MatzoBall Detroit

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Jewish singles now have their own party on Christmas Eve.

Young Jewish adults enjoy a rockin’ time at the New York MatzoBall on Christmas Eve. Now it’s Detroit’s turn.

It’s Christmas Eve. All the cool nightspots are closed for the Christian holiday. What are Jewish young adults to do?

This year, they’re invited to let loose at Detroit’s first MatzoBall at Twist Night Club in Ferndale.

They’ll be joining thousands of young Jewish singles in 14 other cities at an event that has become a national phenomenon over the past 28 years.

Andy Rudnick, 50, of Boca Raton, Fla., is MatzoBall’s founding father.

In 1986, as a senior at Boston University, he was looking for something to do on Christmas Eve. The bar and nightclub where he worked was closed for the holiday. He went with some friends to a dance for Jewish singles at a local hotel, but thought it was pretty lame.

“It was like a high school prom,” he said dismissively. “The women were on one side of the room; the men were on the other. There was nothing to drive interaction.”

The next year Rudnick, now working full time in real estate, approached the Italian owner of the nightclub, where he still worked part time, and convinced him to open on Christmas Eve for a Jewish singles party he named the MatzoBall.

The owner was a little worried that the event name might seem offensive and wanted a Jewish organization to be listed as its sponsor. So Rudnick started the Society of Young Jewish Professionals. 

The owner was a little worried that the event name might seem offensive and wanted a Jewish organization to be listed as its sponsor. So Rudnick started the Society of Young Jewish Professionals.

The first MatzoBall was promoted primarily by word of mouth and a few local radio news stories. But it filled a void. The event attracted 2,000 young Jews.

Rudnick realized he was onto something big. He could provide a quality event for the huge audience of Jewish young adults who are free from school and work on Christmas Eve with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

“It’s the only day you can take a top venue and turn it over to a Jewish population,” he said.

In 1989, he expanded the MatzoBall to New York and Boca Raton and, in 1990, to Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Other cities have been added since. Rudnick quit his real estate job to devote himself to the Society of Young Jewish Professionals.

In addition to the Christmas Eve parties, the organization hosts cruises and vacation trips, monthly meet-ups in several cities and a weekly online virtual MatzoMingle. All are geared to Jewish singles aged 21 to 49.

Rudnick says he wanted to bring the MatzoBall to Detroit for many years but was stymied by state blue laws that prohibited the sale of alcohol after 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The ban was lifted in 2010.

MaztoBall Matches

In many of its host cities, the MatzoBall has become an anticipated networking and matchmaking event. “The people who go are interested in meeting people,” Rudnick said. He met his wife, Katya, at a 1997 MatzoBall.

Josh and Paula Sklar met at the Boca Raton MatzoBall in 2003, while visiting their grandparents in Florida. They married in 2010. Shae is 13 months old.

Josh Sklar, 34, who grew up in Farmington Hills, and his wife, Paula, 30, met at a MatzoBall in Boca Raton in 2003. He and Paula, who is from Chicago where the couple now live, were both visiting their grandparents in Florida.

“Josh had gone to the MatzoBall for several years, but it was my first time,” Paula said. “We were both with our best friends. The four of us hung out, and he and we just hit it off.”

Josh and Paula — both still in college at the time — kept in touch. They married in 2010 and now have a 13-month-old daughter, Shae. “She’s our MatzoBall baby,” Paula said.

Rudnick estimates more than 1,000 marriages have resulted from his Christmas Eve parties. MatzoBall is now seeing a second generation, as the adult children of couples who met at one of the early events are starting to attend.

Every city with a MatzoBall has a local coordinator. In Detroit, that’s Jenny Feterovich, 39, of Bloomfield. Feterovich, who came to Michigan from Russia as a teenager in 1989, produces documentary films and a PBS series, Start Up.

She’s also a popular DJ with the nom-de-disc Jenny LaFemme. For the past 16 years, she has hosted a private Christmas Eve party for Detroit’s Russian Jewish emigre community.

She’ll be leading the entertainment for the Detroit MatzoBall, along with DJ Gene, Freddy Lux and special guests.

Doors at Twist Night Club, 22901 Woodward, Ferndale, open at 8 p.m. Admission is $20, and advance purchase is recommended. For tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com (search for MatzoBall Detroit). Large parties can reserve tables by calling Feterovich at (248) 739-6197.

Before the MatzoBall, Feterovich will lead a group to serve dinner — including matzo ball soup donated by Epic Kosher Catering — at the Detroit Rescue Mission. Those who help will get a free ticket to the MatzoBall. Meet at 4 p.m. at the mission, 3535 Third St. in Detroit.

By Barbara Lewis, Contributing Writer

 

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