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This New York-based dating coach has sage advice for Jewish singles



(New York Jewish Week) — On the Netflix reality show “Jewish Matchmaking,” matchmaker and star Aleeza Ben Shalom jet-sets around the world, meets her clients one-on-one, and dives deep into her little black book in order to make connections based on what attributes people seek in a partner and what sort of values they have.

Jewish Matchmaking” may be entertaining, but it’s not exactly representative of how most Jews meet their romantic partners today. As anyone who’s been on a date in the past 10 or 20 years knows, outside the Orthodox community, the primary way people get together is via online dating apps. This cultural shift has paved the way for new types of matchmakers, like Jewish “online dating coach” Erika Ettin. Her process may be different than it was back in the day, but the goal remains the same: to find finds and catch catches.

Ettin, who finesses her clients’ online dating profiles and helps them establish their dating priorities, has a pragmatic approach to modern dating. “I don’t believe in bashert,” she told the New York Jewish Week, using the Yiddish word for “preordained” that is colloquially used to mean “soulmate.” “I don’t believe in one person for everyone. I think many people can make you happy for different reasons.”

Ettin, 42, founded her modern-day matchmaking business, A Little Nudge, in 2011. The name, Ettin clarifies, is pronounced “nuhdge” — as in gentle encouragement — and not the Yiddish “noodge,” meaning to annoy or pester. “Only my mom is allowed to call me that,” Ettin quips. “But I’m giving people a push. I’m giving them the tools they need to get out there.”

Though Ettin’s clients are not exclusively Jewish, she estimates that some 15 percent of them are — “which is a lot more than the national average!” Ettin joked. (A recent Pew study found that Jews make up about 2.4% of the U.S. population.)

Through her business, Ettin offers three levels of service, with pricing from $500: The standard “little nudge” includes a Zoom consultation, after which Ettin will write a client’s online dating profile and select their pictures. Her aim, she said, is to help people put their best proverbial foot forward while simultaneously ensuring that they don’t represent themselves inaccurately.

“Anything that lets your personality shine, shows your quirks and stays positive,” she advises. “But it’s more than a profile. It’s being proactive on the sites that makes you successful.”

The next tier is A Little Nudge Plus, in which Ettin also presents her clients with some handpicked matches and helps draft those initial, particularly anxiety-inducing messages. Finally, there’s “A Little Nudge Platinum,” the whole enchilada of Ettin’s services, in which clients hand over their dating reins: Ettin will swipe and message on her client’s behalf —  but only to the point of setting up the first meeting. “Ultimately, they’re the ones going on the date,” she said.

Ettin’s approach to dating is born out of first-hand experience: Formerly an economist at Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C., Ettin was an early adopter of online dating in 2001. Using the Jewish dating site JDate, she relied on her savvy with statistics to usher her through the complicated process, from talking online (and later, via app) to meeting in real life.

“I put two things I really liked together: online dating and spreadsheets,” Ettin said, explaining that she initially created the spreadsheet to ensure she didn’t write to the same person twice. Soon, however, she realized she could employ this tracking system to ask questions like, “What’s my response rate if I write to somebody? If I make little tweaks, is the probability of getting a response higher? What’s my conversion rate if this person writes back? Do we go on a date?”

Eventually, friends started to notice how successful she was at garnering online dates and requested her assistance with their profiles, inspiring Ettin to quit her job at Fannie Mae and make the jump to full-time date doctoring. “Best decision I ever made,” she declared.

Recently, Ettin made another big, long-awaited jump: After 19 years in Washington, she moved to Brooklyn Heights in December 2022. Ettin had found she was making frequent trips to New York, both to meet with clients and — “here’s where it gets fun,” she said — to compete in the live pun competition Punderdome (she even won the show’s last outing in June).

“I finally decided, if not now, then when?” she said, quoting Jewish sage Hillel. “There’s usually something holding you back — either you’re taking a class, or you’re in a relationship, or you’re… something. It was the first time in a long time where nothing was keeping me anymore.”

