The Yenta

Having her only daughter married to a nice Jewish boy (preferably a doctor) is very important to my mother. She gives my number to people she meets at funerals or airports. That hasn't been working too well. Last year I got an e-mail from a 38-year-old Orthodox guy who's divorced, has four kids, lives in Israel and said he's looking for a wife. He sent me his "stats" and told me to check out his profile on J-date, the Jewish dating network. My mother and I had a very big fight. I told her I'm not an e-mail-order bride.

Despite my mother's bad taste in men (sorry, Dad), I think that it'd be nice to meet a Jewish guy. Because a Jewish guy wouldn't feel my head up for horns or tell me I'm going to burn in hell because I'm Jewish. (This happened. More than once.) If a guy's Jewish, then I don't have to explain all the holidays and services and foods to him. And besides, I've got a thing for dark, hairy men.

A guy at a networking group for young Jews tells me about Louise Lihn, the matchmaker at Houston's Jewish Community Center. My mother's ecstatic. She loves the idea of sending me to a yenta. That way, if I hate the men, I can't yell at my mother.

So I call Louise and tell her the networking guy said she was the matchmaker.

"And you believed him?" she asks.

I like her already.

Louise describes her dating service."It's friendly, it's nice, you should go," she says. And it's better than hanging out in bars. Usually a year of matchmaking costs $200, but right now she's running a special: "It's only $99."

A hundred bucks? To look at pictures of people I might want to date? And I can't even see the books first?

"I know," she says. "We're underpriced."

I'm getting less interested.

"How old are you, may I ask?"


"You must, you have to do this," she says. "Do you know that there's two medical schools in town and a law school? They're looking for girls your age."

I dated a Jewish doctor this summer, and it didn't work out too well.

"Was he a surgeon?"


"Surgeons cut for a living," she says. "They get instant gratification."

What does that have to do with me?

"How was the instant gratification with your doctor?" she asks. "Or was there any?"

I go to the JCC a couple nights later and find Louise's office in the basement. She's a tiny elfish-looking lady wearing fashion-magazine high heels and Harley Davidson eyeglasses.

"Are you over 21?" she asks when I walk in.

Yeah, I say.

"Good," she says. "Sit down. Have a cookie."

Two other girls have just taken seats, too: a blond lawyer and the married girlfriend she brought along for emotional support.

The way the service works, Louise says, is that on either side of her office is a boys' room and a girls' room. You flip through the pictures in the alphabetized books and pick who you'd like to go out with. You pay $2, and she mails a little green slip saying, "You may have struck a match!" If the person wants to date you, they get your number and your last name. If they don't, you get a blue rejection slip.

The lawyer thought it'd be more like Fiddler on the Roof, where you tell the matchmaker you want to get married and she finds someone for you.

"No," the matchmaker says. "You choose. You can read."

All right, the blond lawyer and I say. We'll do it. Louise makes us sign a form saying that the JCC doesn't test for STDs and isn't responsible if we get AIDS or anything nasty.

Then she hands us our profile forms to fill out with our first name, date of birth, how tall we are and what we do. You have to write down your "social goals." I've never had social goals.

"What'd you put?" I ask the lawyer. She skipped it.

We flip to the back where the tricky yes-or-no questions are. Do you describe yourself as: self-reliant, flamboyant, old-fashioned, talkativeŠ

The lawyer turns to her married friend. "Am I witty?"

"Put 'on occasion,' " her friend says. "That's witty."

The lawyer skips down to where it asks if you're Orthodox, conservative, reform, non-practicing or non-Jewish.

Non-Jewish? This is the JCC. Stars of David are at the top of every form.

Turns out non-Jews are allowed in the dating service. It's funded by the United Way, the matchmaker explains; they can't turn anyone away. But of about 200 members, only one isn't Jewish.

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman