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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Shul’s singles committee serves the community

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This is the 16-member Shaar Shalom singles committee. The founder of the committee, Linda Friedman, is on the far left; committee co-chair Bryan Applebaum is on the far right, and seated furthest right is committee co-chair Sheldon Glass.

For many single adults, it can be difficult to meet new people. The Shaar Shalom singles committee, now in its 13th year, is dedicated to making social life as a single person easy, lively and comfortable.

“Very often singles look at synagogues and think it’s family-oriented. We want to make singles feel welcome at shul,” said Linda Friedman, the committee’s founder. When she became single, there was no programming offered through her synagogue for singles in the 45-plus age group so she decided to change that.

“I wanted to serve the whole community,” she said. Friedman believes that singles programming should not be limited to members of a particular synagogue. Although the committee is based out of Shaar Shalom Synagogue, it caters to members and non-members alike. Having started with only four people, it has expanded to a committee of 16 people who organize events for hundreds of Toronto’s Jewish singles.

“Over the years, we have more and more people come to the events,” said Bryan Applebaum, one of the committee’s co-chairs.

The group was initially created for the 45-plus crowd, but it now primarily serves people aged 55-plus. People who are divorced, widowed, or were never married are encouraged to come to events.

For each dance, concert, speaker, or holiday party, the committee invites about 700 Jewish singles. The group is currently preparing to host a concert on Aug. 12 featuring Italian tenor Andrea Garofalo.

The singles group’s events are usually scheduled for every second month, and they are designed to foster a sense of community. “We’re not a matchmaking society,” said committee co-chair Sheldon
Glass with a smile. Rather, he added, the events are about meeting new people and developing a richer social life.

Glass explained that as a newly single person with mostly married friends, “many times you get left out.” Meeting other single people helps to broaden one’s circle of friends.

“We really make an effort to create a warm, friendly atmosphere,” Applebaum said.

Friedman added that a welcoming environment is especially important for people who are just starting to go out again after becoming single.

For her, as well as for the other committee members, the group has been integral in building a strong social life. Friedman now counts many of those she met through the singles group among her closest friends. “It builds a sense of chevra,” she said.

Each of the 16 committee members takes an active role in planning the group’s events. “I think part of our success with our own committee members [is that] we give them ownership of something,” Glass
said. The members do everything from booking entertainment to planning for refreshments,
ticket sales and advertising.

“It really is a strong team effort,” Friedman said. She, Applebaum and Glass insist that the group’s success would be impossible without the work of the entire committee.

The Shaar Shalom singles committee is hoping to expand its reach to include as many of Toronto’s Jewish adult singles as possible, and they encourage other singles groups to work with them to achieve that goal. “It’s not a competitive thing, it’s a cooperative thing,” Friedman said.

For her and the rest of the committee members, bringing together the Jewish singles community is an important and rewarding task. “You don’t do volunteer work unless you find it satisfying – it is very satisfying.”

For more information on the Shaar Shalom singles committee’s concert on Aug. 12, call Shaar Shalom Synagogue at 905-889-4975.

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