So far, Ettin is adjusting to her new scene in Brooklyn Heights nicely, calling it the perfect mix of “quiet and quaint,” perfect for walking her dog, Scruffy, a mutt she suspects is a terrier dachshund mix. She often heads to Times Square to “feed my Broadway addiction,” she said.

“Everything about me makes sense here,” said Ettin, who declined to share her relationship status. (“I generally try not to mix personal and professional,” she said.)

Of course, the same issues that plague any New Yorker plague her as well, like attempting to cook a seven-pound brisket for Passover in her New York-sized oven. (Per Ettin’s review, it was “a mess, but delicious.”) For 20 years, Ettin has hosted a Passover seder in her home; it’s one of many ways she celebrates her cultural Judaism.

Growing up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Ettin was raised Jewish and had a bat mitzvah. It wasn’t until she was a student at Cornell University that she began to connect with her culture on a deeper level. That’s mainly because she missed the taste of matzah ball soup — a powerful motivator for an 18-year-old living away from home for the first time. Ettin attended Reform synagogue in college, and upon relocating to Washington, helped to lead services for young professionals at the historic Sixth & I synagogue alongside Jewish rocker Rick Recht.

Despite what “Sex and the City” and Instagram meme accounts have led many to believe, Ettin doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that dating is harder in New York City than other locales. “Every city has its quirks,” she said. “And there are so many options, and I know that does frustrate people. The paradox of choice, right? When you have so many things to choose from, you’re not actually happy with your choice. There’s always another person a swipe away.”

“But I think dating in New York can be great,” she added. “Most people complain about their own city, but every city can’t be the worst, you know? Are you going to come across every stereotype you think you’re going to come across in New York City? Absolutely, but are you also going to come across amazing people who are looking for what you’re looking for? Yeah, but it takes digging.”

One trend Ettin has noticed among her Jewish clients: Many of them want to meet someone who is also Jewish, even if they’re not particularly observant. That’s good news for any Jewish single looking for a partner — and maybe even better news for any bubbe-figure who wants a loved one to be searching for a Jewish partner.

Ettin’s advice for meeting another Jewish New Yorker is simple: “Pay for the filters on the dating apps so they can filter religion,” she said. “Because it cracks me up when they say ‘This is a dealbreaker’ and then they refuse to pay the $20 to actually use the filter to filter for religion.”

This advice holds true for whatever your dealbreakers are, Ettin advises. “If those checkboxes are there on the dating sites, use those to your advantage,” she said. “On the flip side, just because the option is there doesn’t mean you have to use it. Just because you can search by every inch of height, does not mean you need to.”

While her speciality may be online dating, Ettin believes it’s still possible for people to connect and fall in love IRL in NYC. “Put yourself in places where you want to be, anyway, and then if you meet someone it’s an added bonus,” she advises. “If going to synagogue is important to you, find one that you really like and then you’re already in your element. If you meet someone there, it’s an added bonus. If you want to take some kind of Israeli cooking class, you’re already enjoying yourself because it’s something you want to be doing. If you meet someone it’s an added bonus.”

No matter your situation, or what you’re seeking in a partner, central to much of Ettin’s advice is asking for the things you want. “I think it’s not only OK but encouraged to tell people exactly the types of behaviors you want,” she said. “If you are in a relationship and you want flowers three times a year, tell your partner, ‘I want flowers three times a year.’ You’re not going to be upset when they then give you flowers because you told them — you’ll be happy.”

These types of communication tools were invaluable to Elizabeth Cutler, a former client who recently moved from a career in government “into the creating writing chapter” of her life. She said Ettin “really helped me refresh myself and to present the best version of myself” and to “really listen to my instincts.”

“Everyone is trying to do what they think they’re supposed to do in dating, and sometimes that gets a little mixed up with putting forward authentic selves,” Cutler, 35, said of the wisdom she learned. “It’s good to give people grace around that.”

