The Matzo Ball is an annual Christmas Eve nightlife event and party held in a number of major cities in the United States and Canada targeted primarily at young Jewish singles and organized by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals.
There are a number of competing social events in Jewish communities throughout the country held that same night. In addition, Matzo Ball and similar spellings are also used as the names for a variety of other, unrelated Jewish community events in particular regions.
- 1 Background
- 2 Events
- 3 Competitors
- 4 Similarly named events unaffiliated with SYJP
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Historically, Jews in Europe would hide in their homes and villages during the Christmas holiday, for fear of violence from locals. In the United States, Christmas and Christmas Eve typically serve as times of family gathering and prayer for Christians and many others.
The atmosphere of religious liberalism and tolerance in the United States has offered American Jews the opportunity to enjoy the holiday period. At the same time, many American Jews do not engage in the same family-gathering activities on the Christmas holiday that Christians in the United States do.
Thus, with Christmas Day a work holiday throughout the United States, there is a space of unfilled free time during which much of American commerce and society is not functioning. The night of December 24 has become an opportunity to transform this otherwise brief period of alienation or loneliness into one made to gather, socialize, network, drink, flirt, and romance. The event has turned Christmas Eve into a matchmaking or dating event for young Jews and "the biggest singles night of the year."
Matzo Ball events are generally held at popular nightclubs in the cities in which the event is located. The event is typically scheduled to begin at 8 or 9 p.m. and run through the last call time for the state/locality, with peak attendance and crowds at approximately midnight. It has expanded to the following cities:
- New York
- Washington, DC
- Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Delray Beach (a change from the pre-2009 Palm Beach County locations, which have been either Boca Raton or West Palm Beach)
- Denver (a previous location for the Matzo Ball through the mid-2000s, before its absence in the late 2000s and early 2010s)
- Philadelphia (a previous location for the Matzo Ball before its absence in the late 2000s and early 2010s)
- northern New Jersey - Roselle (as of 2013)
- Boston, the original site of the event
In past years, the Matzo Ball also held events in the following cities where it no longer does:
- Las Vegas
- Toronto (planned for 2009, but apparently withdrawn; not to be confused with the independent Toronto Matzoball event functioning since 1988)
In Los Angeles the Matzo Ball ceded the region to the much more locally long-standing Schmooz-a-Palooza hosted by Stu & Lew Productions (which was acquired by JDate in 2006), before becoming a co-promoter for the event with JDate.
Matzo Ball events are organized by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals, an organization created by the founder of the event, Andy Rudnick. The organizers believe that more than 1,000 marriages have resulted from meetings at various Matzo Balls, and Rudnick himself met his wife at a Matzo Ball.
The largest and most geographically widespread competitor is known simply as "The Ball". In New York City, The Ball focuses on having separate venues, five as of the late 2000s, targeted by age demographic, and with attendees receiving limousine service between venues.
In 2008, the organizer of The Ball, LetMyPeopleGo, attempted to expand the event into 24 other cities with significant Jewish populations. In almost all of those cities, with local marketing and co-hosting of the event performed by JDate, it was cancelled near the event date. However, the Los Angeles version of The Ball, which was instead co-sponsored and co-marketed by the young adults divisions of the LA Guardians, the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging foundation, was successful and held again in 2009.
Niche and local events
Other New York City Jewish Christmas Eve events include parties for "the pro-Israel crowd, Jewish gays and lesbians, and downtown Jewish hipsters."
The sheer number of events, combined with the compactness of Manhattan, means that events are often held within a short walking distance, if not eyesight of one another.
Likewise, by 2008, Chicago Jewish Christmas Eve events ran the gamut of tastes and preferred crowd. These included gatherings named 'Rockmitzvah', 'Hubukkah', the 'Heebonism' bash (sponsored by Heeb Magazine), and the more mainstream 'The Juju Ball' and 'Retro Eve', a long running but now defunct event.
In Washington, DC, a longtime competitor and alternative to the Matzo Ball has been the Gefilte Fish Gala, an event with no admission charge but only a requested donation, which is usually also held on Christmas Eve unless the night of the 24th coincides with Friday night, the Jewish sabbath.
