In 1987, prompted by desire to find the right woman, Andy Rudnick, who worked as a commercial real estate broker by day and a bartender by night, conceived the idea for the original “MatzoBall.”
A massive party for Jewish professionals on Christmas Eve, the MatzoBall — which has spawned more imitators than “Ray’s Pizza” — now takes place in 25 cities across the country. Beginning next week, Rudnick is partnering with Lucky Strike bowling allies in 15 cities to launch a new venture: a series of bowling events called the “MatzoBowl.”
Over Passover, Rudnick, who met his wife Catherine at the Boston MatzoBall in 1997, took time out to recall his single days (a father of three, he is happily married), discuss how he believes Jewish dating has changed since the ’80s, and share his philosophy when it comes to both business and dating: swing for the fences every time.
Jewish Week: How did you come up with the idea for the MatzoBall?
Andy Rudnick: I started the MatzoBall in ’87, when I was just out of college at Boston University … After college there wasn’t such a great environment to meet other young Jewish professionals … I used to bartend at a hot nightclub, The Metro, in Boston. Christmas Eve, I had the night off and went to a party at a hotel. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being held in the hottest club in Boston since they were closed that night, anyway. So I put two and two together and said, “Let me do this.”
It seems like so much success in business is seizing opportunity. Were there a lot of obstacles along the way?
My bosses [at the nightclub] — they were Italian guys — said, ‘MatzoBall?’ Won’t that be offensive [to Jews]?’ Some were concerned about offending Christians too because it was going to take place Christmas Eve. The nightclub owner said, “You need an organization behind this event … Call yourself ‘The Society of Young Jewish Professionals.’ I said, ‘Done! Society of Young Jewish Professionals presents the first annual MatzoBall!’” We had 2,000 people show up for the first MatzoBall at The Metro … I quit my job in real estate and started focusing on the SYJP. In 1988, we expanded to New York and Florida, in 1989, to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. This year, we’ll be in 25 cities.
Who came up with the name, ‘MatzoBall’?
Funny story on the name. [At the time] I worked at this Irish WASP-y [real estate] firm where I was significantly outnumbered. I worked next to this old crusty Irish guy who would always ask me, “Hey, did you ever eat dem der matzah balls?” I was having lunch with my buddy Lance and we would [imitate] this old guy and call him “dem der matzah ball.” Lance suggested I call the event “The MatzoBall.” I asked my mother for her blessing, she said, “Sounds cute,” and the legend began.
Meeting the right woman was part of your motivation in creating the event. But it was 10 years from the time you started the MatzoBall until you met Catherine. Any thoughts on why it sometimes takes time?
Well, I had a singles organization …
I think I get the picture …
Well, now hold on. From age 26 to 32 I dated but I also had two or three girlfriends. … I’m glad I’m not single today.
My single friends tell me how exhausting it is to date these days. I don’t recall it being exhausting in my day, but I didn’t have Match.com or JDate.com blowing up my pager … I can see now it’s a full-time job with all the options. I think the mentality is, if someone sneezes, “Well, there’s someone else around the next corner.” But there’s also [such a thing as] valuing the sanctity of your relationship, and family. I met someone I connected with, I have everything I could want, and I wish the same for everybody.
What’s your dating advice?
Don’t play games, and don’t be afraid to lay it out the way you want it on the first date …
Whoa, that’s brave.
Why not swing for the fences every time? The same way professional athletes are trained to forget the missed field goal or the dropped pass, brush it off and get ready for the next one.
Speaking of moving forward, how’d you choose bowling events?
We are very excited about the MatzoBowl idea, which will allow us to do a tour. We are working with the Susan G. Komen organization to promote breast cancer awareness, which is a cause that resonates with a lot of our members. The Bowl for a Cure concept [jibes with] what we are doing because these are bowling events, and we’ll donate a portion of the proceeds. As far as the choice of bowling, it’s interactive.
The first MatzoBowl will take place Monday, April 8 at in New York City at 7 p.m. at Lucky Strike, 660 W. 42nd St. Tickets are $50, but you must register at www.matzoball.org. Ticket price includes bowling, bowling shoes, appetizer buffet and one drink. More details available by visiting www.matzoball.org and clicking on ‘MatzoBowl from Coast to Coast – 15 Dates Announced’ or call 561-767-8009.