Monday, April 26, 2004

Matzo Ball offers singular sensation for Jewish partyers

Publication: Palm Beach Post, Sunday,
by Stephen Heyman

BOCA RATON — It was livelier than a Purim party at Brandeis, sexier than a hormonally charged bar mitzvah bash and more frenzied than a rabid matzo hunt.

Take away the drinking, smoking and indulgences and it would make a Jewish matriarch salivate: hundreds of eligible Jewish boys and girls primed for pairing.

This was the Matzo Ball, a counter-Christmas party that raged on until early Saturday morning at Club Boca on Palmetto Park Road. And if you're Jewish and single on Christmas Eve, it beats the heck out of Chinese food.

Eighteen years ago, the first Matzo Ball dropped into a Boston club called Metro, now the Avalon. Today, 13 big Matzo Balls are thrown across the United States and Canada.

At Jewish bastions such as New York and Boston, the events have become a tradition for Jewish singletons, said founder Andrew Rudnick, 40. And Boca is no different.

"To me, Boca is the center of the Jewish Universe," he said.

Why else would Rudnick choose this as a home base for his Matzo Ball empire this year?

"Well, I didn't want to freeze my tucus off."

Before midnight, the line to get into the Matzo Ball coiled through the lobby and outside of the Bank of America building where Club Boca, formerly Radius, is located.

Inside the spartan club, decorated with Christmas lights, the only unifying characteristic of the voluminous crowd was that it was, by its members' own admission, largely Jewish.

There were young Jews from New York (at least four girls from Syosset alone), Jews from around Florida (Miami, Orlando), the unambiguous presence of South Florida's older Jewish singles circuit (J-Date, the Jewish online dating service, co-sponsored the event) and even a smattering of non-Jews.

Emily Saltzman, 21, a student at the University of Miami, was flitting around Club Boca's smoky patio. She had spent enough time here to size up the crowd.

"It's kind of like a bat mitzvah," she said, referring to the Jewish coming-of-age rite. "There are many people older than me."

Even though Saltzman was put off by clubbing in close proximity to men her father's age, her spirits were buoyed by the excess of young Jewish men.

"I'm on the prowl," she said, laughing.

Sam Halpert, the local Matzo Ball coordinator, said the Matzo Ball is an answer to the "Jewish dilemma" of what to do on Christmas Eve.

"This is the biggest Jewish singles event in the world," he said.

But there was little to nothing expressly Jewish about this evening.

The music was '80s pop standards and modern dance hits. And from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., not one Jewish song, not even Hava Nagilah played. There were no long skirts or yarmulkes here, just typical rump-rocking attire: mini-skirts, anything that sparkles. But one man was seen with a chai charm on a golden chain.

For the most part, the people here came for romance of one variety or another. Some find true love: Rudnick, the founder, met his wife, Katherine, at a Matzo Ball in 1997.

Others just came looking for a date.

"I've never seen so many hot Jewish girls in one place," said Fort Lauderdale resident Dale Hertzman, 27.

The party lasted until 5 a.m. Christmas Day.

The Palm Beach Post