Tap into your imagination and unlock your potential – an evening with Aviva Serenge

An introductory evening with Aviva Serenge, MSW, for marriage-minded singles is taking place on Thursday, May 8, 2014 in Jerusalem. I asked Aviva to tell me a bit about what she does and why, and what people could expect from the upcoming event and six-session workshop.

Meet Aviva:

Deena: First, why do you believe in the work you do with singles?

Aviva: I so often see singles in my practice lost in the dating maze. They are hearing conflicting approaches about how to date and end up feeling confused. The beauty of the approach that I use is that it empowers people to access their inner voice and make the necessary changes within themselves. Once achieved, they become more focused and able to reach their desired goals.

Deena: Can you tell me about yourself?

Aviva Serenge pictureAviva: I am originally from London, made aliya 24 years ago. I studied social work, and worked in the field until fairly recently. Over time, I felt that it became harder and harder to really facilitate change as a social worker, and this started to frustrate me.

This frustration was one of the catalysts for me studying a two-year course in guided imagery and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). I liked the fact that this approach allowed for dramatic changes to take place within a relatively short period, and it really seemed to get to the core of the issues.

On a personal level, at around the time I started studying, I was feeling very disheartened about the dating scene. I was going on numerous dates, but nothing was coming of all my effort.

While in the course, we were encouraged to test the techniques we were learning on each other. Since NLP focuses on working towards a tangible goal that is in our control, I used it to help me be active in understanding what I needed in order to achieve my goal of finding a suitable partner for marriage and creating a long-lasting relationship.

These techniques ended up helping me make important changes in my life and by the end of the first year of studying I was engaged to be married.  Thank G-d, I have now been married for almost five years, and use many of the techniques that I have learnt to enhance my marriage and other areas of my life.

My personal experience with the therapeutic techniques I studied and my belief in their effectiveness make me passionate about helping others in similar situations using these methods.

I firmly believe that every marriage-minded individual should have his or her dream realized and that it’s possible to realize it.

Deena: OK, so what exactly do you do?

Aviva: I help people create change through workshops and individual sessions by combining guided imagery and neuro-linguistic programming techniques with twenty years of more conventional counseling skills.

Neuro-linguistic programming is a goal-orientated approach to helping us tune into our hidden strengths and use them to help us succeed in life. Guided imagery allows us to relax and imagine change taking place with the belief that once we imagine something, the change in reality is not far behind.

Deena: What can people expect from your event?

Aviva: First what not to expect.

A few months ago I went to an event about singles and one of the speakers gave guidelines for dating “properly.” I sat there thinking that if I was still single, I’d have felt like I’d been doing it all wrong!

This event isn’t about telling people what to do. Many singles question themselves a lot and what I do is help them learn to cancel out all the noise around them (for example, being told what you should be doing in order to get married) and figure out what is really good for them.

On Thursday I will explain about the methods and then let you experience them. Through the NLP you’ll be learning how to focus on your strengths and through the guided imagery you’ll learn how to let go of baggage from past relationship experiences.

There will be time to talk about the experience for anyone interested in discussing it in the group.

What I hope for people to get from the evening is a feel for how these powerful methods could contribute to their lives by helping them be more relaxed and in touch with themselves.

Afterwards, I’ll speak about the upcoming six-session workshop I’m offering of a similar nature. People who sign up that night will receive a 100NIS discount.

I’ll be available at the end of the event to talk to people more privately.

Deena: Let’s say someone is hesitating coming to your event. They might wonder what they’re going to get out of it or be concerned about feeling uncomfortable. What would you say to them?

Aviva: Some people might hesitate because they’re worried they’re going to get a pep talk and be told what to do. The work I do is about helping people figure out for themselves what works for them.

Others might be concerned about sharing in a group setting. It’s important to me that no one does anything they don’t want to do. The evening is for the benefit the participants and this should be an enjoyable process.

I look forward to seeing you Thursday!

