As a lone Olah Chadashah (new immigrant), I understand and identify with the struggle of being alone in this country. Once all of the excitement of the idealism, Zionism, or whatever other “ism” pushed you into making Aliyah wears off, the reality can be a truly lonely one. While I was fortunate enough to find my other half during my military service, not all of my fellow lone Olim have been as lucky.
What breaks my heart in these times of struggle, are the posts on Olim Facebook groups of members selling off all of their furniture and possessions, because they are getting ready to move back to where they came from, or all the friends who flew home for the month long lockdown, because what is there to do alone in a country without one’s family during the holiday season, dafka (specifically) the season when Jews from the four corners of the earth are meant to be flocking to Israel and Jerusalem for Aliyah Laregel (ascent to Jerusalem by foot).
During these unforgiving times, many people are feeling lost. Careers are being reassessed (if there is anything left to reassess), hefty purchases are reconsidered, and real, life-changing decisions are being put on hold until this is “all over” whenever that might be. But the one thing that does not need to be, nor should not be put on hold is your search for your significant other. The clock has not stopped just because the other aspects of our lives have… now more than ever, people are feeling alone as they spend holiday seasons apart from families, their normal social activities have been halted, and they have reverted to working remotely.
But this need not be the case!
Nobody has answers for when “normal will return.” While the vaccine has arrived, many people don’t want to vaccinate, and while the skies may be opening back up, we still hear of red countries and quarantine. So it’s a shame for singles to say they’ll get back in the game when things “go back to normal.” And while the dating game may have changed, some aspects may have even changed for the better.
One person who has not let Coronavirus slow her down is Lisa Rubin! With years of experience in planning private family tours and bar mitzvahs in Israel, Lisa found herself with little to do when the skies shut down. But she didn’t stay idle for long! Lisa began planning events at a time when it would seem most daunting to do so, because her commitment to singles knows no bounds. She held two meaningful and spiritual events in her hometown of Shiloh, where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was settled and where the young girls danced in the vineyards on Tu Biav (15th of the Jewish month of Av). I attended both of these events and I can testify to how moving and beautiful they were. Lisa went above and beyond to make sure the scheduling, the activities, and the food were exceptional, an effort that made each and every attendee feel significant. The most moving moment was a kumzitz (singing circle) at the resting place of the Mishkan at sunset. Attendees reported a new level of confidence towards dating and events after having been stuck at home for so long.
Since the Shiloh events, Lisa has also led a Chayei Sarah trip to the Holy City of Chevron, which was such a huge success that singles who couldn’t make it called her and implored her to schedule another, which of course, she did! Her latest event with Israel Adventure was a Chanukah foraging and foodie event at Ayalon Canada Park, overlooking the ancient battlefields of the Maccabees. Participants discovered wild edibles growing in the area, and enjoyed delectable, ethnic cuisine, cooked over a fire and of course fried in pure olive oil in the spirit of Chanukah! I was privileged to attend that event as well, and saw the sparks in the eyes of the participants, the gratefulness that someone had thought to plan a Chanukah event special for them, when everyone else is celebrating with their families. Lisa’s next event is a Tu B’Shvat special in Gush Etzion, tentatively scheduled for Friday January 29, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Rubin – Lisa second to the right, author on the right
Lisa’s non-stop action and no-worries attitude gives singles the warm encouragement that the world has not given up on helping them find their chances of love even during these bizarre and lonely times. What does she do when she’s not planning events for singles? She’s meeting with individual singles in person and getting to know them, or spending hours with them on the phone, inviting them for Shabbat meals, and volunteering for a wonderful organization called Chiburim.
I met Lisa at my previous job in tourism, where we worked together. With the recent onset of Coronavirus, I lost my job and was in a state of limbo for quite some time which was challenging. I spent my free time getting more and more involved in the world of setting people up and matchmaking, a buried passion that I could finally give attention to when I was no longer employed! Then one day I saw a posting on the Nefesh BNefesh job board looking for a director for the English-speaking program at a non-profit called Chiburim.
Photo courtesy of Tzippy Baruch – foraging on the fifth day of Chanukah
Chiburim is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help singles find love in Israel. They do so by providing members with personal mentors who join them as they navigate the dating scene in Israel. The mentors go through thorough screening and training before they are accepted, because it is crucial that they be non-judgemental and excellent listeners, so they can learn what each single needs, and not just send them on endless irrelevant and unsuitable dates. I could not believe my luck. It was as if my newfound passion and hobby could now become my job! I applied and Lisa, who is an active Chiburim volunteer mentor in addition to everything else she does for singles, put in a good word for me. That was the beginning of my journey into the professional world of mentoring and providing guidance and dating opportunities to singles.
