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Calling all singles to JCC for entertainment, activities
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Calling all singles to JCC for entertainment, activities

New programming fills ‘unmet need’ in the community

Jennine Shpigel, left, director of Jewish and family programming at the JCC of Middlesex County, and Raya Benhaim, singles’ events coordinator, organize a full roster of activities. Photo by Debra Rubin
Jennine Shpigel, left, director of Jewish and family programming at the JCC of Middlesex County, and Raya Benhaim, singles’ events coordinator, organize a full roster of activities. Photo by Debra Rubin

The JCC of Middlesex County in Edison has launched singles programming designed to fill “an unmet need” in the community.

Jennine Shpigel, director of Jewish and family programming, said she would receive calls from people “almost every day asking about Jewish singles’ events…. They are newly divorced or widowed or just single, and they want to meet other Jewish people.”

Efforts to find a way to meet the demand were advanced last spring when Shpigel was approached by Raya Benhaim of Highland Park, a professional events planner, and the two put their heads together to organize JCC outreach to singles.

As a result, the JCC now offers events for two age groups, 30-45 and 45-60 (although, Shpigel said, she hopes to reach out soon to seniors and younger people).

“Every event is customized,” said Benhaim, who now has the title of JCC singles’ event coordinator.

The first offering last spring — a “Meet and Cheese” event — drew so many singles that Shpigel and Benhaim knew they were on to something.

In October, guests at a “festival of chocolate” heard about the history of chocolate from a representative of Dove candies and enjoyed a taste-testing. The latest program was Middle Eastern-themed and featured Israeli fare and a professional belly dancer. Any food served is kosher.

Benhaim said events are designed to put people at ease and are built around entertainment and an activity. Over the summer, they had a “coffee, cake, and comedy” event, and, as part of an effort to offer off-site activities, a “dancing with the singles” program with professional instructors was held at PJ’s coffeehouse in Highland Park.

Lots of plans are in the works, said Benhaim. “We are going to start a business and job-networking program. We will be bringing different Jewish speakers and films…. We think we are going to have a Hanukka event, a big party to welcome 2011, a costume night for Purim. We have a lot of ideas. The point is to bring people out every month.”

Future programming will likely include theater trips, dining at a kosher restaurant in Manhattan, and travel.

Shpigel said the JCC events have drawn people from as far away as Staten Island, Brooklyn, Rockland County, NY, and other New Jersey counties. The JCC is compiling an e-mail list to keep those interested abreast of events.

The next program is a coffee house with live music for the 30-45 group, Thursday, Nov. 18.

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