| Family First Feature |

Friendship Quest

My heart-stopping, norms-defying, brave, socially Off quest for a chevreh, a Shalosh Seudos plan, and friendship 


I tuck my three-year-old daughter under her pink heart blanket in her throne-like princess bed (first girl after a slew of boys, don’t judge), I listen lovingly as she recounts her day at school.

“Today we played in the gym because Morah said it was going to rain and then we sang the rain song. And then we sang the Sefiras Ha’omer song. Should I sing it to you again?”

She then launches into the Sefiras Ha’omer song that seamlessly, and surprisingly, melds into “The Yidden Go Marching Out of Mitzrayim.” After I confirm that we’re still the Yidden and that Pharaoh is still the bad guy, she ends her monologue by telling me that today she had not hit Talia or Tzivia and that she didn’t put sand in Moshe’s eyes. “I’m a nice friend,” she concluded.

“Devorah,” I begin, “you really are a nice friend! It’s so great that you didn’t hit your friends or put sand in their eyes today!”

Devorah beams.

“Your friends are lucky to have you!”

“Your friends are lucky, too, Mommy.” Devorah smiles sweetly at me.

I pause. Gosh, Devorah. Blushing over here.

“That was nice of you to say and made Mommy feel so special. I’m curious though, do you know who Mommy’s friends are?”

Without missing a beat, she responds. “Naama. And Shoshana.”

Naama and Shoshana. Don’t get me wrong. They’re great and all… but they’re also my teenage babysitters.

Okay, let’s try another kid.

“Hey, Avi, who are Mommy’s friends?”

My very insightful eight-year-old thinks for a moment and then says, “Well, Aunt Rachel for sure.” Okay, so he knows that I like my sister, that’s good. “And… our teachers?”


Also very lovely human beings, but let’s be real: This is bad. Really bad. My kids’ responses are sounding the alarm that Mommy is lacking in the friend department.

They must have missed all those people I sent dinner to when they had babies, or the people who waved when they walked by the house on Shabbos, or the people I gab with in the produce aisle. And let’s not forget all of those friends I had back in high school! Or in seminary! I am dripping with friends.

But their responses get me thinking (and crying alone in the bathroom). Are those girls just people that I interact with as part of the day-to-day grind? Are they my friends?

My sister — who luckily made the cut as one of my only friends — is an industrial organizational psychologist who specializes in workplace relationships. (I’d mention that she’s actually a famous author, but I would never brag in such a public forum like this.) In her work, Rachel often differentiates between friends and friendlies. Friendlies, she explains, are the people you interact with, laugh with, and enjoy their company, but your relationship never progresses past surface level. These are relationships that neither require nor assume everything that comes with a true friendship. Friends, on the other hand, are those individuals who have all of the qualities of a friendly, but there is a deeper connection, a shared bond and investment that extends outside of the workplace and into your personal life.

My life is chock-full of friendlies. My coworkers, my kids’ friends’ moms, the teachers in the carpool line, the women who come to my classes: They are all incredibly kind people who I enjoy interacting with, but those relationships are truly surface level. Sure, we text or grab coffee here and there, and sometimes those conversations even evolve into more personal topics, but my sister would definitely label them as friendlies.

