PART I: Craigslist Shabbat
A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend showed me an ad they had seen on Craigslist titled "Seven Single White Jewish Males Looking to Host Seven Single Females for Shabbat Dinner." Now, I'm not one to actively seek out Internet friends, but the contents of this particular ad (promises of gefilte fish and Seinfeld shmoozin') were too funny/good to pass up. So, duh I responded, duh I got picked, and duh I went. Only after the fact did I learn that the ad had gone viral, and the boys had received responses from all over the world.
I arrive at the designated meeting place to find confused looking girls who could only have also been respondents. We look at each other, thinking we are about to meet our future husbands, make a friend or two, have dinner, or wind up dead and chopped up in a closet. Either way, it will be a good story.
It was then that one of the seven single white Jewish males comes out with a How to Talk to Girls book, and we know it's going to be a memorable night. He leads us to a room, where we find a beautifully set Shabbat dinner table, and the synchronized voices of Jewish mothers everywhere coo, "Ooooh what mensch's!" The boys take our coats to hang and one girl comments on mine. "Thanks, it's my Nana's," I say. She smiles because she's wearing her Nana's too. We sit boy girl boy girl.
Two boys are missing because one is sick and one has to work. One girl doesn't show. I guess the prospect of getting chopped up into little (Jewish) pieces isn't appealing to everyone? We all have our differences. But five boys and six girls is enough to dance the Hora.
I look around at the other ladies. The "Chosen" of the "Chosen Ones." The "Sensational Six." The "Dinner Club." I am more excited to meet them than the boys. They must have been handpicked for a reason, and I want to find out why. Surrounded by strangers, but everyone is oddly familiar and I feel like I'm with family. Awkwardness offset by flowing Manischewitz, and stomachs filled with challah, salmon, and guacamole (not in that order), the night goes swimmingly.
We talk about our backgrounds, how we found the ad (none of us had originally seen it on Craigslist), best case scenario for the night (this), worst case scenario (chopped up in a closet), and laugh and laugh. Pass the Manischewitz please. We share family stories and find that some of us know each other, some know family members of others, and some have mutual friends. I'm not surprised: The Jewish community is small, and it makes me feel at home in a city I am so new to.
The dinner continues with stories, games and even a dreidel, and the theme of the night is: Weird that this is so normal. TOO normal. Waiting for someone to break out the strip Twister while blasting klezmer, but it never happens. Pass the Manischewitz please. We bond in the unique experience, but it is clear no one is actually seeking a date. We stay past 1 am and wonder why the ad got the reception it did. Was it a Jewish thing? Was it a DC thing? Was it a DC Jewish thing? Whatever it was, it feels like a double mitzvah. The night winds down. One more glass of Manischewitz please.
As we say our goodbyes and exchange information, I wonder if we will ever meet again. I receive my answer in the days to come through a mysterious email.
PART II: Craigslist Shabbat
The mysterious email (from an entirely DIFFERENT group of Jewish men):
It is very humbling to email the Sensational Six, the amazing group selected to attend the infamous Craigslist Sabbath Dinner. It is pretty awesome that you now have definitive proof that you are the six coolest girls in DC...
Given that, it would be an honor to invite you to a SECOND dinner. It will be tough to live up to the first one, but there will be some key differences:
1. I don't know how to cook. Nor do my friends. Thus, the meal will be catered.
2. There will be six guys instead of five. The guys will be pre-vetted by one of your own -- And the guys will be in suits (subject to change).
3. There will be board games. And ping pong.
Upon receiving this email, a feeling of ultimate satisfaction washes over me. I had moved to the East Coast only months ago, not knowing a soul. Now I was bell of the ball. Had I suddenly become a DC Jewish socialite? Would I be receiving a string of fancy dinner invites from mystery men from now until the end of time? Hey, a Jewish girl can dream a Jewish dream, can't she?
In preparation for this second dinner, each girl was instructed to answer a few questions: Three adjectives to describe themselves (my answer: Jew, Jewy and Jewess), two songs to add to the dinner mix (Prince-Purple Rain and Hall and Oates-I can't go for that... pure groove, please). On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your singing voice (-googleplex). Entrance to the soiree would be denied without our "official" printed ticket.
Friday night. 7:30pm. I am parked in front of the mystery apartment, crumpled ticket buried deep in the depths of my bag. In my $15 Forever 21 dress and my $5 Forever 21 necklace, I feel... what's the word? ABFAB. This is the second time I am putting myself in this type of situation, so my social anxiety is only revved up to half (instead of full) speed, but I still have to sit in my car for an extra 10 minutes to mentally prepare.
I make my way to the door and someone is waiting with a list of names. I present her with my golden ticket, and she leads me up the apartment and announces, "Please welcome Sarah the Jew, Jewy Jewess!" (Oh god, why didn't I list better adjectives?) Like good kosher hams, the boys are wearing matching black jackets with red shirts underneath. A beautiful table is set, and a waiter (yes, a waiter) takes my coat. I sit down, introductions are made and there is a quick game of Taboo as the other girls trickle in. I am happy to see their faces again and we know that we are in for a second night of pure hilarity.
"Dinner is served!"
The dinner is catered and the host has planned the play-by-play for the evening. We sing the Shabbat prayers while Miley Cyrus parties in the USA in the background. We make a toast to the host, who then pulls out a drawing that one of his friends created as a representation of The Sensational Six Sabbath 2013. Yes, now this night has an artwork dedicated to it.
We go around the table and play two truths and a lie -- a game in which participants announce two true facts about themselves and one lie, then let the group guess which is the lie. Mine: I took swing dance classes with the Olsen twins, I hung out with the Wu Tang Clan one night, I have had a jam session with Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. Hint: the two you want to be true are true.
The game is interrupted when the host says, "Sorry, but the magician is here." Wait, what? There is a magician, and suddenly this is the most magical night of all time.
The self-proclaimed "Black Prince of Magic Don Juan" is (by coincidence) wearing a black jacket and red shirt that matches the boys. He comes, does amazing things, leaves. We open our Justin Bieber goodie bags to find special treats, including a custom wrapped chapstick labeled, "Soiree with The Sensational Six."
Chattiness and smiles fueled by raspberry lady cocktails and tarts. I talk to some of the boys, and as usual (when I am nervous) I list every embarrassing/strange thing about myself in a row.
I have face blindness (We'll just leave it at that.)
I like torture (What I MEANT to say was, I like a genre of campy gore horror movies. For example, The Saw series... but I might have just stopped at "I like torture.")
I have a quiet rage (Okay, let me qualify this by saying I define "quiet rage" as a hidden desire to do something like play the drums or take a karate class. I may or may not have explained this to the terrified boy I was talking to.)
The Karaoke comes out. One of the guys is a Shaggy impersonator. Nuff said. Ping pong is played, and then a game of poker. I win everything. And by "win," I mean "lose."
And so the night winds down and we thank the host for having us. So while I did not meet my Jewish husband, friends were still made and information was exchanged. These were nights I will always have and remember and it made me grateful to be Jewish, but even more grateful for Craigslist.