by Cindie  Klein (

“Pesach is not made for single people,” I told my friends.  “It’s the most family-oriented holiday in the whole calendar.”  With this labor intensive holiday looming mercilessly ahead, I was bordering somewhere between ambivalence and dread.

It’s not that I don’t resonate with the whole freedom theme.  I do, actually.  It’s just that Pesach is not exclusively about personal freedom—it’s about passing the Redemption story on from generation to generation.  If you’re single- above 28 let’s say, and your shipment of Next Generation is still at the Dealership, this can seem like a very theoretical theme.  Sure, you’ve got the Hagada story down pat, but…somehow, still not totally feeling it in the Passover loop.

Many a single is in the I-Could-be-making-my-own-Seder  zone, or even the I-Should-be-making-my-own-Seder zone (another poignant reminder of your singledom, as Aunt Bev passes the karpas), but due to circumstance- such as being  unwed –often Singles spend it either with their own family (= in Somebody’s Child mode; as adjunct sibling) or -as guest at another Seder-   embodying a very different energy than running your own show.  The latter puts you in a position of empowerment, as initiator; the former puts you in the passenger’s seat.  I’m not sure how comfy that is when you could be behind the wheel already and currently doing 80 mph in the driver’s seat in other accomplished areas of your life

Single –Friendly Holidays

The degree that singles feel at home with a holiday depends a lot on two things:
(1) The Holiday’s Party Potential  
(2) The Holiday’s Meeting-Other-Potentials Potential (=Not the same thing) 

You can add Suntanning potential, Nap potential, Relaxation potential, Spiritual Potential, Culinary Potential, and Total Zoning Out Potential —but these are universal to all peoples.  
I’m talking about the Land of the Single here, so here’s your guide to Single-Friendly Jewish Holidays:

High Potency Party potential (=Everyone can party their own way, their style):  Purim, Sukkot, Chanukah
Sukkot: Everyone’s exiled, anyone can have their own sukka, tons of singular events and parties abound in major cities- Jerusalem, New York, London—to the point that Singles fly in for festivities.
Chanukah:  Eight nights of party and meetup possibility
Purim:  No explanation necessary.
Anti-Party Potential (=Everyone’s not having a good time):  Rosh Hashana/YK
RHS:  Way too much praying going on to mix and match; hair and makeup often lame after synagogue unless you’ve had extra eyelashes surgically attached.
YK:  Misery loves company, no one feels left out, breath mints forbidden.  Unless your sin has been not putting yourself out there enough, best to stick with the Good Book.
Shavuot: Meeting-Other-Potentials Potential:  At classes, coffee, Kotel… wherever you find yourself.  Note:  Some say sleep deprivation yields similar results as alcohol intoxication–staying up all night learning may put you in the euphoria zone.  Others can just sleep it through, eat lasagna, and you’re done. God will give you the Torah this year subconsciously in a dream.
Pesach: (aka: Now presenting, the Horowitz Family) the one lone holiday made for macaroons, matza and the mah nishtana.    At best, you could argue, if you plant yourself in Miami or similar you can meet other potentials, but aside from rare exceptions (such as the International Singles’ Seder in Tel Aviv last year friend hosted by a friend– it was Da Bomb) – it’s generally not designed for Singlehood.  

Proof:  Do you ever hear of massive mega mixers on Pesach?  To my knowledge, SawyouatSinai hosts an Israel event which is usually full house; beyond that it’s not exactly known as Single-friendly.   Many singles are also with families in strange and faraway places like Detroit, Brazil, and North Dakota, hence branding them OOC (Out Of Commission).   

and the Single Child says…

While I’m pretty sure single people weren’t excluded from the Egyptian redemption– and left on their own if their Significant Other  (SO) was frozen in the plague of darkness,  many of my modern day single friends feel apathetic, out of it, ambivalent, or even disdain, for Pesach—having nothing to do with religion.  It’s a lifestyle thing—it doesn’t jive so smoothly with the holiday, and who wants another reminder that they’re still single? Even Hollywood stars would rather show up to the Seder with a sweet S.O.