Event details

What: Tap into your imagination and unlock your potential – for marriage-minded individuals
When: Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:00 pm
Where: Shir Chadash, 4 Cheyl Nashim Street, Katamon, Jerusalem
Entrance fee: 30NIS
More information: Aviva Serenge – 054-803-2427, avivaserenge@gmail.com, http://www.thepotentialme.com/the Facebook event

How building a relationship is like creating a piece of art

My theory is that all creative processes share similar qualities. And since painting, writing and building a relationship are all creative processes, they should have things in common.

I decided to test out my theory by randomly opening up one of the most popular reads amongst writers, artists and other creators, The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, and see if the inspiration and tips within are translatable to the world of relationships.

Here we go…

Make it your own

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.
By Charlie Parker (page 159)

God, we live in a culture that has perfected the art of comparing. And a culture where we believe someone has the answers for us. And God, how it inhibits us. In the past, while dealing with difficult issues with a guy, I used to ask myself (or others) if this wasn’t “too much” or an abnormal amount of issues to be dealing with.

Today I ask myself, how do I feel about this amount of issues? Do I feel like I could and want to make it work or do I feel like it isn’t good?

You can look outwards towards others and gain inspiration and insight. But you must always remember to continuously look inwards towards your relationship and your feelings, in order to be able to create the music that is the potential of that relationship.


“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
By Emma Goldman (page 110)

There is the prioritization that we might come to if we don’t give it much thought and then there is, with some true introspection, a healthy list of priorities. For example, in this quote which can be understood in different ways, there is someone who can provide love to me and a person who can provide me with fancy things.

There are also the priorities that we might have based on society. For example, diamonds may only feel important to us so that others will see that we have them.

So much isn’t important. So much is. And it’s pretty helpful to figure out the difference between the two in your world.

Taking chances

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.
By Seneca (page 83)

Oh wow, Freudian slip if there ever was one… I by mistake typed “date” instead of “dare.” Both times!

Look, almost anyone will admit that life is difficult. Really quite hugely difficult. But waiting around for things to improve or for our luck to change only makes it more difficult. It’s by always asking, “What can I do?” that we can stay hopeful and potentially fulfilled.


I am willing to experience my creative energy.
By Julia Cameron (page 37)

There is a fear to open up. A fear for what being open to experiencing might bring. You have to make a very conscious decision to be willing to experience a real relationship with someone in order to do your part to facilitate that happening. Namel, to be vulnerable, honest, attractive… Not a simple task and most definitely a choice.

I’m convinced. Are you?

Relationships often feel terribly messy and it isn’t totally clear what is going on.
As in art.

Being successful in a relationship makes us feel elated.
Finishing a piece of writing and feeling good about it does too.

We are unsure and scared about the future.

We can’t live with them and can’t live without them.
As I say about my writing: “Writing is the bane of my existence. (And it is also my joy.)”

Data lost – letters on dating by David Kilmnick

Shalom Josh,

I’m writing this letter for a second time. The server crashed. This is a crisis. It is a nightmare and probably the biggest problem I will ever encounter. A server crashes and I did not save – that is a killed day.

Being alone is nothing. Being alone and having to redo the work I have already done – that is what makes life unbearable. Having to rewrite a letter to you, this is unbearable.

Now that I think about it: A blind-date is kind of like a server that crashed when I didn’t save the project. I lost the one before. Now I have to redo the whole thing over again. I have to remember the best parts, so that it comes out just as good as the first time. So that at least there are some good parts, like the time I paid for the girl and then another guy pick her up. I hope she said thank you to him. No matter what, it is very frustrating, knowing that I have to redo something I already spent so much time on.

I am still taking it slow with that girl from the party. I haven’t heard from her since. I think I am playing the game right.

I am writing this letter sitting in a coffee shop that has many ladies. Do not worry Josh, I am focused on the computer. This way, the general lady populace of the cafe will know that I am serious and not available for conversation. Not being available is a turn on to the average lady.

I am working and waiting for a special lady to pop up, on the screen. It is kind of frustrating, knowing that all of these women are alone and waiting to meet somebody. It is frustrating knowing I cannot go over, because their husbands will be showing up. Wedding rings are a big turnoff, Josh. If any woman wants to know, I usually don’t go for women with wedding rings.

