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During Singles Weekend Season, The Pros Insist 'Magic Can Happen'

May 17, 2007 By:
Roy S. Gutterman, JE Feature
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With three official holidays falling within the next three months, next week truly kicks off the Singles Weekend Season.

Often billed as the "place to meet" that special someone, the singles weekend has a long tradition, something akin to a three-day summer camp for adults, either at a woodsy resort or an old-school summer camp.

The Poconos, Catskills and Berkshires are only a few hours' drive away. So, think about those old-time resorts from movies like "Dirty Dancing," packed full of activities, socializing and nature, and then add a twist of Judaism.

Jewish singles weekends range from religious to secular, depending on the organizers and venue.

A few years ago, I spent Labor Day at a Jewish singles weekend. I played tennis with a nice Brazilian girl, met a professional matchmaker who said she had the "perfect girl" for me, and made a nice male friend who met his wife the one time we hung out. Though I'm still single, it was certainly an experience.

The lure of the singles weekend is meeting someone special. The potential and offerings range from meeting the right person to meeting the person for right then and there -- also depending on the organization and activities.

Basherte.org says: "This Memorial Day will be your best ever! Jewish professionals, you will love this weekend. It's designed with you in mind."

With a name like Basherte.org, you would almost expect to fall in love in the Poconos, in between all the dancing, yoga and Ultimate Frisbee. It also offers a "Joyous Shabbat" experience.

Camp Ramah, in the New York Berkshires, says its Memorial Day Weekend as the "best Jewish singles weekend ever!"

Other organizations, such as Singles Sensation or Club Getaway, offer similar weekends throughout the year, sometimes advertising specific Jewish singles weekends. But these groups are not exclusively Jewish.

At Basherte.org's weekends, it's more than just summer camp for singles, said Rosalie Eisen, who has been running singles weekends and relationship coaching seminars with her husband, Rabbi Efraim Eisen, for 12 years.

"Our weekends are different from what you are thinking about singles weekends," she said. "If you come to a Basherte event, you'll meet everyone, and it will be in a respectful way."

The Eisens are based in Amherst, Mass., and their mission to help Jewish singles grew out of their own experiences when they were single and had difficulty meeting the right person, Rosalie Eisen said.

While Camp Milford in the Poconos has all the amenities of a summer camp, from jet skis to mountain bikes, Eisen described how organizers, speakers and teachers incorporate spiritual Judaism into the weekend, from taking a break during the Shema to learn about listening right through to the Havdalah bonfire on Saturday night.

Although most of the 100-plus people she expects at the weekend will be "unaffiliated," Eisen said the content appeals to Jews from all streams -- from Reform to the "left side of Modern Orthodox." They run separate weekends for Orthodox groups.

"Most singles are unaffiliated because they do not feel welcome at synagogues," she said. "The way we do Judaism, people are discovering things about the religion and themselves."

For between $275 to $399, depending on the room, singles in their 30s, 40s and 50s will have everything included from Friday night through Monday lunch.

"We attract a really high quality of people," she said. "The feedback is beyond my imagination. Magic happens. Within the first hour, because of our exercises, it turns a group of strangers into a community.

"It's really about people moving beyond their expectations."

Eisen claims credit for more than 100 marriages between people who came together either at her singles weekends or through her relationship coaching.

If the Berkshires are more to your liking, singles will also take over Wingdale University at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, a summer camp on a lake in the woods, said Michael Brochstein, the weekend director.

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires is one of several singles camps around the country owned and operated by the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Brochstein, who is chief information officer for New York's Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, ran singles weekends in the early 1990s.

"I started doing this in 1991 because I thought it would be a good idea," he said. "There was a dearth of these types of events."

He is expecting more than 100 singles in their 30s, 40s and 50s for a weekend of old-fashioned summer camp that incorporates spiritual Judaism.

While most people will be from the New York Metropolitan area, Brochstein has fielded inquiries from as far away as California and Washington, D.C.

"It's not a secular weekend and it's not Orthodox," he said, describing it as "sort of in the middle."

"There aren't many other weekends like this," he said. "A lot of singles events in New York City are for 20s to 30s. This is more like 30s, 40s and 50s." He described the clientele as "from A to Z, doctors and lawyers to general, typical people. It runs the gamut."

In addition to the activities and a Shabbat dinner, Brochstein has hired a slate of DJs, square dance instructors, musicians and other entertainers for the weekend.

After May 15, Camp Ramah prices range from $230 to $335. The deadline is May 20 (www.ramahberkshires.org).

If you have no plans for Memorial Day, pack up your gear, hop in the car and bring your sense of humor. The mountains are not too far away.

Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit www.Lrev.com.

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