Amidst the glorious autumn landscape and the unusually warm sunshine of November 1st-2nd, the YUConnects Shabbaton felt equally exceptional. Not merely because Rav Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University and other notable speakers joined the participants or even because the Teaneck community was so genuinely hospitable to all; what made the Shabbos remarkable was the naturalness of the event itself: a comfortable setting for compatible young men and women to mingle and socialize.
YUConnects, the premier social and matchmaking arm of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, is barely five years young, but has brought tremendous changes to the modern dating scene. By presenting contemporary educational forums, hosting a state-of-the-art matchmaking website, and by offering a professional staff for mentoring and guidance, YUConnects is able to impact Orthodox men and women preparing for marriage in ways few other organizations can. The events that YUConnects initiates are especially popular; singles can establish relationships in warm, friendly atmospheres thereby increasing their networking and meeting opportunities.
Success is in the numbers. To date, YUConnects has allowed 272 individuals to find their life partner.
“So many of us feel that young people today simply don’t have the options to meet the way we did years ago. YUConnects is unique in our circles, and that is why we felt strongly that the program deserves our support,” commented Lois Blumenfeld, who along with her husband, Dr. Norman Sohn, were the lead sponsors of the Shabbaton, geared for men and women ages 21 to 26. Dozens of other local community members joined in the sponsorship to demonstrate support for YUConnects and the event.
One of the highlights of the Shabbaton was the compelling Friday night symposium entitled, “A Jew in the Workplace.” This interactive session posed common scenarios, such as meeting colleagues for drinks or at lunch, wearing yarmulkes on the job, handshakes or other physical contact with the opposite sex at work, enabling the attendees to have vibrant discussions on true-life dilemmas. They then benefited by hearing the insightful perspectives of Rabbi Schachter, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt and Mrs. Suzy Schwartz, the distinguished panelists, with lively comments contributed by the moderator, Mr. Allen Pfeiffer. Afterwards, chulent and kugel were part of a beautiful collation which facilitated more mingling.
Dr. David Pelcovitz and Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky also offered words of Torah during the weekend and the special lectures on relationships given by Dr. Pelcovitz to the community at large were exceptionally well-attended.
Rotating tables during the courses allowed all the participants to meet each other during all the delicious meals. “I felt that the varied seating pushed me to chat with some men at Friday dinner, again at Shabbos lunch and then I felt more comfortable during the mingling at Shalosh Seudot,” said one young woman.
Several Yeshiva University alumni or participants traveled from out-of-town graduate schools to take part in this wonderful event recognizing that they can make many new connections in one weekend. Mindy and Henry Orlinsky graciously opened their home for the Shalosh Seudot buffet as the men and women became absorbed in conversation. Rabbi Kenneth Brander stopped by and shared some fascinating insights into relationships by pointing out that Esav, in the parsha, simply called the lentil soup “adom hadom” and thereby incorrectly focused on “externals” instead of the proper—and important—inner ingredients.
The capstone to the weekend was the outstanding Melava Malka at Bnai Yeshurun called, “Are You Game?” In addition to the nearly 70 Shabbaton registrants, approximately 20 more participants joined the interactive game night which was festooned with colorful balloons and six gaming stations ranging from foosball and air-hockey to ipad challenges and a full-screen Jeopardy tournament on the stage. Matchmakers mingled to facilitate more interaction and to make future suggestions for the attendees. One innovative and popular “Make-a-match” suggestion box allowed the men and women to recommend a match idea for their friends from the people they met over the weekend.
Couples are already dating, match suggestions are being followed up and the Teaneck community is asking “When can we do this again?” By fostering the prevalence of relaxed and comfortable meeting opportunities, YUConnects and the Teaneck Shabbaton was special, indeed.