Beginning in 2010, an informal group of Washington, DC, Jewish young professionals decided to organize another competitor to the Matzo Ball, the Falafel Frenzy, with all proceeds going to charity. The event has been successful in collecting money for local charities and continues to be held.
Atlanta, which had previously hosted an annual "Matzah Ball" unrelated to the SYJP event, has been the home of competing events for both mainstream audiences, such as the 'Bagel Bash', and niche groups, such as the local NCJW section's recently inaugurated 'Santa Klutz Ball' for older singles.
Heeb Magazine 'Heebonism' events
Heeb Magazine sponsored and organized its 'Heebonism' events in various U.S. cities on Christmas Eve, targeted toward a "hip" audience seeking an alternative to events like the Matzo Ball, beginning in the late 2000s. By 2009, Heebonism had expanded to five cities nationally. Nationally, Heebonism organizers sought to offer a more "culturally substantive" and non-conformist event, with activities including "strip dreidel", video games, and light food. At the Los Angeles/Palm Springs Heebonism in 2009, strip dreidel was led by porn stars James Deen and Joanna Angel. In Denver, the local Heebonism event had its origin as a private pre-party for those seeking alternative entertainment before heading to the Matzo Ball. By 2013, Heebonism had retrenched and Heebonism events outside of Denver apparently have been eliminated.
Federation YAD/YLD Events
Other major cities have homegrown and well-attended Christmas Eve events that were established long before the Matzo Ball or The Ball entered the local scene. These include Seattle's Latkepalooza, San Francisco's The Latke Ball, Tampa's Vodka Latke, and Phoenix's Mazelpalooza, all of which are sponsored by their respective Jewish Federation's young professionals division.
Schmooz-a-Palooza is the long-running Los Angeles counterpart to the Matzo Ball, and in its 20th straight year in 2013. It originated with Stu & Lew Productions, which was acquired by JDate in 2006. The event evolved over the years from a social mixer to a party atmosphere, bringing together, for example, southern Californians who had not seen each other since their younger years in Jewish communal settings. It was also a noted opportunity for reconnecting and romance.
By the late 2000s and early 2010s, Schmooz-a-Palooza had become integrated into the Matzo Ball network of nationwide events and faced competition from other local events, including a local young Jewish professionals charitable group's directly competing mixer and a Jewish comedy night at the Laugh Factory, along with more loosely organized events, such as music performances by Jewish musicians and informal socializing and drinking organized by local Moishe Houses.
Similarly named events unaffiliated with SYJP
Other Christmas Eve singles events
Prior to Rudnick's organizing of the Matzo Ball in Boston in 1987 and expansion into other cities, Jewish organizations in other cities had used similar names for their own Christmas Eve singles events.
The Jewish Community Center of Dallas had organized its "Matzoh Ball" beginning in either 1981 or 1984. The Dallas event continues under that name currently and is unaffiliated with the Matzo Ball event and Rudnick. Atlanta also had its own "Matzah Ball" for many years.
An identically named Matzoball event has been held on Christmas Eve in Toronto since 1988. As of 2013, it is sponsored by the Canadian unit of the Jewish National Fund and organized by Magen Boys Entertainment. The event organizers have indicated their desire to expand to other cities in Canada, particularly Montreal and Vancouver, in future years.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles entertainment division organized a late spring "Matzah Bowl" event for a number of years, beginning in 1996. In Atlanta, the promoter of the 'Bagel Bash' organized an early spring bowling function for singles called the "Matzah Bowl". A 2009 Christmas Eve musical event at Brooklyn Bowl, co-sponsored by Israel's New York Consulate General, was dubbed "The Matzah Bowl". The event derived its name in part from its location in a Brooklyn bowling alley.
Other events not targeted at single adults
Smaller Jewish community entities have also used variations on the "Matzo Bowl" name for a variety of events, including for knowledge competitions held by individual synagogues and fundraising events organized by chapters of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
The Matzo Ball and similar events have been subject to mild criticism that the events are "meet markets" or, more punningly, "[kosher] meat markets." Women attendees tend to dress inappropriately in a revealing manner while men at the event are liable to use awkward pickup lines and noticeably prowl.