And don’t even start me on the challenges of making friends in this busy stage of life as a mom of young kids. I wake up most mornings to a small child breathing heavily in my face (which one it will be is always the X factor), 20 minutes after I was supposed to be up (did I not set the alarm or did tiny fingers turn it off?), and rush to get the kids out of bed, praying that they actually brush their teeth when they claim they’re going to. I’m being heckled from the boys’ room as they claim to have no pants  (even though I personally put them in their drawers yesterday), another kid telling me his arm itches and he needs a Band-Aid, and my beautiful little girl leaving her room dressed in a Zara’s T-shirt, a pair of tights, and rainboots, refusing to accept that tights are, in fact, not pants. By the time I’m finished packing my kids up, serving five different breakfasts, signing all the homework sheets and permission slips they causally remember ten minutes before school, and fighting with my ten-year-old about seatbelt laws, who has energy to invest in new relationships that go deeper than the face value? So I greet everyone with a smile (hoping they don’t notice the smudge on my skirt), schmooze about the weather, and move on with my regularly scheduled events.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these women have so much potential on my friend-o-meter, but due to lack of emotional capacity and literal lack of minutes in the day, new friendships are just really hard to get off the ground. Friends, in the truest sense, are rare and hard to come by, so we often lean into those stable, established relationships from high school or seminary and call it a day. Seems to work out nicely for all those who happen to have moved back home and happen to have had all of their friends move back home, too, and happen to all live near each other and whose husbands all happen to get along super well and they happen to all be hashkafically aligned. Yes, so, so nice for those people.

I, on the other hand, moved out of town during my sheva brachos and have been here ever since. I met so many people and had to figure out how I fit into the social dynamics that already existed. Almost 12 years later I found myself with so many wonderful individual friends, real friends, but no chevreh.

You know those girls with a chevreh. The ones who for sure all secretly coordinate their cool outfits and perfectly crimped sheitels, because they blend so naturally, like the perfect family photo: coordinated-but-not-matching. They laugh as they casually sip their iced coffees and share life stories with this inner circle that actually knows each of their friends’ kids’ names.

Of course you’ve spotted them out to lunch for one of the friends-from-their-chevreh’s birthday, and you think to yourself, maybe I should invite my random hodgepodge of friends to go out to lunch for my birthday, and they can all awkwardly attempt a conversation about where they know me from.

“So you met Yehudis in the doctor’s office waiting room? So funny! Hope your daughter’s rash is better than it was last time we bumped into you at the park. Looked rough. Yehudis and I actually met years ago at the sheitelmacher! Turns out we’re both from Maryland and my aunt was her sister’s fourth-grade teacher! What a small world!” Sounds like the perfect plan.

But what about when I enter bar mitzvah season?

Where are you going with this, Yehudis? (Of course that’s not my real name. It would be the end of me if I used my real name. Come on, guys. Even us chevreh-less ladies in busy-young-mom stage know this from back in the day when we were social superstars in our own little orbits of cliquey high school bliss.) Let me explain.

Many of my immediate neighbors are a stage ahead of me in life and have been close friends for the last 25 years. They raised their children together and are now reaping the benefits of the nachas that come along with this beautiful stage of life. As they make bar mitzvahs for their youngest and weddings for their older kids, I’ve watched how they all come together to take care of each other for the simchah.

The text comes in:

Hi, Yehudis! Since Esti’s wedding is just around the corner, Rachie, Mira, and I are arranging shalashudes for their family and out-of-town guests. We’re also sending a group gift. And flowers. Totally no pressure, but I know you’re close with Rivky and wanted to include you! Want to join in?

I jump at the opportunity to be a part of the inner circle supporting my neighbors through their simchahs and feeling so thankful that I don’t have to come up with a separate present on my own.

Leah! You’re THE NICEST. I’d love to join in! Thank you, guys, for thinking of me and including me! Let me know what to make!

Of course Leah, Rachie, and Miri are coordinating this for Rivky. They’re her close friends, that intimate friend group that have navigated every life stage together and celebrate each other through each milestone.

Enthusiastic responses aside, as I watch this text exchange unfold, I panic. Who is going to arrange the Shalosh Seudos for my son’s bar mitzvah? It’s three years away! Will the neighbors step in? Or are they past that stage? Will they just assume that I have other, younger friends who can do it? Will it be Chanie, my one token local friend who arranged meals after all my kids were born? Seems like a lot to put on her, especially since so many of our friends (or friendlies?) don’t overlap.

I grab coffee with one of my neighbors and listen as she tells me her daughter’s most recent dating horror story.

“And I’ve found so much support in the shiur I go to each week. I didn’t know how impactful this group would become for me, but as the years went on, our friendships have become so much deeper.”