Thus for the past couple of Matzafests, thoughts like this ran through my head: ‘I should probably go work on a program somewhere… ask Chabad to send me to Fiji to run a Seder  or cut up some marror…find some aliens on Neptune who could use a translation of the Hagada and justify the cost of my expensively elite Jewish education…’ 
I pondered this option:  Instead of anticipating personal enlightenment through celebration,  contemplation, and vacation, many suggest being of service to someone else in the  ‘There has to be someone worse off than me’ approach.  And so, for various reasons, this year I began shopping for a program to enlist my exquisitely unique skill set.

My preference was Miami, or anyplace where the sun shines above 80 degrees Fahrenheit –California, Puerto Rico… basically, anything within walking distance to the equator. I even called the Italy program because, well… It’s Italy.   On the way I bumped into a hotel program in Northeastern NY that wanted me right away.  Being that I had bigger fish to fry than Passover (such as work) I hitched my wagon to this unknown comet and interviewed.  I had a general meet & greet type of Connector (a la Tipping Point)  managerial position in mind where I have experience, but turns out that the Universe, with its great cosmic sense of humor, had other plans: Counselor of Preteen Girls.

Um..Not exactly what I imagined…  Still, as long as I didn’t have to do housekeeping (out of the question) I stayed decidedly open.  I was definitely going out on a limb and trying out something new:  As a digital media producer and creative director, this was not just shifting gears—it was going from a rocket ship to a scooter, since the average age of my audience was shrinking by a good solid decade. 

Alas, in my distant summertime past, I worked with this exact age group in camp quite successfully (they wrote me fantastic letters of fanship upon departure without bribery—and nobody beats preteen girls in tributes of ardor- just ask Justin Bieber).  So it was not entirely foreign…  Anyhow, I was up for something different, and the train of adventure was boarding at my station.  I hopped on with the certainty of a tourist embarking on their first trip to Bolivia: Slightly interested, mostly unsure, doing it anyway.   

Treading New Turf

I started preparing for the job by interviewing the 10 year old daughter of a friend, who happens to be an expert on what 10-year olds like, being that she actually is one.  I made a list, contacted the director for suggested activities and added a few of my own. 

 Still, as Pesach approached, I dreaded it even more.  ‘I hate Pesach,’ my mind said.  I had no idea who I’d be sitting with at the Sedarim, who would be on the program, or even what the place looked like.  It was a lot of risk, even for an extrovert with an adventure streak. 

My penchant for the familiar was churning pangs of angst, so I bought it a new outfit for the occasion (courtesy of Zara’s new Fifth Avenue Location, recommended for an instant shopping high), got a manicure, and…I’d already confirmed–thus commitment won over comfort.  While I had other options—the usual gracious guest format –it didn’t seem much like salvation.  Same old same old, and if you know me, that expression is anathema to me. Thus I proceeded through the tunnel of the unknown into this Passover program on Thursday night- clothes, shoes and pangs in tow. 

And the fun begins…

My first GirlGreet was scheduled for Friday 3-5 pm, where I’d introduce myself and have them get acquainted.  Since we came Thursday night, I had all day to prepare, pool, and primp.  Instead, I went to breakfast and got lucky:  I met the 12 year old niece of a single-guy friend who was set to be in my group (the niece, not the guy).  We hit it off right away (the niece, not the guy), sat together for the next two hours  (I kept assuring her she was free to go–she wanted  to hang with me) and chatted about school, music, her preferences, what’s boring , what’s exciting, what we should and should not do.  She was heaven-sent for sure. 

I was now armed to the hilt for my battalion of preteens, initial list revised and augmented, and best of all– with an upbeat ally before my group even began.  Generating positive energy is key for this age—it tends to be contagious; I now had a head start. 