So I am surrounded by beautiful women and I am writing to you. I am writing to you and I am focused on my internet prospects.

If I am lucky, maybe I will come across one of them on that Gan Eden site. The biggest problem I am having on this site is that you can’t contact the other person because both people need to be signed up with paid memberships.

I will not pay for a membership, as I believe it is important for the woman to know what she is getting into. The paid membership is also a problem because I would never go out with somebody who is pathetic enough to care about meeting somebody. I would only go out with the unpaid users, who use it to check out people every day. I know ‘every day,’ because every day their status says they were on the site that day.

Point is, if I see her on Gan Eden, then I see her in the cafe, and if she looks at my profile at that exact moment, I can go over to her and neither of us has to pay for the membership. And we get to forgo the awkwardness of meeting online and then corresponding before we meet, so that she can feel comfortable meeting me.

Since college finished, my chances for meeting a special lady have stopped. I am not in any public situation which breeds healthy conversation on a day to day basis. I am not in classes and I cannot ask a random lady if she wants to come back to my place and study the bus schedule. The lady at the bank is always mad at me for cashing my checks. The lady at the pharmacy knows every medical disease that I have. The lady at the synagogue has already been set up with me by every other lady at the synagogue. I can take up an activity, but the birdwatchers will know I only did it to meet a woman.

If I just got it right the first time and saved that first girl, I would have never had to redo it.

Later Achi

david kilimnick

Photo credit: Dana Dekel

David Kilimnick
David is an expert at getting his audiences to laugh and cry simultaneously. His goal since his move to Israel in 2003 has been to meet his naturally blond Yemenite soulmate. Meanwhile he is committed to bringing joys of laughter to the plight of the single (and otherwise defined) Jew. You can see David’s weekly standup performances at his comedy club, the Off The Wall Comedy Basement: Jerusalem’s Comedy Club.

These are real letters David has been writing about his singlehood to a friend for years.

Read more about/by him here.

No more Mr. Nice Guy

I used to say that the most important characteristic to look for in a partner is niceness. But I think I’ve changed my mind.

The fact is that that criteria is entirely hypocritical. Who is always nice to the people closest to them? But then we think we “deserve” to be with someone who treats us right all the time?

So here’s what I think: The #1 most important characteristic to look for in a partner is goodness.

If someone is a good person, they might sometimes act not nicely but they care about it when they do. I constantly see couples being not nice to each other. But when the two people are good, the misbehaviour doesn’t have to be the final word. The person/people misbehaving could take responsibility for it and try to work on it.

In dating when someone mistreats me, I don’t necessarily run off in the opposite direction. I don’t even necessarily think badly of the person because of it. I consider my general impressions of the person – as in, do I think he is a good person – and I see what kind of communication happens when I bring up the issue.

We often look at what others put up with in their relationships and we think, “God, how does he/she put up with that?!” So yeah, we probably each have to figure out which misbehaviour we can somehow put up with, but that’s probably a question worth taking seriously because if you’re going to run off every time there is mistreatment in your relationship, I’d venture to say that you’ll never really get to connect with anyone, especially since often it’s very possible it’s you misbehaving.

The other list – by Avi Woolf

One of the common tropes in dating is the infamous “list” that many people have when looking for a partner. For women one might argue that the list is longer and more detailed but in both cases, they are the set of qualities any potential match must meet in order to be seriously considered for dating, let alone for commitment.

But discussions about these lists miss a more important point: the fact that there is also another “list.”

What other list, you ask?

The list where you describe what you bring to the table for the other person. The one where you describe how you’ll try to make your partner feel happy and fulfilled, cherished and loved, valued and appreciated.

check list

Image by bredmaker

Relationships are a two-way street in which both sides provide for each other. They require give as well as take. Both sides have requests and needs from their partners, some reasonable and some probably less so. And both sides also need to have a list of expectations from themselves – and it will probably have to be more than just showing up and “being yourself.”

Remember, your hope is that this person who will inevitably have some reservations about you, will choose to take themselves off the “marriage market” for life (one hopes), say no to all other offers and devote themselves exclusively to you in matrimony. That’s a pretty heavy investment and a major leap of faith. You’ll need to consider what else you’re bringing to the table that will convince the quality person you want to be with to take that leap.