On “Jewish Matchmaking,” Ben Shalom famously says she has “the hardest job in the world.” Ettin’s approach, meanwhile, is a bit more practical. “The desire to meet someone or find a partner is never going to go away,”she said. “If the economy changes, or anything changes, people will still have the desire to meet a partner. I think I will always have work to do.”

Ultimately, when it comes to love, Ettin doesn’t believe in luck. “I believe in hard work,” she said.

The post This New York-based dating coach has sage advice for Jewish singles appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Elon Musk, in live chat with right-leaning Jews, insists antisemitism isn’t a problem on X




(JTA) – Elon Musk called himself “aspirationally Jewish,” waffled on a prominent rabbi’s invitation to visit Auschwitz, and insisted that claims of rising antisemitism on his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, were “absurd.”

The billionaire tech mogul added that antisemitic posts should not be deplatformed, but should instead be met with “counterpoints.” He said that antisemites who aren’t presented with other views online are “just going to be hidden antisemites, and that’s not going to do. That’s perhaps worse.”

As an example, Musk cited Kanye West, whom he reinstated on X after the rapper’s antisemitic tirade got him banned last year.

Those statements and more were made during a friendly forum on Thursday featuring Musk and a lineup of Jewish men, most of them avowed conservatives, addressing antisemitism on X under his watch.

Hosted by the politically conservative Orthodox Jewish pundit Ben Shapiro and his publication The Daily Wire, the nearly two-hour chat was titled “X, anti-Semitism, Faith and Free Speech.” It came days after a call from more than 120 Jewish activists, most of them progressive, for advertisers and app stores to drop the platform, and in the wake of a series of attacks from Musk on the Anti-Defamation League. Musk blames an ad boycott spearheaded by the ADL for the site’s revenue loss, and has threatened to sue the antisemitism watchdog for billions of dollars. He has also amplified antisemitic accounts on X that have joined in condemning the group.

Musk has previously denied being antisemitic. On Thursday, he went further, saying, “in some respects I think I am Jewish, basically,” owing to what he said was his large proportion of Jewish friends.

“They use the X platform and I’m like, ‘Do you guys see anything?’ And they’re like, ‘Nope,’” he said.

He also insisted that “multiple third parties” have verified that hate speech has declined on the platform since his acquisition but did not share what those sources were.

Musk also defended himself from accusations of antisemitism, noting that Walter Isaacson’s recent biography of him hadn’t turned up any evidence of it. “He’s a pretty smart guy,” Musk said of Isaacson. “He might have figured it out if I was antisemitic.”

At another point in the call, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the Chabad-affiliated chair of the European Jewish Association, asked Musk if he would visit the Auschwitz death camp alongside an upcoming mission of European rabbis.

At first Musk rejected the invite, saying, “I’m very well aware of the Holocaust and Auschwitz and Dachau and whatnot, and all the things that happened that were terrible. So this is not certainly new information for me. So I don’t need to visit Auschwitz to understand. I get it.”

After Margolin pressed the issue, Musk responded, “I will seriously consider it,” before later adding that he could swing by after a visit to a factory he owns in Berlin.

“Consider it a tentative yes,” he subsequently said. He also apologized for not responding to a petition from Jewish leaders worldwide to push X to endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of antisemitism, a widely adopted document that has attracted controversy for defining some forms of Israel criticism as antisemitic. Musk said he hadn’t known about the petition.

At another point, Musk said that one of the main lessons he has taken away from learning about the Nazi era is that “Hitler and the Nazis were extremely censorious. … The Nazis loved censorship, big time.”

The call provided a small window into how Musk does seek to address hate speech on X. In addition to his comments on deplatforming and “counterpoints,” he framed the question of limiting hate speech as a largely economic one, rather than a moral one. “If we just hammer people with hate, they’re going to leave the platform,” he said. He made a similar statement in a recent live chat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He also dodged a question from Shapiro about whether he would demonetize or reduce the reach of accounts that spout antisemitism, although later in the call, he did hint that X might begin experimenting with “freedom of speech, but not reach” — which would mean that X would reduce the visibility of hateful accounts.

