As per usual, I receive emails after a Yom Tov from singles and married people alike telling me of a positive or negative experience they had over the holiday. Many emails are wonderful, and I’d love to share them all, but I haven’t the space. Because of that, I had to pick and choose from letters and take out excerpts to share. I also shared excerpts from my responses. Like always, I try to balance things by providing views from both sides – those with positive and negative stories.
Letter 1: “...During the last days of Yom Tov, we noticed two women whom we hadn’t seen during the first days. I had the feeling they were single, don’t ask me why, but I did. I went over and introduced myself. We ended up having a very nice conversation that continued at every meal – my husband and I invited them to join our family. Even though they were together, we didn’t want them to feel isolated and alone. The hotel was full of families or couples. Maybe there were a few singles. I can’t be sure. I’d see someone alone and think she was single, but afterwards, I never really saw her again. That’s why I jumped at these girls when I did. They joined us and meshed with my family very well... I have their contact information and am currently trying to redt a shidduch for one of them. I’m so glad I went over and took the initiative. Even with a friend, Pesach is a Yom Tov to be shared and celebrated, and I thought, ‘the more the merrier....”
My Response: “Good for you. There should be more people like you out there. You wanted to help, saw an opportunity, and jumped in. True, you had no obligation to go over or even to invite the girls to join your family, but you did. You felt you had an obligation to the singles of klal Yisrael...”
Letter 2: “Besides my grandfather, I was the only single at the Seder – and my grandfather isn’t single by choice. No one said anything or did anything to make me feel bad or sad, but I did. For the second Seder, I sat at the other end of the table with my nieces and nephews – the only other singles, except they are too young to date (all under 13). Is it weird that I felt better sitting with the kids than right next to my mother, across from my sister and brother-in-law? My family doesn’t point out that I’m single or make jokes about being single; but at that point in time, I didn’t want to sit with “the couples.”
My Response: “...Sometimes we just feel what we feel and there’s no outright reason you can pinpoint for it. I’m so sorry that you had that overwhelming feeling of sadness while sitting at the Seder with your family. Nothing is wrong with doing what you thought could take you out of your funk, moving your seat the second night. It’s usually more fun down with the kids anyway (I was at the kid table until I was 15). Did anyone ask you why you decided to change seats? Did anyone realize how you were feeling?”
Letter 3: “...I don’t have to tell you how shocked I was to find out I was not going away for Pesach. It was the whole mess with the hotel in Atlantic City. What was I going to do? I needed to stay local because I had to work during Chol HaMoed, which is why I couldn’t fly home. My apartment wasn’t cleaned for Pesach, I had no K4P food. Luckily, I got a cleaning service to come, so that solved one problem. The other problem: the sedarim. I don’t mind being by myself, but I never envisioned myself alone for the sedarim. My friends weren’t going to be home and neither was my neighbor. Finally, I called my rav. He said not to worry, he and his family would love to have me as a guest for the sedarim. A few hours later, he called back, telling me he called one of “the machers” in shul and, after telling him what had happened to my Pesach plans, this man insisted the Rabbi call him and invite me to all of the day meals as well as Friday night and Shabbos. This man didn’t want me to have to eat any of the seudos alone. I didn’t know this man but knew who he was from minyanim... Mi k’amcha Yisrael! What amazing hachnasas orchim they had! I can now call them friends.”
My Response: “You said it in your letter: Mi k’amcha Yisrael! What an incredible man and family to invite you to all the meals. He didn’t want someone to be alone through Yom Tov.”
Letter 4: “...refreshing to be with singles during Pesach. We are all in the same position, whether we are in our 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Didn’t have to look away from a family enjoying themselves and think of me not finding my bashert yet or being alone. My friends and I met great new people. We have already been in touch post-Pesach. New friends. Any doubts I had about going to a ‘Singles Pesach Program’ were a waste of time. We all had a good time, and who knows? Maybe a few shidduchim can be made.”
My Response: Nowhere does it say that only families or couples should go away for any Yom Tov. I think it’s great you were able to go off, have an adventure, and be with other singles during Pesach. Friends of mine did just that a few years ago. They went away to a singles program for the last days of Yom Tov. They said it was great and would do it again. Who knows where your bashert is? You’re right: Who knows how many couples may have met during the holiday? And who knows how many singles met the person who will introduce them to their bashert at that event.”
Letter 5: “I made the effort to go over to them and start a conversation. Never saw them or met them before. I had nothing to lose. Turns out one of them is someone I went to sleepaway camp with over 30 years ago. She introduced me to her family. But sharing a common past (camp) may have made it easier for me to drop my guard and be less stiff. She introduced me to so many people. One has already set me up on a date with her nephew... If you don’t take the chance and step out of your comfort zone, you’ll never know what you’ll be missing. I would’ve missed a lot. Not isolating yourself because you feel that you’re different or the odd man out because you’re single is hard, but it’s the only way to broaden my social circles and meet new people, which may lead to my future spouse...”
My Response: “...Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about. Take a chance. Put yourself out there. You did, and ended up meeting an old acquaintance, which made the whole experience that much easier. Isolating yourself and staying with your three favorite friends is never going to help you meet new people, which may lead to who-knows-where.”
Letter 6: “...It was surprising. I didn’t expect to be taken in like a lost puppy by anyone, but just the overall feeling of ‘Leave me alone. I’m here with my family’ was very much present. There was an hour of “speed dating” for singles during the first and during the last days of Yom Tov. It felt like a freak show going in. Half the singles were too old or too young. Married people came in to watch, like they were birdwatching. It just wasn’t a good experience...”
My Response: “I am so sorry you didn’t have the experience you were hoping for. I know what you mean when you wrote that you felt people didn’t want to be bothered, but you never know. Could be, you caught them at the wrong time. And yes, I have been there where I feel like an exhibit at a museum, just flown in from a faraway land, a rare artifact never before seen in the modern world; when non-singles gather where singles are meeting to stand around and look. It’s as though you’re on display. It can make some feel dehumanized and lead others to sink further into the dark place they may have already be in. But I’m sure no one intentionally wanted to be there as if they were watching a movie. At only one event I attended, in a hotel, did an event organizer actually close the doors and ask marrieds to leave so the singles would feel more comfortable. I don’t know where the “speed dating” event took place: a conference room, in the dining room, but the organizer should have put more thought into it.”
Hatzlachah to you all.