By all means, it’s important to know what traits you are looking for in a partner and consider where you might compromise on them. But, on the opposite side of the same coin, remember that “it takes two to tango,” and you’ll dance best together if both of you are committed, quality dance partners.

NEXT: Guys – It’s time to stop being afraid

Avi WoolfAbout Avi
Avi Woolf is a 31 year old content editor and budding tech writer with Modern Orthodox attitudes and a libertarian streak. He’s dated for eight years looking for a girl with whom to brave life and have a family. Likes chess, hates phoniness.

Things good men should stop doing immediately

I meet so many truly lovely men. You can just feel that they’re good with sincere intentions and they just want to find someone to love and give to who will love them back.

But there are two recurring themes amongst some of these good men which I think they would do well to cease immediately. These two traits, besides being unbecoming, are not at all conducive to building positive connections with people.

Here they are:

#1 – Talking and behaving like victims

Many nice men seem to believe that nice women are attracted to bad boys. As a result, they believe they aren’t able to find a nice woman for themselves. I think this is a crock of bull. Of course almost all the good women I know are in relationships with good men.

Whenever I hear men talk like this, it smells very strong of self victimization, the benefit of which might be an excuse to not have to take an honest look at oneself.

Considering the fact that this belief is probably not accurate, I wonder what it is that makes you speak that way – is it certain insecurities? And why is it you believe that many good women are incapable of making wise decisions for themselves? Don’t you think that’s a little condescending?

After considering those questions, maybe you could ask yourself what you might do to attract the women you want (hint: it probably has something to do with self-improvement, making sure your clothes sit right and being nice) and, very importantly, consider how you might widen the range of women in whom you find interest.

#2 – Being pushy

Another very disconcerting phenomenon is that of pressuring someone else to connect with you in any way.

Here is a very important fact: You cannot force a person to do anything they don’t want to do and if you ever do succeed in forcing someone into something, there is a huge toll being paid; at the very least, you are creating dynamics with the other person that are not at all conducive to a real connection, let alone a long-term, healthy relationship.

Listen up, well-intentioned man! Being pushy has the opposite effect.

So, when you feel a very strong urge to force someone into your life in any way (whether it’s anything from connecting on Facebook to connecting through touch), to the point where you begin to lose your self control and find yourself behaving in a somewhat desperate manner, do whatever you can to stop yourself immediately (hint: this probably includes finding a distraction).

All this goes for women too

As always, the truth is that this goes for women too. Of course a self-victimized woman or a pushy one is unattractive and it bears the opposite results too. I learned this the hard way but thankfully at a very early age. I was 19 and fell for a cool and very gentle and kind guitarist (see #1). Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly reciprocal. It took me around two years (!!!) to learn the important lesson of the futility of unrequited love and forcing yourself into someone else’s life.

And as for self-victimization, I have definitely experienced that feeling of, “There must be something wrong with this guy if he isn’t interested in me.”

And then I quickly move the heck on.

Waste. Of. Time.

Bottom line: Stop wasting your time and energy and find a nice girl to date. Just make sure it’s reciprocal.

See you April 1, 2014 >>

Never listen to the professional…

…blindly, that is.

People can get themselves into plenty of trouble by blindly following other people’s advice. Thank God we don’t live in a bubble and we can get advice from people who know more than us, have more experience or are just more objective at certain times. But when things go wrong, just because we followed someone’s advice, that doesn’t mean we can point a blaming finger at that person. Unfortunately/Fortunately, our decisions are ours alone, including our choices of who to listen to, when.

Next Tuesday, April Fools 2014 day to be exact, I am planning an event that is based off the believe that as singles, we must not idealize other people and their advice and we need to take full responsibility for our lives and decisions. This event practices this by creating a setting for discussions where everyone is equal.