- Jessica Gresko, Dec. 24 Becomes Party Night for Jewish Singles, Associated Press (Washington Post), December 24, 2006
- Mike Cohen, Famous Matzo Ball parties to land here, Jewish Tribune (Canada), November 10, 2009
- Joe Berkofsky, Christmas time inspires Jews 'to express own Jewishness' , JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), reprinted in j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, December 20, 2002
- Party pics: 12th Annual MatzoBall party, MetroMix.com, 2008
- The Matzah Ball at KISS & FLY - Thursday, Dec 24th 2009, Rhythmism.com - Upcoming Events forum, 2009
- Roy S. Gutterman, Hitting the Road to Check Out the Scene During Holiday Season, The (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, January 8, 2009
- Society of Jewish Young Professionals, Press Release: Record 10,000 Jewish Singles to Attend Matzo Ball Parties on December 24, PRWebDirect.com, December 20, 2005
- What’s a Jew to do on Christmas Eve?, JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), December 17, 2009
- Jennifer 8. Lee, A Season of More, New York Times, December 24, 2008
- Marc Tracy, Christmas is the Greatest Jewish Holiday, The New Republic, December 19, 2013
- Brenda Lane Richardson, Deciding to Celebrate Christmas, or Not, New York Times, December 16, 1987
- Daniel J. Wakin, Off on Yom Kippur? It's Probably Time To Work a Holiday, New York Times, December 22, 2003
- Jennifer 8. Lee, Things to Do if You Don’t Do Christmas, New York Times, December 23, 2004
- Ben Harris and Jacob Berkman, Hitting the Matzo Balls on Christmas Eve, JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency),December 31, 2007
- This Jewish singles party comes but once a year, Christmas Eve has become the hottest annual date for meeting a potential mate, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 25, 2003, available via Newsbank Archives
- Meredith Goldstein, Looking for a marry little holiday?, Boston Globe, December 24, 2008
- Francesca Segrè, Daughter of the Bride, 2006, pp. 243–244
- PepGiraffe, Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2007, PepGiraffe, 2007
- Society of Young Jewish Professionals, Select Your City, MatzoBall.org, 2009
- Andrew Abramson, Jewish singles in Palm Beach County will spend Christmas Eve mingling at Matzo Ball, Palm Beach Post, December 23, 2008
- Colorado Sunday, The Denver Post, December 16, 2006
- Lucy Briggs, Calling all Jewish singles to the 26th annual MatzoBall, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 19, 2012
- Joanne Apice, MatzoBall celebrates 26 years of helping singles mix and mingle on Christmas Eve, Examiner.com, December 19, 2012
- Society of Young Jewish Professionals, Matzo Ball Cities, 2013
- Jean-Sebastien Marier, Matzo Ball coming to town at last, The (Montreal) Gazette, December 23, 2009
- Daniel Koren, Matzoball 2013: A Quarter Century of Jews Partying Together on Xmas, Shalom Life, December 17, 2013.
- Press Release, Spark Networks Acquires Schmooz-a-Palooza, OnlineDatingScene, December 7, 2006
- Plans Under Way for holiday 'Matzo Ball' in Boca, Elsewhere, Boca Raton/Delray Beach News, November 4, 2007, p. 6A, available via Google News
- Seeking the perfect Matzo Ball, JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), November 30, 1999
- 'challahbackgirl', Move over Latke Ball, The Ball 2008 is in Town, Jews' Next Dor, December 12, 2008, archived at WebCitation.org
- Press Release, The Ball 2008 in Ft Lauderdale- The Nation's Biggest Jewish Singles Event (Christmas Eve, December 24), EventBrite.com, 2008, archived at WebCitation.org
- Josh Novikoff, Hooking up This Hanukkah?, DCist.com, December 22, 2008
- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz, Nightlife Agenda, Washington Post, December 20, 2007 ("Correction to This Article: The Ball, originally listed under Dec. 25, has been cancelled.")
