Dec. 24 Becomes Party Night for Jewish Singles
Sunday, December 24, 2006
MIAMI -- With no cookies to leave out for Santa, no church to attend and no expectation of presents in the morning, Christmas Eve used to hold little appeal for non-Christians.
But now many are developing traditions of their own, thanks to night-before-Christmas parties such as the Matzo Ball.
Although the events are open to all, and draw thousands around the country, the crowds are overwhelmingly Jewish singles and couples in their 20s and 30s.
"For Jews, Christmas Eve has become the dating or the matchmaking night," said Andy Rudnick, 42, the creator of the Matzo Ball, the granddaddy of all such parties. "That's the night that things happen."
The Matzo Ball will be held this year at clubs in six cities, including Club Five in Washington. A four-nightclub, five-DJ event in New York called simply the Ball and two events sponsored by JDate, an online Jewish dating service, are also scheduled.
Rudnick was just out of college when he threw the first Matzo Ball, in Boston in 1987. It was the first time the club was open on Christmas Eve. To Rudnick's surprise, 2,000 people showed up for the event, named after the dumpling-like Jewish food.
It has grown since then -- this year, parties are also being held in New York, Denver, Miami and Boca Raton, Fla. Rudnick, who recently moved to Florida, met his wife at a Matzo Ball in 1997.
The events have competition. One party, sponsored by the Tampa Jewish Federation, is called Vodka Latke, after the Jewish potato pancakes.
The Eve Party in Miami Beach is being hosted by an organization called Jmerica.
In Los Angeles, it's Schmooz-a-Palooza, an event first organized more than a decade ago. The bash, which has drawn more than 1,000 people in the past, and another in New York are being sponsored for the first time this year by JDate.
"I think that every two seconds on the radio you hear another Christmas song, and everywhere you go you see Christmas trees," said Lewis Weinger, who organized Schmooz-a-Palooza for the past 12 years. "I think in a predominantly non-Jewish environment, even Los Angeles, I think it's an important night for Jewish people to get together and connect and to party and be proud they're Jewish."
Most of the parties feature a DJ and dancing, but the Ball in New York has taken the idea further. Partygoers can travel among four clubs -- including one featuring performances by acrobats -- in a fleet of Hummer and Cadillac Escalade limousines. The party -- sponsored by LetMyPeopleGo.com, which holds events for Jewish singles year round -- is in its 12th year. About 1,000 people, around a quarter of the number expected, have already paid $25 each for tickets, said organizer Jeff Strank.
"I heard someone refer to it this year as Woodstock for Jewish people," Strank said.
Partygoers say they may go with people they know, but they also encounter people they have not seen in years.
"It's become a tradition to certain people, for sure. It's not really a religious tradition, but it's become a personal tradition," said Jonathan Boyer, a party regular.