During the last lockdown, Chiburim recognized the need for singles to get out of the house, because at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can Zoom. They found a creative way to get people to be considered “essential workers” by volunteering to help farmers work their land. They held a pomegranate tree grooming, a pepper picking event, and the participants not only got to go out and meet each other, but also enjoyed the added value of working the Holy Land! Chiburim’s latest and greatest volunteering event took place on Friday December 18, and involved nearly 90 singles who came out to help Gili prepare his strawberry crop! There were snacks, music, prizes, and all around great vibes! Chiburim is planning similar events for the near future.
Photo courtesy of Chiburim – Happy volunteers at the strawberry event!
What else is Chiburim up to specifically during these times? Now more than ever, Chiburim recognizes the need to stay active for our singles. Chiburim prides themselves on being the firsts to hold ZoomDate events at the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak. Since then, they have held over 20 similar events in both Hebrew and English. They already have upcoming Zoom events in the works for the current lockdown, including an improvisation event and some lectures as well as the classic ZoomDate! The next event will be a dating life poetry slam co-hosted with Kerem House Tel Aviv on Tuesday January 12, 2021. Reach out to Chiburim for more information!
Chiburim encourages singles to try dating over Zoom, although it may be bizarre. We invite you to see the benefits of the situation: Chiburim has put together 10 reasons why you SHOULD accept an offer and meet someone new over Zoom, now especially!
- You have the time! It is often hard to find the time to get to know the person in front of you, but now you’ve got an abundance since you no longer have that long traffic-filled commute to and from work. Utilize it to its best!
- It’s an opportunity to get the ball rolling – action leads to action, which raises the positive energy that leads to more action, and when we have good energy, we are our most attractive selves on dates.
- If we start a relationship now, when we meet face to face, it won’t feel like that awkward first date.
- You automatically begin with a common denominator – you’re both at home! Together, find the benefits of that situation. Getting to know someone while searching for positives together is encouraging.
- Kvetch together about the current situation (although don’t drag on this, as complaining is generally less sexy)
- Look for more things in common and share creative lockdown ideas with each other, perhaps take on old fashioned pen-palling, or have a Zoom paint night.
- First date and you’re already having each other over at your homes! A great opportunity to tidy up the house, or at least the table… and the bookshelf in the background of your screen.
- Ask for a tour of the house, it’s a great opportunity to get to know the person’s personality, habits, and style. Offer a tour of your home as well…after you’ve tidied up of course
- For the brave – ask for a tour of the fridge, and for the even braver, offer a tour of your fridge! Learning what a person puts inside his/her body can be a unique way to get to know someone! For your next Zoom date, give each other cooking lessons of your favorite recipes.
- Take the opportunity for a date with yourself. You have been blessed with the gift of time and you should take advantage of it to invest in yourself first and foremost. Make a list of your strengths and positive qualities. Ask yourself what you bring to a relationship – and what you’re looking for in a relationship. Some of your previous answers to this question might need reassessing. What is important to you and what are you willing to be flexible about?
Photo courtesy of Tzippy Baruch – An entertaining evening of ZoomDate!
Who knows what dating might look like someday! There are already psychologists studying the effects of this period, and questioning whether just like all set-ups begin with a phone call, one day they might begin with a Zoom call instead.
Members who sign up for Chiburim’s service can choose between a number of tracks of different lengths, from one month to four months. There is also a track for people who are already in a relationship and feel they can benefit from the input of a personal mentor to help steer the relationship in the right direction. Additionally, anyone who signs up to Chiburim, automatically gets access to their own personal zone, where they receive weekly relevant dating opportunities based on the criteria they are looking for. Chiburim’s latest success story is a couple who met through Chiburim’s personal zone and last week got engaged! Mazel Tov!
So what makes Chiburim any different from the myriad of other wonderful dating services/apps? It is the human touch. Whereas other online dating sites also use an algorithm to find matches based on the data entered to come up with a relevant match, at Chiburim, there is a human being who knows and has met with each and every single member. It is their job to review those computer-generated matches to find the one that is actually the perfect fit for you! This aspect of personal touch is taken one step further, in that the mentoring aspect of our service is no less important than the dating opportunities! A member is met with, a relationship with the mentor begins to form, and trust is built. When the member goes on a date, they have whom to come back to, to bounce ideas off of, get feedback on their decisions from and opinions on how they handled the date. They have a friend who is by their side throughout the process.
To hear more about Chiburim’s upcoming events, follow our English Instagram page and our Facebook page. To register as a member or to learn more about becoming a volunteer mentor, check out our website or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be in touch with Lisa Rubin, write to her at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Rubin – pita making at the foraging event