Here we go

Later at 3 pm I met three more lively recruits (more to come), and by 4 pm, upon perusing hotel grounds, swimming was unanimously voted in.  I’d never dream of sitting in a Jacuzzi 3 hours before the Seder (Jewish guilt?  Feeling the slave thing?) but hey—my job demanded it, and let me tell you, it was bliss.  It also inadvertently took care of soothing those pre-Pesach-clean-and-pack-up muscles so effectively I began to wonder why a Jacuzzi-soak isn’t mandatory for every female before the Seder.  Plus, hanging around a bunch of preteens in a Jacuzzi turned out to be a lot of fun.  So I walked into the Seder feeling relaxed instead of harried. 

Oh and the Seder…  A few other things happened at breakfast that morning:  I met up with two families who I already knew independently and got instant invitations; then, another family sat at my table and was so friendly and warm they invited me right away.  I actually walked into Pesach having more invites than meals to attend (Thank you, God!)  They turned out really well, one of them the best Seder eve in years.

I was on duty every day, rain or shine, Yom tov or Chol hamoed, in sickness and in health (this turned out to be reality—ie. Chol Ha’Moed food poisoning. And I didn’t back down)-for about five or six hours a day; that was new to me.  Sure, it’s what I signed on for, but I wasn’t used to it, especially not on a holiday.  It required me to entirely revise my nap schedule, which we all know is no trivial matter- and as a single person, it was a little bit like switching to family mode (more on that, further down).

Thou Shalt Get Thy Own Room

Speaking of naps, here’s the one Achilles Heel:  Major sleep deprivation via sharing a room with too many 19 year old staff boppers mistaking a hotel suite for Grand Central Station (open 24-7).  The blooming realization of my survival options became the following: (a) Shoot someone (=makes a bad first impression) (b) Shoot myself (= too tired) (c) Sleep when no one’s around (=good in theory…nil in practice) (d) Quit the program or (e) Change rooms. 

Confession:  It got so bad in the beginning that Option (d) came very close.  I just could not survive a week in a washing machine, which was what I was starting to feel like after a day and a half.  Fortunately, the L-rd hearkened my plight, had mercy upon my mortal flesh and redeemed me:  When the first days ended, an emissary in the form of Customer Relations unquestioningly gave me a suite of my own right there, post a guest checkout– thereby transforming the entire holiday (Plus I did a job interview midway that turned out significantly better with normal rest).  And if I’m happy, guess who else is happy? 

This is the one suggested stipulation Singles should make before embarking on a program, because if you’ve recently had your own room, apartment, or any semblance of personal space, you’re going to need it here big time—even just to perform well at the work wheel.  You’ll go from bleary-eyed and cranky to upbeat and energized, and it’s essential for your performance. Besides, you need your beauty sleep for your paparazzi image. 


The Single track is very, very different than the married track.  This gleaned from my single friends’ and my own experience as well as married friends.  We oft don’t roll the same way.  It’s not good or bad—each has tremendous merits—it’s just…different.  Doing this holiday job, I was definitely jumping the invisible border and cross-tracking to the kid zone. 

One perk:  Being with kids requires you to live entirely in the present moment.  You’ll have almost no time to ponder, philosophize, introspect, play video games, check Facebook– unless it’s on the schedule.  (I was on duty during a lot of shul time, so my communion with the L-rd was mostly one-on-one)  When you’re with them, you’re with them:  It’s them and you.  The only thing they care about is their experience of you and of themselves when they’re with you.   

The downside: It takes your time, energy and focus. 
The upside:  It takes your time, energy and focus. 

What I mean is, as a Single, free time is a huge, giant perk.  At a time like Passover though, being on your own too much can elicit that I’d-rather-be-hitched feeling that isn’t entirely constructive.  Not all singles experience that for sure, but a significant number do; they may not tell you — but they’ll tell it to each other—card-carrying club members… This is inside information, the things you confess only to those who’ll understand.  

With my role on the program, this side effect was mitigated considerably. I didn’t have time to bemuse singledom or be bothered by it nearly as much- that’s otherwise easily triggered, especially at a hotel on Passover:  Often on display and looking at others on display.

This took the heat off.  I was too busy focusing on one thing: My job.  And my all-encompassing, energy-consuming job was to give these girls a good time.  That’s what I was hired to do, and that became the most important factor to me this Pesach:  to create a fun atmosphere and perform well. God will have to yank me out of Egypt some other way.