Light bulb!

“I wouldn’t have been able to get through this parshah without them. Would you believe that he actually asked Naava if she highlights her hair or if her color is natural! Red flag, anyone? I mean, he might have sisters, but—”

I’m not listening anymore. I’ve deep-dived into the endless world of possibilities that lie in my mind right now. I need a group of like-minded women who can navigate this journey of life with me, who can hold my hand through the joys and the hardships. Who can arrange my son’s bar mitzvah Shalosh Seudos. How did I not think of this sooner?

Of course busy moms don’t have time to start going bowling on a Motzaei Shabbos with a bunch of women they barely know. (Do people still bowl? I should ask my kids’ teachers since apparently they’re my inner circle.) But in a world where there is such an emphasis on self-care, we frum women focus on learning and personal growth. Would I make time to take a crocheting class at the local sewing store? Not a chance. But would I religiously carve out time each week to learn and invest in my hashkafic foundations? You bet I would. So this friend group needed to have a premise of meaningful connection: It would be a (very intentional) learning group.

I thank my neighbor for the fun coffee date and run to my car where I start jotting down ideas of topics I would want to cover in this group. Emunah? Parenting? Emunah while parenting? Perfect.

But who’d join this group? I stop for a moment. I feel like I’m entering shidduchim all over again, but this time, I’m my own shadchan. Awkward.

I decide to start a new list. It’s not easy. At first, I just write down the names of people I already talk to and enjoy spending time with, even if that time is limited or sporadic. But Tova has a crazy work schedule, so she’ll never be available during the day. Leebie already goes to a weekly shiur so she’s probably tapped out. Then there’s Baylie, whom I really like, but her lack of texting makes her logistically complicated, so she didn’t make the cut. I challenge myself to think bigger, to remember the women I met by chance at a kid’s siyum or bumped into at an aufruf, to remember those interactions that left me thinking, oh, if only I had time in my life, that relationship could have real potential. The list was incredibly random, but if you ask me, it was filled with some high-quality people.

I put away my list and shift the car into gear for carpool. On the way, I call my fancy New York friend who’s been one of my best friends for over 15 years and keeps me in check. Before I went rogue and did something I may regret, I had to run my plan by her.

“Shevy, I think I’m going to handpick girls from my community that I don’t really know, but like from afar, and build a group of friends for myself. We’ll have a weekly shiur so that the foundation of our relationship is substantive and not just surface level, and then they can make my bar mitzvah Shalosh Seudos. I’ll just casually cold-call them and invite them to be my friend. What do you think?”

Now every person needs a friend like Shevy in their lives. The type who tells you when you have food in your teeth or who calls three times in a row to check on you because she instinctively knows that you’re having a bad day, even from 700 miles away.

“Huds, you know I love you, but that’s socially off,” she states matter of factly.

“But I really think that everyone wants friends and that after the initial offness of the whole thing, they’ll be flattered that I thought of them and all will be good — or maybe even great,” I respond.

“So, hesitation acknowledged, and ignored. Can’t wait to hear every last awkward detail. And if it fails miserably, you can always move.” I can hear Shevy roll her eyes through the phone.

Over the next few days, I add names to the list as I bump into people. Do I notice Brachie’s incredible kindness when we overlap at the Cohen’s shivah house? Yes. But obviously I wait until I leave to add her to the list, repeating her name over and over again in my head so I wouldn’t forget to write her down. (Mom brain. It’s real.)

As the list grows, I try to make sense of life stages, social dynamics, and generally what feels right. I decide that eight people feels like a good number, leaving wiggle room in case one or two people couldn’t make it one week. I craft a list of girls I’ve always liked, but never really had the chance to get to know, and of course include Chanie, that token friend who made all my meal trains. (She’s a shoo-in.)

When I call to tell her about my vision, I decide to use it as a chance to practice my pitch.

“Hey! You and I are both so great! We’re cool, normal, mostly put-together and super nice. We deserve more friends. I’m building us a chevreh.”

