A Swiss shidduch?

Now in its ninth year, Keneski is an annual ski trip to Europe for modern Orthodox singles.

skiing feat 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
skiing feat 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine this: You are skiing down a run at one of the most spectacular resorts in the Swiss Alps. The sun is glowing amid a cloudless blue sky, revealing a backdrop of snow-covered Alps that continue for miles on end. You approach the bottom of the run and hop onto the chairlift with your new ski partner - the cute girl you met at dinner last night. You spend the day skiing together, and bonding over lunch as you marvel at the surrounding landscape. At the end of the day, you think she might be more than just a good ski partner. This may seem like a fairytale, but for many young singles that have gone on "Keneski," this has become their reality. Now in its ninth year, Keneski is an annual ski trip to Europe for modern Orthodox singles in their 20s or 30s. Since its inception, there has been an average of four weddings per year that resulted from the trip. Taking place every year during February at a different location in Europe, it's an "all-inclusive" trip, including kosher food, three minyanim a day, shiurim, various activities at night, and of course, skiing in some of the best resorts in the world. This year, Keneski was held from February 5-12 at a kosher hotel in Scuol, Switzerland - which has a small ski resort of its own and is in relative proximity to more renowned resorts including St. Moritz and Ischgl, in Austria. There were 160 people who came from all over the world, including South Africa, England, Australia, United States, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and of course, Israel. While the majority of people come from Europe and Israel, in the last couple of years the American contingent has grown significantly. Some 35 participants flew in from America, with the majority coming from New York. While there is a broad range of people on the trip, Keneski mainly attracts modern Orthodox professionals. "I thought the people on the trip were of a really high caliber," says Yosef Adest, 27, who is originally from Staten Island, but now lives in Jerusalem, "People were very sophisticated, but yet down to earth and friendly." The trip is deliberately not marketed as a singles event; in fact its original conception was to encourage people to make aliya, and it was promoted through Bnei Akiva. Nowadays, Keneski is simply marketed as a ski vacation that brings together young adults from all over the world. Many come primarily to ski, and the social aspect is a by-product of the relaxed environment. "I feel strongly about not promoting it as a singles event because that involves pressure," says Ilan Roth, who lives in Israel and is the founder and director of Keneski, "I just want people to come and have a good time." This philosophy is what makes the trip so popular. One of the reasons behind its success may be because people come for an entire week and can really get to know one another. "People see each other in all different scenarios," explains Roth. "On the slopes, on Shabbat, with make up, without make up... It makes it much more real." Roth organizes the trip with his two brothers, Chaggi and Hillie, but they do not make a profit. "We simply do it Le'Shem Shamayim," says Roth. These days, the Roth brothers don't need to advertise the trip; word of mouth is sufficient. "Every year we have to turn people away," says Roth, "because we like to control the numbers." Not only do they limit the numbers attending, they also control the ratios. The Roths ensure there is a 50:50 ratio of people coming from Israel to people from the rest of the world, as well as a 50:50 ratio of males to females. Perhaps Keneski isn't explicitly marketed as a singles trip, but the underlying sentiment of most of those attending is clear. "I don't think people actually come with a mindset to 'find' someone," says Chagit Kaufman, 27, who is originally from Belgium but now lives in Israel. "I think people genuinely come to ski and make new friends, and if something comes out of it, then great!" If not, having the opportunity to ski in the Alps and meet new people from all over the world isn't too shabby either. For more information, go to www.keneski.com