Musk also would not commit to a request from former Israeli politician and Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky to limit anti-Zionist speech on the platform, saying, “I think there is some value to not being draconian.”

The nine Jews on Thursday’s call were all male, and mostly on the right-leaning end of the political spectrum. They included former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin; prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz, who represented former President Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial and has also often described himself as a liberal; and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has acted as a rabbi-to-the-stars and once ran for Congress as a Republican.

One woman who had been scheduled to participate, Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s new envoy for combating antisemitism, was not audible when called upon. Moderators attributed her absence, and that of one other participant, to technical difficulties.

Shapiro and other speakers on the call paid Musk a series of compliments on what they said were his positive views of Jewish people and his modeling of Jewish values — including the commandment to have large families. Musk has fathered more than 10 children via his ex-wife, Justine Wilson; his ex-girlfriend, Grimes; and Shivon Zilis, an executive at one of his companies for whom he was a sperm donor. Dershowitz noted that his son is also named Elon.

Boteach even told Musk he could “take credit” for “peace in the Middle East” if Israel and Saudi Arabia reach a normalization agreement, predicting that Musk’s electric car company Tesla would reduce the Saudis’ oil wealth and push them to come to the diplomatic table.

The participants on the call also agreed with Musk that the ADL shouldn’t be the sole voice speaking for Jews. Shapiro challenged the group’s reports that hate speech on X has risen since Musk’s takeover, saying his own experiences with antisemitism have declined.

“Of late they’ve become significantly more partisan in their progressive politics, to say the least,” Shapiro said, saying that Musk “happens to be right on the merits here” and calling his threat to sue the group for defamation “pretty funny.”

In response to a comment from another participant, Rabbi Ari Lamm, that the ADL controversy is “a distraction from the conversation serious Jewish people of all backgrounds should be having,” Musk said, “They definitely have impact on advertisers, I’ll tell you that.”

Tt other times Musk displayed a level of comfort with conspiracy theories on his platform, saying, “I think we’re running out of conspiracy theories that didn’t turn out to be true.”

Musk gave himself a positive grade, on the whole, when it came to fighting antisemitism on X.

“Overall I think things are actually pretty good, but I’m not saying they’re perfect. And we want to work to make them better,” he said. He added, “My entire life story is, in fact, pro-Semitic.”

“I think my values do match that of the Jewish people,” he said at another point. “Knowledge, reading, understanding, debating, these are all Jewish values and I very much agree with those.”

Musk’s conversation Thursday came less than 24 hours after X’s CEO, Linda Yaccarino, addressed his feud with the ADL at a tech conference in Dana Point, California. According to reports from the conference, Yaccarino noted her own dialogue with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who she said “continues to question the progress as it relates to antisemitism.” She added, “It is disappointing that there is not equal time given to all the progress.”

In a discussion about Musk’s threats to sue the ADL, according to Axios, Yaccarino said, “I wish that would be different. We’re looking into that.” She later added, “Everyone deserves to have the opportunity to speak their opinion, no matter who they are, including Elon.” Shortly afterward, she reportedly left the stage abruptly.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety who was fired after a dispute with Musk over the site’s approach to moderating hate speech, also appeared at the conference.Roth, who is Jewish, said hate speech had gotten worse on the platform under Musk’s ownership.

The post Elon Musk, in live chat with right-leaning Jews, insists antisemitism isn’t a problem on X appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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A Jewish cemetery in Belarus was destroyed by Nazis. Now its headstones are being made into a memorial.




(JTA) — Earlier this year, a British Jewish nonprofit received a call from a young couple in the city of Brest, Belarus, who had just purchased a fixer-upper house and needed some help with a difficult situation: Their basement was built from old Jewish gravestones.