This is a Q&D event. D = Discussion

At this event which is in partnership with Dr. Pessy Krausz and the AACI in Jerusalem (which is where it is taking place), approximately two singles and two people who support singles (for example, psychologists/therapists/matchmakers/parents/siblings/best friends/others) will each present a question/scenario from their personal/professional experience. Then a discussion will take place between the question-presenter and the four-people panel which is made up of a psychotherapist (Pessy), a rabbi (Rabbi Avraham Priel), a single guy (Joel Haber) and a single girl (moi).

No opinion presented at the event must be accepted. On the contrary, let’s listen and discuss to get the bottom of the issues raised, hearing all sides equally. The intention of this event is to create a very real and yet respectful conversation on a range of topics relating to singlehood and dating for marriage. The range of questions will depend on who braves it and decides to submit a question (questions are being approved in advance).

Dear professionals, this humanization and leveling of the playing field is good for the relationships between singles and those of you who work to help us. Please consider submitting a question/scenario for this coming event. You will have the opportunity to share a problematic issue you’ve had to deal with and be part of a discussion with a wonderful panel. You can email me your question to habitza@gmail.com. We will let everyone who submits a question know ahead of the event whether or not their question was approved.

Either way I will be happy to see you there. Should be a fruitful and interesting discussion!

Please read more about the panelists and receive more details about the event here >>

My First Love – by Rebbetzin Gitel Rosensweig (aka Bubby)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

This is what Elizabeth Barrett Browning said to her husband Robert Browning.

This is what I often said to my late husband, Rabbi Feivel Rosensweig, who was the late grandfather of your hostess, Deena Levenstein.

Feivel was the first love of my life and the love of my youth, the father of my children and the grandfather of our grandchildren בע”ה.

When I first met Feivel, I was a fun-loving, athletic and very sociable girl with a job I loved where I was very respected. I fell in love with Feivel at first site and eventually chose to devote my life to him which meant giving up my familiar life in Toronto with my family and friends and leaving my job, to live in Kitchener as Rabbi and Rebbetzin there.

We loved each other very much and loved our time together.
We loved to sing together at the Shabbos table.
We loved to dance in the kitchen to the big bands like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Arty Shaw.
We also loved to recite poetry together.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued on with her beautiful poetry to Robert which has always been an inspiration to me:

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The love of my youth is gone and I miss him but I carry our memories in my heart and I see his legacy in our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.

I know I am deeply blessed to have had such a gift.

Rebbetzin Gitel RosensweigRebbetzin Gitel Rosensweig, Deena’s bubby, was a rebbetzin for 36 years outside of Toronto and is the most romantic person Deena knows.

My First Love was read at Habitza’s second event, a reading evening on the topic of love and lack thereof at Tmol Shilshom.

The Great Credentials Mismatch – by Avi Woolf

How often have you heard a variation of the following complaint:

I’m so accomplished/educated/credentialed! Why do I have trouble finding guys?

Photo by

Photo by mmagallan

Women – religious women included – have been flooding the colleges and universities for decades now, overturning the traditional structure where it was almost entirely men who went to higher education. In many areas – especially in the humanities and social sciences – women outnumber men in earning degrees; I distinctly remember a strong gender imbalance in favor of women when I got my BA.

Yet these accomplishments, important though they are, often don’t translate into success in the dating world. Why is that?

Many – especially the women themselves – will claim that it’s because guys are intimidated by women who are smart and professionally successful, especially if they’re more so than the men they date. But as self-affirming as this answer is, it’s only part of the story. Yes, there are men who are intimidated, but I think they are in the minority.

The real reasons are as follows:

Mismatched Credentials

When we date you, we are interviewing you for the job of (hopefully) lifetime wife and mother to our children. Your professional credentials, titles and awards, while impressive, often tell us next to nothing about how you’ll fare in these roles. It’s the equivalent of a salesman interviewing for the job of a demolitions expert; these are two jobs which require two entirely different skill sets. The same is often the case here.

If you want to translate your accomplishments into greater dating success, you’ll need to find those aspects of your job or career that show you can be a good partner and emphasize them – we need to see it for ourselves. Whether it’s nurturing tendencies (education, nursing, therapy), good management (accounting) or otherwise, you can’t just assume we know you have those skills from your CV.

