'Desperate situation' runs amok at Calif. synagogue 'Matchmakers' start local, but get overflow crowd among single Jews looking for love.

August 29, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It all started as a fun little advertisement meant to attract some eligible Jewish women for 16 bachelors who attend a San Jose synagogue.

It is now officially out of control.

Calls to the Congregation Am Echad begin early in the morning and lasted through the late television news. The calls come from prospective brides, friends of prospective brides, from their mothers, their cousins and their grandfathers.

"It grew like Topsy," said Pat Bergman, the member of the Orthodox congregation who innocently volunteered to handle the calls. "I'm exhausted."

It seems a modern method has turned the Jewish tradition of matchmaking upside down. A few members of the congregation settled on the ad because, in the relatively small Jewish community in the San Jose area, it's difficult for Orthodox singles to meet other Orthodox singles.

So a couple of members of the congregation decided on a whimsical ad announcing "Seven brides for seven bochers [bachelors] urgently needed . . . it's a desperate situation."

The ad, which goes on to list five of the eligible men, ran in Jewish publications in San Jose and San Francisco. It hit a chord.

It also hit a nationwide Jewish wire service, which saw a story about it in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.

Jewish women seeking men have called from Pittsburgh, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orlando, Fla. Men are calling now, wondering whether Bergman can set them up with some of the overflow. Though the ad specified Orthodox Jews, she's hearing from Conservative and Reform Jews as well.

"These are people who really want to meet other people," said Bergman, who does not accept money for her work. "The people who call me really want to get married."

Since the story started appearing across the country last month, said the 49-year-old mother of two, the answering machines at her San Jose home have self-destructed.

"We got new machines yesterday because I wore out the old ones," she said.

And what about those bachelors?

David Klausner, 44, one of the original 16, said he feels that dating and relationships are personal matters, but that seeking someone with a religious background is not so different from joining singles groups that cater to music lovers.

For her part, Bergman said it's a little early to talk about successes. These things take time, after all.

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