You Should Know… Ilana Kowarski

Ilana Kowarski. Photo by Samantha Cooper

Dating is hard. With JSwipe and Hinge, there’s always a risk when someone you’ve only texted with turns out to be a dud. Or worse.

And don’t get Ilana Kowarski started on happy hours. To get around awkward first dates, the 31 year old started a meet-up group for local Jewish singles that’s organized through the Facebook group DC Jew Crew. Potential dates can enjoy museums, picnics and other activities in a group setting. With no pressure.

Tell me a little bit about this dating group.

Online dating can be a little frustrating because you don’t have an in-person interaction to gauge whether or not you’re interested. I thought it would be nice to have that. And maybe a bit more fun.

I wanted to do adult activities that were relatively inexpensive or free and convenient for everyone. And a lot of the times I arranged for things where people could get their own food. So, dietary restrictions would not be a problem.

I’m not a fan of happy hours and many of the [Jewish] mixers are happy hours, and I wanted to do something  that was a bit more interesting. I figured I wasn’t the only one that was a little bit frustrated by online dating or single events where it’s a little bit tricky to know whether you can ask someone out.

There are a lot of events for people in our age group that are Jewish but aren’t necessarily for singles. I wanted something that was unambiguously a Jewish singles event.


What’s wrong with happy hours?

I think they’re overdone. And if you don’t meet anyone that you’re sort of into, it can be frustrating because there’s nothing else to do but drink. If you have another activity, the event doesn’t feel like a waste. If you don’t meet somebody, you still did a fun activity.

I feel like part of the idea was just deliberately choosing activities that somebody would have fun doing even with their friends or even maybe even by themselves, where they didn’t have the romantic component.

What kinds of activities have you done?

I sort chose things I wanted to do anyway. [But] it is hard to guarantee to have an even gender ratio and sometimes we’ve incidentally had that like the Botanical Gardens, that was pretty solid. We’ve done the Washington Monument.

I want to do karaoke.

What else makes it unique?

I try to get people from all different parts of the Jewish community and I also wanted people to know that they were welcome. So, I explicitly made that clear. One of the examples is with sexual orientation. I made a system of symbols they could put on
their name tag.

It’s not a business. This is a fun, extracurricular activity. One of the things about is that you get to make friends and not just meet people you can date. And that can be nice, because it can be kind of lonely being single, sometimes. So it’s good to meet others who are single and at the same stage of life.

Did you expect it to get this big?

No. It is amusing, though, because I have had people recognize me from Facebook. They’ll be like, “Are you the person who does the dating events?” and I’m like, “Yeah.”

Would you consider yourself a romantic?

Big time. I love fairy tales and I’m hoping to meet my Prince Charming. And maybe I’ve already met him.

What will happen to the group once you find your Prince Charming?

If there is a point where I’m at a stage in life where it’s no longer appropriate for me to lead [the group], I can pass the baton to someone else. I think it’s a really good thing to have. I would like something like it to always be there.

Have a suggestion for a You Should Know profile? Candidates must be ages 18-40. Tell us what makes the person so interesting: [email protected] or tweet @SamScoopCooper.

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