The days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are supposed to be days of judgment by God. But for singles, they are often days of judgment by family and friends who ask the inevitable — and inevitably annoying — question: “Why aren’t you married yet?”
“Parents can really make you meshugenah,” says Cantor Yossi Lisauer. “But there has to be a balance. They want to show they are there for you, but they should know when enough is enough. On the other side, some singles aren’t as sensitive as they should be [to their parents’ feelings] and unfortunately they may drive their parents away.”
Lisauer will be chanting the prayer services at Bellerose Jewish Center in Queens. The 31-year-old, who is single and who studied opera in Italy, said these days are crucial for introspection and self-evaluation. He said he knows that many singles will be praying that this is the year they meet their husband or wife, but he added that prayer is not enough. In some cases, there is work to be done. Lisauer said that in his case, he needed to work on his physical appearance and his health. After sustaining an ankle injury, he gained substantial weight and went on a date with a girl whom he liked. Her shocking response at the end of the date had a significant impact on him, he said.
“She said, ‘You’re a nice guy, but you’re a schlub and need to lose some weight,’” he recounted. “I couldn’t believe it when she said it. It hurt so much that it rocked me to the core, but rather than feel bad for myself, I knew I had to do something.”
Through diet and exercise, he lost 110 pounds in two years, he said.
This time of the year can be depressing for some who feel like their biological clock is ticking, said one 36-year-old teacher from the Upper West Side.
“It’s hard when you go to Tashlich and see all the girls you babysat for that are now married with kids,” she said. “You’re definitely happy for them, but you wonder when it will be your time.”
An open mind can help to alleviate frustration, says Rachel Greenwald, a renowned matchmaker and New York Times best-selling author. Greenwald said it’s natural for singles to become frustrated during the High Holy Day period, especially in cases where they haven’t seen family or old peers in a while. But the author of “Have Him at Hello,” who will host a seminar titled “Successful Single Woman’s Dating Plan” at the 92nd Street Y, on Oct. 24, says singles shouldn’t see family and friends as a burden, but rather as a resource.
“Singles often have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear that they are too picky, and it often leads to a downward spiral,” Greenwald said. “And naturally people identify with siblings, friends or former classmates as yardsticks and want to measure up. The key is to change the lens and look at it as an opportunity. You’d never think to ask Aunt Zelda, under the rationale that if she would have known someone, she would have already suggested them. That’s not always the case. And when they do give advice, remember it’s coming from a good place. You have to change the perception from one where people are judging you to one where people who know you the best want to help you.”
Aaron Shemesh believes he’s now moved to a good place to meet Jewish women — the Upper West Side. But he will head to Brooklyn to be with his family for the holidays. Shemesh, 28, says he is playing it cool, despite the fact that he knows the spotlight will be on him, as his three brothers and five sisters are all married.
“My parents don’t nag me but some of my siblings do a little,” said Shemesh, who is an information technology specialist. “There’s obviously some pressure on me to get married and you think about it at this time of year, but I’m taking my time. What can you do?”
Alicia Post of Manhattan will be with her brother and parents at their synagogue in West Hempstead, L.I., for the holidays. The 30-year-old, who is president of the Mira chapter of the New York region of Hadassah, which focuses on women in their 20s and 30s, said many women face a barrage of questions when they come home for Rosh HaShanah.
“It’s a little weird and becomes quite a scene,” she said. “My mom nags me a little but it’s out of love. I think she is davening that I find someone and is more concerned than me. I am more stressed out about what I am wearing. But everyone comes over and says you’re great and asks how you are still single. My little niece suggested her gym teacher but then asked if that meant she would have to see him all the time. It was very cute.”
Post added that her grandmother has told her she is living to see her wedding.
Rachel Vasvari, a recreational therapist from Brooklyn, said men have less pressure during the Days of Awe.
“When you’re a Jewish female, you get a lot of pressure to settle down, get married and procreate, for me especially since my grandmother is a Holocaust survivor,” said Vasvari who is in her 20s. “My parents kind of stick to the saying that when you’re not looking you’ll find someone.”
And if you are simply fed up with all the marriage questions, one 30-year-old from Great Neck, who is one of the last single people left in Cantor Lisauer’s synagogue, said he has a trick to ensure he won’t get an earful.
“I make sure to sit near the rabbi,” he said, “so in that area, there’s no talking during davening.”