OMG… Like, How Was It?

Here’s the good thing about preteen girls:  They’re at that perfect age where they don’t need a whole lot of disciplining, while being open to your directives.  This meant I didn’t have to baby them:  Definitely not a Duck-Duck-Goose sort of bunch.  Turns out I have lots in common with them—we both like to have fun, play games, get our energy flowing through high stimulation activities, and have a proclivity for pedicures.  For the most part, I let them decide their preferences from an array of options.

And they’re on Vaca– I.e.: They’re not interested in anything remotely reminiscent of school, which means from the gazillion attractive lectures the program offered; I attended .005% of a lecture.  I could’ve even used a couple, but enlightenment this time clearly was not going to come from the mind, especially since with all the noise going on I could barely hear one line of a Beatle’s song.  The downtime in between my ‘on’ times was essential for battery recharge for the next day on the trading floor.

As the week progressed, the girls took to me, and to each other.  There was zero coercion to attend—this was supposed to be a pleasure group– and most of them kept coming back with decent regularity.  It stretched to about 14 girls who actually bonded quite well, varying with the families’ vacation schedules.

The Great Equalizer

Besides being blessed with an incredibly good  group of girls, one beautiful scene I witnessed had two girls from entirely divergent backgrounds—one from a Gerrer Chassidic family, the other modern orthodox, who played together so well they were hugging like teddy bears for the rest of the stay.  It turns out that having fun is a great equalizer, and it’s fairly easy to bond over knock-hockey and Scattegories.

Speaking of which, the Apples-to -Apples deck required a little filtering (or just another version) because as it turns out, a lot of 11 year olds don’t know who Marilyn Monroe is, what Cults are, or what ‘flagrant’ means, nor was it my place to educate them (Hence our amendment:  Trade in any card you don’t understand). I did make it a point to relay that Brooklyn is not a city, nor the capital of New York (it isn’t??), as that kind of misinformation does not bode well if they ever land a spot on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.  

Thankfully, there was not an ounce of clique-i-ness, condescension or dissent.  The only debate I had the entire time was with two 10 year olds who wanted to stay in the pool unsupervised for a few minutes.  I adamantly refused.  The pool was closing, the rest of us were leaving, and there was no lifeguard. No matter how much they cajoled that their parents ‘let’, I was firm– simultaneously explaining it’s for their own safety.  It turns out their parents didn’t ‘let’ at all (of course) and they remedied that little misconception with a nice follow-up talk.

A Roller-Coastering, Stiff Necked People

With the longest possible Chol Hamoed (=Intermediary Days) a Passover can have, we covered an amusement park—(60+% Jewish)  including a flume soak and my first on a roller coaster in a decade (requiring immediate Jacuzzi therapy);  Go-carting /laser tag/golf/batting range—none of which I’d do on my own this holiday;  An in-hotel Spa-Day (I invited the girls to my room to give each other pedicures after a water workout —only possible in my own suite);  And created  a Sea-Splitting cake for the last days, requiring lots and lots of whipped cream and candy.  God bless the caterers, who provided everything we needed in abundance, despite their insanely demanding schedule.

The weather warmed up on the weekend, we took a walk near a stunning golf course, played several rounds of Twisted Twister (inviting features like eyebrows and earlobes) and a slew of other activities.  More than one girl remarked “I wish day camp went longer”—and that’s how I knew they were happy. 

The Results Are In

My program director indicated his supreme bliss with me on the second day of Passover by two gestures:  (1) Xtreme positive verbal feedback with a smile that would make Aquafresh proud, and (2) His near-implicit trust in my work.  Though this was my first time working with him, he never micromanaged me.  Once he observed us in action, he left me to my own devices the rest of the program.  This was also great for him—with the entire day camp on his head (=OMG), we were one less thing to worry about. 

Networking and… the Single Thing

Generally speaking, I’m comfortable meeting new people.  I can talk to a tree.  Only a handful of singles happened to be on this particular program (though a friend relayed Miami was sparse this year); being driving distance from Manhattan, I could date off-duty to my heart’s content.   

