My Journey at BJ

By Debra L. Eder | Issue Date: July 2011

As I mounted the stairs to attend my first New Member Orientation, I had no way of knowing just how far my journey with BJ would take me. Gripping the handrail and reminding myself to smile, I asked myself how was this going to be easier than meeting one guy? I’d once been a Friday-night regular, searching for my bashert at services.

Twelve years later, I was back seeking community for two. My husband Stephan and I wanted to meet people with whom we both had something in common, preferably couples so we could double date! (Stephan and I, by the way, did not meet at BJ.)

Debra L. Eder. Photo: Denise WaxmanI took a deep breath to calm myself as I took in the huge loft with rustic brick walls—the type of elegant-earthy brownstone that is featured in Woody Allen films. Several long buffet tables, laden with foil trays, were central. I helped myself to salad, crusty bread, and baked ziti. Then I sat down on a folding chair so as not to fumble-spill Diet Coke on the cream leather couch.

Balancing the plate on my lap and steadying my shyness, I exchanged greetings with Layla—a petite brunette with curly hair who was wearing an embroidered peasant blouse. Several of us started talking. I enjoyed being in the buzz of the chit-chat and thought: “This isn’t so hard.” I even reached out to a woman at the periphery of our cluster, who sat with her arms locked at her side. I offered her the olive branch of “Hello, I’m Debra.” She accepted.

What was I thinking? Shouldn’t I have had some sort of check-list? At least to find out who is married or in relationships? Then, surprising for a Jewish gathering, the program started on time but not before Layla mentioned that she would be ushering the next Friday night. I would know someone at services again!

The orientation was well structured; a thorough information packet was distributed. I found out how to become involved through volunteering. A highlight was when all 40 of us formed a long circle to say a bit about where we liked to travel. I should have anticipated this moment when I’d filled out my name badge, which asked this question. Instead, I tried to listen to the others while I rehearsed—my quickened heartbeat swishing in my ears.

Then Rebecca spoke: “My favorite place to visit is Paris, and we used to go often when I lived in Europe with my husband, Michael, who is British.” The Seine parted.

I acknowledged Rebecca when it was my turn, pointing out my Eiffel Tower earrings. “The man I live with, Stephan, is French, and my favorite place is also Paris even if it means staying with my mother-in-law. But Stephan is the lucky one who gets to go to New Jersey where I’m from!” I welcomed the laugh.

We separated into two groups; Rebecca was assigned to the other one. Two nice Jewish girls who’d found Jewish mates with sexy accents; I had to find a way to meet her! She actually approached me, and we exchanged numbers as we were leaving. “Michael and I are new to BJ and would like to meet some other couples.”

They have become our good friends. This time around, it was a match made in BJ.

Debra L. Eder and Stephan have been members of BJ since 2009; she has become involved in Hevra Kadisha and the Rosh Hodesh Women’s Group. Debra’s recent publications include a personal essay in the anthology Siblings and Autism. She is writing a collection of connected stories: “Is There Life After Debra?”