Jewish groups — including the nonprofit The Together Plan and its American arm, the Jewish Tapestry Project, founded to aid Belarusian Jewry — have been receiving such calls for nearly two decades from residents of Brest who have collectively discovered thousands of Jewish headstones in their city’s construction. All of the headstones come from a historic cemetery that was destroyed during and after the Holocaust.

Today, an athletic complex sits on the site of the cemetery, which once contained tens of thousands of graves. But by the end of next year, The Together Plan expects to complete a memorial to the cemetery. It is also in the process of organizing and cataloging more than 3,200 remnants of the cemetery’s headstones, which were used after World War II in construction projects throughout the city.

“Currently there’s nothing there to say it’s a cemetery,” Debra Brunner, CEO and co-founder of The Together Plan, the group leading the project, told CNN.

Before World War II, Brest — also known as Brest-Litovsk, or Brisk to the Jewish community that lived there — was home to more than 20,000 Jews and was a center of Jewish culture and study. But when the city was liberated after the Holocaust, only about 10 Jews remained there. Today, it has a total population of more than 300,000.

The Nazis also destroyed the city’s Jewish cemetery in part by selling half of its headstones. In the decades following the war, when Belarus was part of the Soviet Union and construction materials were hard to find, the gravestones became the foundations of homes, supermarkets, garden walks and cellars. In some cases, the Hebrew lettering on the stones was chiseled away.

The memorial will be erected on what was once a corner of the cemetery, some distance away from the sports complex. It will be made from broken pieces of the headstones that have been recovered over the past two decades and will feature a black granite plaque with text in Russian, Hebrew and English. The area surrounding the memorial will be covered with trees, grass and wildflowers.

Jewish cemetery preservation has been at times a contentious issue in Belarus. As recently as 2017, a Belarusian court approved a plan to construct a luxury apartment building on top of a Jewish cemetery in the city of Gomel, near the country’s borders with Ukraine and Russia. The Brest municipality has pledged to maintain the upkeep of its city’s memorial but did not provide any funds directly to the project. It is being led by the Together Plan and the Jewish Tapestry Project and supported by the Religious Jewish Union of Belarus, the Illuminate Foundation and the charitable Belarus-based organization Dialog.

“Jews have always honored the memory of their ancestors,” Boris Bruk, chairman of the Orthodox Jewish community of Brest, said in a campaign video for the project. “And as there is no cemetery, we wanted to have a memorial sign, or a memorial place which would tell our descendants that their ancestors lie at this place, the people who lived, worked and prayed in this city.”

In 2004, residents, construction companies and homeowners with properties paved with headstones began making phone calls to Regina Simonenko, the head of the Brest Holocaust Foundation and museum, wanting to return them. In 2011, the municipality of Brest approved the construction of a memorial using the headstones. The Together Plan joined the project in 2014 and has been fielding the calls since then.

Apart from 1,287 remnants with writing, another 2,000 to 2,500 headstone fragments without any writing have been collected and stored in a warehouse, where they have been photographed, cataloged and added to a searchable database.

The memorial is being designed by Dallas-based artist Brad Goldberg, who plans to build two arcs opposite each other that each feature some of the headstones. According to his website, Goldberg “sees his work as a fusion between sculpture, landscape, and the built environment.”

“It isn’t a cemetery,” he told CNN. “They are all facing in different directions as if they are having a conversation with each other.”

He added, “One rabbi that we have consulted has described it as being about life rather than about death.”

Goldberg has a connection to Brest, too, which led to his work on the memorial. His family had taken in a Holocaust survivor, the late Jack Grynberg, when Grynberg came to the United States following the war. Somewhere between 70 and 100 of Grynberg’s relatives were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Grynberg was one of only a few Jewish residents of Brest to survive.

In 1997, Grynberg and his son Stephen traveled to Brest together. Stephen Grynberg is a filmmaker who has done work for the Shoah Foundation and was the one who recommended Goldberg as the memorial’s designer. The younger Grynberg is also donating a third of the memorial’s estimated $325,000 cost.

