Even as Randi Jablin works to romantically link single Jewish people in the Valley, she doesn’t think of herself as a matchmaker.
“I’m just kind of a connector,” she said. “I connect people to each other and the community.”
Earlier this year, Jablin launched Shabbat Dinner Club: Talk More, Swipe Less. For Jablin, the tagline neatly summarizes the goal of her endeavor — get Jewish singles off dating apps and instead bring them together through intimate Shabbat dinners or small events.
“It’s a way to get people away from the bars,” Jablin said. “It brings a little Jewish flavor because it’s Shabbat and it’s just a nice, intimate, casual, comfortable way for people to get to know each other. And if no connection is made, then it’s a nice night out.”
Armed with email lists of people in different age groups, Jablin and her husband, along with four other married couples, have hosted five Shabbat dinners with an equal number of single men and women as guests. The groups cover singles from their early 20s to their 70s.
“Ideally, I will find four men and four women in a similar age group and assign them to a host,” Jablin said. “The host might have a preference as far as what age she would like and then I just give the host the names of the singles and the host contacts the guests.”
Sue Adatto hosted one Shabbat dinner for singles in their 50s and 60s. The hosts’ duties included getting conversations started and keeping them going.
“Guests introduced themselves to each other and everyone was very good at small talk with each other, enjoying their wine and appetizers, standing around our kitchen,” Adatto said. “At dinner, where everyone was sitting around the table, we did some icebreaker questions to get to know each other. Each one had the floor to themselves for that time period. It turned into great conversations among all of us.”
Adatto isn’t sure if any love matches were made, but “it seems like our guests had a great time.”
Jablin may have met her husband on JDate in 2010, but she also would like to have singles, especially young ones,
become less reliant on dating sites
“I’m old-school with the whole technology thing,” she said. “I want there to be some mystery. When I dated the first time around, someone would call and we didn’t know who was on the other line. If we had a blind date, it literally was a blind date. Now everyone can know anything about anyone. People ask me who’s going to be at the dinner and I don’t tell them.”
Laurie Cohen, who attended one of the Shabbat dinners, said the club was ideal for older singles.
“How else do older Jewish singles meet each other?” Cohen asked. “We’re too mature to do the singles dances, online dating is too weird and meetups are generally for younger people. This provides an environment that is comfortable and reminiscent of when your mom used to invite eligibles for Shabbat dinner to meet her son or daughter.”
Cohen didn’t find a romantic partner at the dinner, but she did make a new female friend. Still, Cohen enjoyed the experience and is willing to go to another dinner.
“I had a wonderful evening that never felt contrived,” she said.
Jablin said the younger cohort of singles is harder to corral for the dinners, so she is now pairing up with groups such as Schmooze to get the word out about her project. She also plans to attend Mazelpalooza and possibly get the younger singles to fill out surveys or at least have them share their email addresses in order to inform them about upcoming Shabbat Dinner Club activities.
She also is planning a larger event for singles of all ages that will include workshops and fun activities. Jablin is planning the event for around Tu B’Av, a minor Jewish holiday that in Israel is now celebrated as a holiday of love. In 2019, Tu B’Av will take place on Aug. 16.
Jablin said the idea for the Shabbat Dinner Club popped into her head one morning and she decided to run with it. She emphasized that the club is not a business or her job. Jablin doesn’t charge for any of her services, which include getting emails from interested singles, doing a bit of vetting, setting up potentially compatible groups of men and women and finding hosts for the dinners. There are times where she passes along an email address to interested parties.
She simply wants to continue to give back to the Jewish community by bringing potential mates together.
“I just I kept hearing of people that were single and people would ask me if I knew of anyone,” Jablin said. “I started thinking that I want to do something. I am fortunate that I can donate tzedakah, but I wanted to have more of a hands-on approach in tikkun olam and touch people’s lives.” JN
To learn more about Shabbat Dinner Club: Talk More, Swipe Less, contact Randi Jablin at firstname.lastname@example.org.