the area over the past few years, most
of them "filling a void" created because the
organized Jewish community has not in-
itiated programs for singles.
Frankel believes singles groups are im-
portant to "form and mold Jews, to help
single people become part of the fabric of
Jewish life, whether or not they are mar-
ried. Their participation is crucial to the
next generation of Jewish leaders."
Many adult Jewish singles express their
religious identity through activities that

are closely related to their professional
lives.
Susan Olshansky Singer of the Jewish
United Fund of Chicago said the JUF's
Young Leadership Division sponsors a
number of programs, with singles compris-
ing the largest of the four "focus groups"
in the division.
"A major purpose of the synagogue is to
provide a way for families to become part
of the community," Singer said. "There is
not necessarily a sensitivity or even a
desire to involve single people in that
process.
"In certain ways, Young Leadership and
other Federation groups have provided a
way for single people to observe their
Judaism," she said. "It's a non-threatening,
more natural, more acceptable way to be
Jewish if you're single, because it's not all
about families. It's about doing for the
community."
For some singles, remaining connected
to Judaism does not necessarily mean
religious observance or community service.
A group in Phoenix called BTO — Black
Tie Optional — is an example of a type of
Jewish-but-not-Jewish social activity.
Stephanie Schiff, one of the group's
leaders, noted that BTO is not associated

with any Jewish organization, offering
purely social activities often attended by
as many as 150 people. But BTO's stated
purpose is to enable Jewish singles to meet
each other.
Yet many of the singles I spoke to still
turn to the synagogue for their identity.
And I found many rabbis working to
welcome singles into their community.
In Los. Angeles, Rabbi Miller runs a
special Shabbat dinner for single adults on
the last Friday of every month. Featuring
a separate service with a catered meal
followed by Israeli dancing, the program's
goal is "to have a Shabbat experience in
a location and in a way in which singles will
feel comfortable."
In Chicago, Rabbi Michael Siegel of the
Anshe Emet Congregation has initiated a
similar program, the Friday Night Group,
which holds special Shabbat services twice
a month. With a membership of about 200,
the group has its own board of officers.
But, Rabbi Siegel admitted, while the
group is "within the orbit of the
synagogue, it is definitely a satellite."
Fran Ross, executive director of the
Heller JCC in Chicago, said she is attempt-
ing to change attitudes by meeting with
rabbis and synagogue presidents from the

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

77

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