- Julie Spira, Jewish Singles Gather in LA to Celebrate the Holidays in Style and Support the Elderly, Huffington Post, December 28, 2009
- Alysia Gray Painter, Mix and Be Merry at The Ball: Jewish singles hobnob in Hollywood on December 24th, NBC Los Angeles, December 23, 2009
- Young Divisions' Holiday Ball, The Guardian (newsletter), Winter 2009, p. 10
- Sarah Preston, Matzo Tov!, Chicago Magazine blog, December 11, 2008
- Aruna Jain, (December 23, 2004) For Those of Other Faiths, a Not-So-Silent Night Washington Post
- Emily Jacobs, Falafel Frenzy, Washington Jewish Week, January 3, 2013
- Detours: Alterna-thrills, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 9, 2006, p. 28, available via Google News/NewsBank
- SCENE: MUSIC / PARTY / CHARITY, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 29, 2005, p. P24, available via NewsBank
- SCENE: NIGHTWATCH: Bagel Bash to tell hole story at Tavern, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 23, 2004, p. P24, available via NewsBank
- Jonathan Barach, Thought You’d Like to Know, The Jewish Georgian, November-December 2009, p. 9
- Holiday parties offer something for everyone — from "Heebonism" to "Mistletoe Madness", Denver Post, December 23, 2011
- Jeff Weiss, Last Night: Strip Dreidel, Christmas Eve Heebonism and Jewjitsu in Palm Springs, LA Weekly, December 28, 2009
- Lisa Rab, How Jews Do Christmas, Westword, December 12, 2008
- Candace Heckman, What if you're Jewish and bored stiff on Christmas Eve?, Seattle Post-Intelligencer - The Big Blog, December 24, 2007
- Jay Firestone, One Jew's Christmas Eve, The Jewish Journal (Los Angeles) - Calendar Girls blog, December 28, 2007
- Leisah Woldoff, Mazelpalooza rolls out red carpet for YJP, Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, November 21, 2008
- Samantha Nelson, 8 Holiday Parties, Chicago RedEye, December 13, 2013
- Kevin Friduss, The Official Matzo Bash 2013 in Chicago!, Examiner.com, November 5, 2013
- Alysia Gray Painter, Social and Seasonal: Schmooz-a-Palooza: Jewish singles will gather at Red O for a festive mixer of glammed-out proportions, NBC 4, December 20, 2013
- JDate's 16th Annual Schmooz-A-Palooza, JDate.com (2009)
- Keren Engelberg, Have a Holly Jolly Schmooz-fest, Jewish Journal (Los Angeles), December 18, 2003
- Danny Baram, Christmas Time for the Jew, DannyBaram.Blogspot.com, December 23, 2008
- Alie Ward, Your week, on a platter: Dec. 24-30 brings you horny Jews and Hamburger combovers, Metromix.com, December 24, 2007
- Calendar: December 21 - January 3, The Jewish Journal, December 19, 2013
- Ryan Torok, Chanukah events around Los Angeles, Los Angeles Jewish Journal, December 18, 2011
- Get Out There!, The Dallas Morning News, December 22, 2008, available via Google News Archives/NewsBank
- Weekly Planner, The Dallas Morning News, December 15, 2001, available via Google News Archives/NewsBank
- Katey Margolis, Kosher Kisses, Dallas Observer, December 23, 2009
- Mike Levy, Calendar, (Los Angeles) Jewish Journal, May 10, 2001
- "Fat Asian Baby", Parents Pissed About That Shiksa You, FatAsianBaby.Blogspot.com, March 4, 2005
- And To All a Good Night, New York Times, December 23, 2009
- Brooklyn Bowl's First Annual Matzah Bowl! - Inaugural Tribal Music Festival, Brooklyn Bowl, 2009
- Steve Dershowitz, From the Prexy's Computer, in Temple Beth Torah Times, June 2008
- KSUViolet06, What's your big thing(s)?, GreekChat.com, August 15, 2004
- Kansas City Star, March 31, 2004, p. 24, available via NewsBank
- Rick Hellman, Nordaunian AZA alumni plan reunion alongside Matzo Ball, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, April 2, 2010
- GreenEggsSamDC, Merry Christmas, Chapter2006, December 25, 2006
- Evan Gahr, Nothing Left to the Imagination, Chimpstein, January 1, 2006
- Matzo Ball official website
- Photo gallery from Matzo Ball 2010 in Washington, DC
- The Ball official website
- Seattle Latkepalooza 2009
- Phoenix Mazelpalooza 2009
- San Francisco Latke Ball 2009
- Tampa Vodka Latke 2009
- Stu and Lew Productions presents Schmooz-a-Palooza and JDate Events listing for Schmooz-a-Palooza