It's the end of another grueling work week and I've been lying in bed since 16:00. Fresh off a breakup and already drowning in this terrifying abyss of free social time, I flip through my mental Rolodex of thinning girlfriends:
"Sarah? Moved back to New York last month...Jordan? She's all the way out in Herzliya Pituah, no way am I dealing with that no man's land...Daniel? Close enough – wait, I said I needed a girlfriend tonight...Danielle? Busy. Leah? Busy. Serena? Busy!"
I even contemplate testing out that friend of a friend who seemed intriguing at the Yom Ha'atzmaut BBQ the other day, or perhaps that colleague who shows glimmers of potential about once a week that fade all too quickly. But, the idea of heading out on yet another awkward "first friend date" leaves a worse taste in my mouth than that of a first actual date.
And herein lies the common predicament for Olah Chadasha. No matter how hard we try to deny it, Tel Aviv is one giant connecting terminal: some stay the week, others extend their return flight, while an optimistic chunk arrive with a one-way ticket in one hand, and some sort of red hamsa charm bracelet in the other for good luck.
That being said, while a steady flow of women funnel out of this incredible New-York-meets-Miami-meets-the-Middle-East cultural hub on a weekly basis, an equal amount of new hopefuls wash in with the Mediterranean tides.
Enter SipScene, a platform for social events held in people's homes over drinks with the shared goal of meeting new people (i.e. 'Wine and Vinyasa,' roof-pong, and craft beer tastings). And what better way to meet new people than at SipScene's one-of-a-kind event: Speed Friending (for women).
'Speed friending' is the brainchild of Cambridge-native Charlotte Walsh, who happily manages her own greeting card company called Bohemian Star Cards. One day, she recognized this communal problem amongst women of the Diaspora who make Aliyah to Israel; whether barely here a week, here for sixteen years and sick of "sachi" friend groups, Jewish, Jew-ish, or not Jewish at all but head-over-heels in love with an Israeli, Charlotte dreamt of creating an event that unites women of all shapes, forms, professions, and personalities, in the hopes of leading to future coffee dates, lifelong friendships, and Wine Wednesdays (exponentially more enjoyable than Hangover Thursdays).
"It was born from an idea where I wanted to make some new friends, but not being an extrovert, I always found it difficult," Charlotte explains to me over a second glass of wine. "Then I remembered that I had once gone to speed dating and really enjoyed it."
Ironically, legend has it that speed dating was invented by a Los Angeles Rabbi named Yaacov Deyo who was pretty much playing Yente, the village matchmaker, helping Jewish singles meet each other in a rapid-fire dating game (sorry JDate, looks like Rabbi Yaacov beat you to the punch). Thus, the speed dating format was destined for a Holy Land homerun.
"I wanted to combine the two ideas – speed dating and forming new female friendships, but didn't have the resources to create an event." As the cofounder of SipScene, alongside her partner in crime, Gideon Zehavi, Vikki Yaffe "brought the enthusiasm – and rooftop – to make magic happen. It was all very serendipitous," Charlotte grins from ear-to-ear.
She borrowed the principles of retro speed dating most accurately portrayed in such Judd Apatow thrillers as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, removed the desperate men begging for phone numbers or at the very least, Facebook friend status, and threw in a handful of intelligent, inspiring women from all walks of city life.
The result: a chaotic, yet beautiful evening of conversation starters, budding 'womance,' and above all, ever-flowing wine – all on the whimsical fairy-lit SipScene rooftop in Florentine.
After some brief introductions and mingling over merlot, we all put our rosé-colored glasses on, and started the speed friending rounds, which consisted of 3-5 minute one-on-one conversations at various mismatched couches, patio furniture, and mats scattered around the spacious rooftop. First up, a female craft beer savant from Seattle (or Los Angeles depending which day you ask her) with a passion for photography. Next, an artist from Holland searching for a return to classicism; followed by the typical hipster love affair – girl falls for Israeli boy during her travels through India, trails him to Israel, yet struggles to renew her visa to match their renewed love.
As the bell continues to sound (in the form of an iPhone alarm – because, millenials), women shuffle around frantically attempting to speak to everyone in the group: a fellow Montrealer with an admirable in-house blood test start-up, a proactive Pole looking to start her White City adventures on the right foot, a yoga instructor from Chicago, an American photographer eager to capture the event from a different angle, and a Canadian magazine editor eager to do the same. Each had their own story to tell, with one common trope: a desire to meet new girlfriends in a comfortable environment...a happy marriage of Vikki's and Charlotte's visions.
All in all, the event's logistics are still something to be admired, but Charlotte guarantees she has made copious strides in the form of buttons, table cards, and complex mathematical equations to figure out how to best organize the rotations so that every woman meets every other woman in the most stress-free possible manner.
After the last conversations peter out, we assemble under the canopy for a casual debrief. And by debrief, I mean more wine, beer, grapes, and great company – compliments of Vikki & Co. Women exchange numbers, past SipScene experiences, then go their separate ways, go similar ways, or even continue the night together at a nearby bar. Nonetheless, every last speed friender leaves with the ideal grab bag – a group of new women to invite to their next ladies night, happy hour, or weekend brunch without fear because they've already surpassed the awkward first date. Time for that second date sweet spot.
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