Sen. Rudy Boschwitz's shocking defeat has left one constituency in particular aflutter -- Washington Jewish singles, who know him as "the matchmaker."
Since 1984, the Boschwitz name has been synonymous with huge singles parties thrown with the Washington Hebrew Congregation. From 300 to 1,000 at a time attended the Boschwitz picnics, Hanukah parties and Sukkot dinners.
The Republican senator originally got into the yenta business because he had four single sons. Then he noticed that Jewish staffers on the Hill were complaining about a lack of singles events, says Melissa Rappaport, who is Jewish and single and Boschwitz's volunteer staff liaison to the singles events. Boschwitz's sons, Rappaport says, are still unmarried, though "a few have girlfriends now . . . One might not be Jewish." Meanwhile, Boschwitz's singles mailing list has grown to 5,000 names.
So, what's to become of all of these lonely hearts? "People have been asking," says Rabbi Dennis Ross, of Washington Hebrew. "But there hasn't been tremendous panic. We have begun to consult with his staff about what will happen in January . . . Of course, with him leaving, he's got a lot to take care of besides us."
Rappaport says there is "the possibility" that Boschwitz will persuade another Jewish member of Congress to take over the role -- there are, after all, eight Jewish senators and many Jewish representatives.
One senator who will probably not be contacted is Paul Wellstone, the Democrat who won Boschwitz's Minnesota seat. There is the little matter of the campaign letter sent by Boschwitz supporters that referred to Wellstone's wife not being Jewish. It backfired on "the rabbi of the Senate," even bringing a condemnation from Boschwitz's own rabbi. Asked now if Wellstone might step in, Rappaport conjectured that "he probably doesn't care as much if people marry outside of their faith."
In any case, it may be too early to worry. It's still not clear that Boschwitz will leave Washington, Rappaport says -- although, without his title, the cachet of the name will be gone.
So party while you can -- the final Sen. Boschwitz Hanukah gathering is tonight at Washington Hebrew.