Marrieds often check you out to set you up (- more like, Meet-Others-For-Potential-Networking).  While I had scant time for chitchat, I was high profile for sure…  my job being extremely public:  the girls met with me at the start of each day in the jammed lobby tea room (the easiest place for them to access); de facto, guests saw me in action all the time. 

This is a much more empowering place to be:  Active, involved, inspired, and not too self conscious.  Sure, I had the usual Does-My-Hair-Look-Good syndrome and dressed like a professional, but basically I was focused on my group, not noticing the milling masses much. For some reason, this spoke miles more for setup/dating potential than anyone quizzing me about what kind of person I am, or what I’m looking for (though they did that too)…  they saw me in action. 

I also met some fantastic people—parents of the girls, as well as random program attendees—that I don’t know where I would’ve otherwise, as they hailed from places way off my natural circuit.  Many of these people approached me with suggestions, but the exchange itself was enriching.  And I really did like that .005% of the lecture I heard.

Happy Campers

Several parents directly expressed their satisfaction with my work and wanted to tip me privately (tips are generally pooled, distributed on top of a base salary).  And if their kid has a good time hanging out with me, it means they get more free time to relax, which they probably need.  The proof, however, was in the pudding–or the embrace, rather- when the girls individually approached me to say goodbye: Big hugs, heartwarming thank-you notes, some teary eyes…I actually missed them that night once safely ensconced at home.  It was just a Pesach program, but it made a difference to them. 

Why is this Passover different …

When I got home, I thought about the whirlwind Passover, unlike any I’ve experienced in my life.  I didn’t feel particularly enlightened intellectually and wondered if Passover did its job on me.  Then I noticed a marked shift in my energy–freedom in a different form:  I had switched gears this year on the action plane from the passenger’s seat to sitting behind the wheel.  Granted, it may have been the wheel of a Go-cart, but you still feel differently navigating as driver than just coming along for the ride.

I had immense satisfaction in the difference I made by giving them a good time, but I didn’t even realize how it put me, in even a miniature sort of way, in a position of leadership and greater empowerment. 

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Working on a Passover program is not for everyone.  If you need a serious vacation due to work burnout, hate people, or just don’t feel like it, hey—take a chill pill, grab a tennis racket and some prune juice, and enjoy 7-8 days (-continent dependent-) of Off Time. 

However:  If you’re colossally bored, feel like a fifth wheel with the folks, sense SingleDoom as Passover approaches– or happen to like the giving role, you might seriously benefit others by working on a program.  And if you’re outgoing, treat your job professionally, and willing to try out a new space, it’s even recommended–you might find personal bonus rewards in the experience of contribution… Not to mention you’ll get a vacation from the downside of Singledom for a few blinks.

Disclaimer: You may need to recharge when it’s over.  You really will be working.  I came home a bit hoarse, and may still be catching up on sleep while you’re reading this, even if it is November.  Working at Club Med is not the same as guesting at Club Med.  My satisfaction is one of a job well done rather than Barbie goes to the Beach (-though in the Equator zone you may get both).

Inquire into a program of interest to ensure you’re comfortable under their auspices.  Programs differ in clientele, religious standards, staff requirements, and salary.  Get to know your program director well enough to know you have a comfortable working relationship.  You also might want to start looking for a program earlier rather than later, as each program varies in its hiring schedule.

Like any corporate operation, there are lots of types of positions—not just day camp, not just hands-on-counselor.  Mine is but a scant testimonial of an array of positions.  Many program positions call for those otherwise unencumbered- something Singles bring to the table in spades- in positions involving program management, entertainment, guest relations, etc.  Day Camp Logistics require an entire staff of people, many of whom did not have to deal with kids most of the time. 

If you’ve had enough of Singleland in the standard Seder zone, shop around:  Diving into a Passover program may offer a new twist on your perception of freedom. 
Sometimes the road to Enlightenment involves a little risk taking.  And of course, a Jacuzzi…


Cindie Michele