The Disposable Male

Another thing which is a serious turn-off is the attitude of many women in the professional world which can best be described as “strong and independent (of men).” Such an approach often bespeaks an arrogance and consequent belittling of men in general. Often such women will not even consider dating men who may be great husbands, fathers and providers, but don’t have the same, higher or “right” levels of education and social status.

Worse, though, it often sends out a signal which men interpret thusly:

In principle, I don’t need you. If need be, I can get pregnant in vitro; I can afford it. You are a disposable part of my life, not a necessary part of the family I want to build.

Here’s the thing: commitment-minded men are not interested in getting married to get divorced or constantly be on probation. We have no interest whatsoever in being a disposable accessory in your life. We want to be loved, needed and valued just as much as any woman does.

If you are truly so independent and don’t need a man, please admit this and let men and women who need each other find them. If you do need a man, then be honest and learn to openly value those traits and things in men which you need.

For those of you concerned that I’m against women being more independent than they were in the past, I’ll just say that of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a career or passion outside of having a family. The two can even enrich each other in various ways. But how you come across in regards to your professional success can hamstring you when dating the opposite sex.

NEXT: The Other “List”

Avi WoolfAbout Avi
Avi Woolf is a 31 year old content editor and budding tech writer with Modern Orthodox attitudes and a libertarian streak. He’s dated for eight years looking for a girl with whom to brave life and have a family. Likes chess, hates phoniness.

Deena’s note
April 1, 2014 is Habitza’s upcoming event: A Question and Discussion evening with myself, Dr. Pessy Krausz, a rabbi, a single guy and the audience. Read about it here and submit a question/scenario for discussion >>

After my espresso date – Letters on dating by David Kilimnick

Shalom Josh,

About the date: I was not into this woman, so I finished the coffee real fast. Once the coffee is done, the date is over. That is my rule. If I order another coffee before I finished the first one, I really like the woman. Here, I got an espresso.

I had to go to another party. Party season is almost over and I am happy for that. I am not a big fan of parties. I would rather eat dinner in my house and watch a good movie. It is much cheaper than the wine I have to bring. They raking in the dough. Big time. It is a scam. They host these parties and tell people to bring wine. Next thing you know, they have dinner gifts for the rest of the year.

I broke it off with the espresso date. I don’t know why I called. I think she got the message when I said, ‘There was no pleasure,” at the end of the date.

I am not good at breaking up without jumping into a different conversation. I have noticed that women really hate to hear me saying, “Hope to see you around.” They never want to see me again. When we break it off, I am pretty sure they are stabbing an effigy of me. That is why I look at the breakup like a segue. “We are done, but now coming into your life is my good friend who has also been single for a very long time, because he cannot be straight forward and express his true feelings. Maybe he will be attracted to you. Who knows?”

To tell you about the post date party – the mojo was working. After a bad date, everything looks good. Everybody looked so beautiful, thanks to my date and my new standards, and the dark room. I ended up chilling with a divorcee with kids. But why was she partying when she has a kid? That to me shows irresponsibility.

Parents are not supposed to party. They should only be out for get-togethers. Get-togethers are a responsible way for parents to see other people. Bar-mitzvahs are fine too. But a parent should never be at a party.

The divorcee gave me a number which doesn’t work. That was the only responsible thing she did. I wasn’t even going to ask her out. I was going to set her up with my friend. So she was wrong. Ha ha.

Even so, we had a good time flirting, if you know what I mean. Maybe you don’t know what I mean. I’ll tell you. We were talking that romantic stuff like, “Whose the daddy?! Whose the daddy?!”

Lehitraot Achi,

david kilimnick

Photo credit: Dana Dekel

David Kilimnick
David is an expert in getting his audiences to simultaneously laugh and cry. His goal since his move to Israel in 2003 has been to meet his naturally blond Yemenite soulmate. Meanwhile he is committed to bringing joys of laughter to the plight of the single (and otherwise defined) Jew. You can see David’s weekly standup performances at his Off The Wall Comedy Basement: Jerusalem’s Comedy Club.

These are real letters David has been writing about his singlehood to a friend for years.

Read more about/by him here.