New York – They both almost didn’t show up to the party last summer. It was a hot July evening and David Bedussa didn’t have it in him to shlep to New York City from his home in Philadelphia.
Though it was near her home on the Upper West Side, Meghan Lapides, wasn’t going to come either. She felt it was fruitless, she’d been to the annual party previously and had never met anyone that interested her.
Both are glad they did because when they met at the Tu B’av white party last year, they hit it off immediately.
“She picked me up,” said Bedussa, who is originally from Rome. “She was very direct and charming. Once we started talking, everyone else disappeared. I think dating is super complicated and especially for women, there is a lot of pressure to get married… She was super relaxed.”
Lapides had a decent pickup line.
“Everyone had paper fans and I told him he should be fanning me,” Lapides recounted. “He was cute and his Italian accent didn’t hurt. We talked to each other the whole time and didn’t want to talk to anyone else.”
The two, both in their 30s, got engaged in March.
For that they have twin brothers, Seth and Isaac Galena, to thank. The Galenas founded the humor and listings website bangitout.com, and have hosted this annual outdoor party for singles for the last 16 years. They claim 50 couples have gotten married after meeting at the party.
This year’s party will take place on August 15 at Ellington in The Park on 103rd Street and Riverside Park. Tu B’av, or the 15th of the month of Av, is a Jewish holiday commemorating love, sort of like the Jewish Valentine’s day. In the days of the Temple, it was considered an occasion for single people to meet; unmarried Jewish women would dance in the vineyards all dressed in white. Men would come to meet them, and because they were all dressed in white, it was meant to give everyone an equal chance at finding a mate.
Now it’s celebrated mostly as an occasion to, well, party. This one in Manhattan is believed to be the largest Jewish singles party in New York City and consistently draws more than 1,000 people, according to event organizers. Though a big portion of those who attend are modern orthodox and Ashkenazi, all religious denominations are represented. There are Russians, French, Persians and of course, Israelis, all looking for love in one place.
“There’s no end to the insanity and hilarious things we’ve seen over the years,” Seth Galena said. “You can find a chasidic guy talking to a secular girl. Who knows what they’re talking about, but it’s probably great.”
Isaac Galena explained that he and his brother didn’t have great social opportunities in Philadelphia so when they moved to Manhattan’s Upper West Side they wanted to help others. It warms his heart, he said, to know that he’s helped people get married.
Much like at the Tu B’av celebrations of yore, the party organizers have tried to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with someone they like. Everyone wears white and are given a sticker with a number on it when they arrive. If they like someone, they can write down their number and if that person also writes down their number, they will get a message via e-mail after the party. Most simply find the person on social media, though, and connect with them there.
Hillary Kener, who is in her 20s and lives on the Upper East Side, said she was impressed when a guy named Ilya made a bold gesture at the party when she attended a few years ago.
“He ripped off the number they give you and said he wouldn’t be needing it anymore,” she smiled. “I was only there to be a wing-woman to a friend. He impressed me.”
The two eventually married.
Max Cutler, 26, didn’t expect much when he attended the party three years ago. But he met Liat, a 24-year-old that was warm and had good family values.
“I was under the impression that these events are forced and can be awkward, but I was completely wrong,” Cutler, now based in Riverdale, said.
Being bold is a good thing, according to Erin Davis, a professional matchmaker and wing woman.
“I think of all of the parties, this is one of the best to go to because there’s no stigma in going up to people,” Davis said. “It can be overwhelming because there are a lot of people but it’s a good time and you can meet someone.”
Davis, who will host her own event “Sex + Text: Jewish Wisdom on Love, Dating & Mating,” on the Upper East Side on August, 15, and a Shabbat dinner for singles known as Shabbatness on August, 17, said pickup lines aren’t required, but saying something original can be a big plus.
For example, “Can I get you a beer?” can be replaced with “Can I get you a brisket?” at this party as Ari White, who was named Brisket King of NYC in 2016, will be selling his famed foods.
“I’m just happy to be part of NYC’s best meat market of the year,” White said.
JSWIPE is also a partner of the event.
“Our message is to try and put yourself in the game,” Badussa said. “I’m sure people are burned out. Look at us. I almost didn’t go. She almost didn’t go. We’re getting married in a month.”