“In 1997 there were no signs of the cemetery,” Stephen Grynberg told CNN. “We were taken there and our guide said, ‘This is where the cemetery was.’ Like so many things with the Holocaust, you can’t really understand them, you just have these complicated visceral feelings.”

He added, “I was just trying to compute the idea of them bulldozing a cemetery and building on it. That was the empty feeling I had.”

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Man in Peru charged with making recent bomb threats to US synagogues, FBI says




(JTA) — Authorities in Peru have arrested a 33-year-old man who the FBI has charged with making a string of bomb threats targeting U.S. Jewish institutions, including synagogues on Rosh Hashanah.

Eddie Manuel Nunez Santos made more than 150 threats, mostly by email, against synagogues, hospitals, school districts and other institutions in five states between Sept. 15 and Sept. 21, according to the FBI’s complaint against him, which was unsealed Thursday. Nunez Santos was arrested in Lima on Tuesday, according to the FBI.

The FBI says Nunez Santos, who is Peruvian, embarked on the bomb threat spree after asking teen girls to send him pornographic pictures of themselves and being rejected. He is also being charged with crimes related to those requests, the FBI said.

Some of the emailed threats included phone numbers to contact. Those phone numbers, the FBI said, belonged to the teen girls who had rejected or cut off contact with him.

The tally of threats in the complaint reflect only some of those that have been reported by synagogues or their local police departments in the last few months. None of the threats have been credible.

After Rosh Hashanah, which began on the evening of Sept. 15, the Anti-Defamation League said it had counted a total of 71 threats against Jewish institutions in 14 states since July 21. But the ADL, an antisemitism watchdog, cautioned that the real number may be even higher: Some communities, it said, had chosen not to disclose the threats they received, in part to avoid gratifying whoever was issuing them.

The bomb threats targeting synagogues have, in many cases, led to congregations being evacuated in the middle of prayer services so that police can conduct a sweep of the building. In addition, the threats included in the complaint resulted in thousands of schoolchildren evacuating their schools; a lockdown of a hospital; and flight delays, according to the FBI.

The FBI and antisemitism watchdogs did not immediately respond to questions about whether additional people might have been responsible for the recent wave of bomb threats. The threats in the complaint were made to institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, according to the FBI, but evacuations were reported in several other states including several in New Jersey on Rosh Hashanah.

The complaint includes an example of a complaint received by a synagogue in Westchester County, New York, on Sept. 17, the second day of the holiday. “I placed multiple bombs inside the Jewish Center,” the threat said. “The bombs I placed in the building will blow up in a few hours. Many people will lay in a pool of blood.”

At the time, the Westchester Jewish Council’s security committee emailed synagogues in the county saying that local police and the council’s own security official had investigated the email and others received in the area that day and deemed them non-credible. The committee emphasized that all threats needed to be investigated, a warning that came after months of recurring fake threats.

Using data tied to the emails, and by investigating the included phone numbers, law enforcement agents were able to trace the emailed threats to Nunez Santos, who works as a web developer.

The five charges that Nunez Santos faces, if he is convicted, carry the potential of significant prison time. The charges of conveying hoaxes and communicating threats across state lines carry maximum sentences of five years in prison. The charges related to child pornography and exploitation carry much harsher penalties.

“Not only did Santos allegedly email hundreds of hoax bomb threats terrorizing schools, hospitals, and houses of worship, he also perversely tried to sextort innocent teenage girls. His actions wasted limited law enforcement resources, put first responders in unnecessary danger, and victimized children,” the FBI’s assistant director in charge, James Smith, said in a statement. “The FBI will not tolerate anyone who seeks to induce fear in our communities, and we will do whatever it takes to put the perpetrators of such actions behind bars, regardless of their location.”

This is not the first time false bomb threats have been called into a series of Jewish institutions. More than 100 such threats were called into Jewish community centers in the early months of 2017 — most of which, it was later discovered, came from a teen in Israel. In 2020, dozens of JCCs received a separate series of emailed bomb threats.

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