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Dear Elana,

I’m a transplant from a larger city. The dating scene in Cleveland is smaller than I’m used to, and I’m not sure how to proceed. I was in a relationship for a while, but it didn’t work out, and now it seems like everyone I meet is connected to my ex-girlfriend. My question: How do you date in a small Jewish community where everyone seems to know each other?

– Not a Double Dipper


Dear NADD,

Dating in a smaller town can be fraught with peril. You’re hitting it off with a redhead at The Velvet Tango Room when your ex’s brother walks in – and winks at you – to let you know he sees you. There’s no escape.

Once you accept this loss of anonymity, dating in a smaller community can also have advantages. It can feel friendly and familiar, and you can develop strong bonds that will last a lifetime. People know who you are, and they remember how you acted in your last relationship, which is great if you’re a mensch. Unless you want the whole shtetl to know that you snore in your sleep, try to keep things civil with your ex. If anyone asks about her, speak well of your time together. Hopefully, she will follow suit.

Remember, your ex doesn’t own the whole singles scene. Just because a woman went to the same Hillel as your ex doesn’t mean she’s off limits. The scene can be lean. Here are some statistics to calculate your chances of meeting a match in the CLE.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland released data from its 2011 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study, indicating there are roughly 80,800 Jews in the Cleveland area.

  • 23 percent of the population is children, which leaves 62,216 Jewish adults.
  • 49 percent of the population is men, so that leaves 31,730 Jewish women.
  • 51 percent of the women are married, which leaves 15,548 unmarried women.

The study doesn’t break down the numbers further, but we can imagine based on similar numbers from the general population that there are approximately 9,800 Jewish women in Cleveland who are romantically unattached and interested in dating men. If you want to date someone who is near your age, we can divide by three to represent three major age groups, which limit the pool to roughly 3,266.

Once you factor in other preferences: height, weight, education, socio-economics, her hamantaschen baking skills, if she likes Adam Sandler, if she can tell a good summer camp story, you further refine your numbers. Let’s estimate you could be compatible with about 10 percent of the available women.

That means that out of the entire pool of Jewish singles in Cleveland, there are around 325 women who could be a match, which may not sound like many, but as my grandma always said, “You only need one.”

If you dare disagree with grandma, here are some ways to expand your social network:

  • Check out groups and events like the Young Leadership Division, JCLE, Moishe House,, Jewish book and film festivals, charity happy hours, matchmaking services and speed dating events.
  • To further expand your reach, you can tap into the national (or international) catalog of eligible Jewish singles through online dating sites and attend Jewish retreats or parties like The Ball hosted by Let My People Go. The catch is that if you fall in love, you have to be willing to move, or have some cache to get your dream girl to relocate to the 216.
  • According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey, 58 percent of Jews married non-Jews from 2000 to 2013. If dating a non-Jew is an option, looking outside the tribe is another way to increase your pool of single women.

I’ll look forward to seeing you around town – because it’s unavoidable. Wink. Happy dating! js

Elana Averbach is passionate about helping people find love. As a dating coach and licensed therapist, she helps clients optimize their online dating profiles, overcome approach anxiety, challenge self-defeating beliefs and develop skills for building attraction. Learn more at

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