Pretty sure she spits out her coffee on the other end of the phone. Okay, so maybe I need to refine the pitch for the next person, but Chanie’s in.

That Motzaei Shabbos, I attend a big community function and am standing in line behind one of my little boys’ friends’ moms. She’s someone I’ve always liked from afar, and in this safe space of anonymity, I’ll share that she was one of the first ones I thought of for this group.

“Heyyyy, Shira! So nice to see you! We have to get the kids together soon. They play so nicely!”

I notice that the woman behind me was physically close enough to be in our conversation, but was hovering on the outside, so I decide to bring her in. “Eliana, meet Shira! She’s my son’s friend’s mom! Her daughter is the cutest little girl in the world!” The two schmooze for a minute until the line moves forward. Five minutes later, I find myself introducing her to someone else who is standing too close to ignore. “Malky, meet Shira! Her daughter Rikki is best friends with my Ari!”

After the fifth such introduction, Shira looks at me. “So funny that you keep introducing me as your son’s friend’s mom. You can also just introduce me as Shira.”

I pause. I hadn’t even realized that through my basic introduction I was indirectly telling everyone, “This is my friendly. Not my friend.” Was Shira hurt by that demotion? I rush to reassure her, pulling out my phone and opening the notes section. “Shira, look! You’re on my list!”

Okay, Shevy’s right. Socially off for the win.

But Shira hasn’t backed away yet, so I give her my second version of the pitch. “I want to put together a group of girls that I like from afar and want to get to know better. It would be a weekly shiur on whatever topic we want, but the goal would be learning and if I’m being transparent, also socializing and all getting to know each other better. Totally no pressure, but I really would love for you to join!”

I’m positive that I catch her off guard with all of this, because let’s face it, it’s kind of weird to have a friendly show you her phone, with your name in her Notes app, but Shira seems unfazed.

“Really? I love it! I’m in!”

Two down, five to go.

The next few are girls I knew, but not very well. They fall into the category of people I would invite for Shabbos or call for a playdate for one of my kids, but the category of relationship that it would feel forced if I casually invited them to coffee. I’m a little nervous as I dial, but things that are important can (and should) be a little nerve-racking.

“Hey! I’m working on investing in myself and trying to put together a weekly shiur.” Silence on the other end. “Okay, let’s be real, I’m also trying to make more friends and you made the cut.”

After the initial awkward giggle, they all accept the invitation. “This phone call made my day,” one girl tells me. “Let’s be honest, who has time for friends? But my sister has such a nice chevreh here and I always wish I had time to invest in building that for myself!” The general consensus is that everyone is thrilled to be thought of and is eager to have more solid friendships in this busy stage of life.

The last phone call is to a girl I really don’t know. Like genuinely have never spoken to. Saved her for last because she felt like the biggest risk… and I can’t be the only one who pushes off the hardest task to the end. All of the other girls know me enough to know that I wouldn’t shy away from something I deemed important, even if it meant going out of my comfort zone. This girl? I’m honestly not sure if she knows anything about me other than my name. But I’ll tell you, she’s one of those people that has such good energy and a contagious laugh, and, based on absolutely nothing, I really think we’d hit it off.

“Hi! This is Yehudis Cohen, not sure if you have my number—”

“Yehudis! Of course I do! That’s why I answered this totally random call! What’s going on?”

“So I’m building this group of girls that I like from afar and I’d love for you to be a part of it!” I decide not to mention the bar mitzvah Shalosh Seudos she would be unofficially commiting to host if she said yes.

“OMG! Yes! That’s so fun! So flattered you called!”

And with that, the group was full! I launch a group text and channel my inner camp counselor to get everyone to introduce themselves. After 500 attempts to coordinate everyone’s schedules (“Oh, you only work on Monday and you work every day except Monday? Cool.”), we locked in a date, the shiur went live, and the rest is history.

We’re only a few weeks into the weekly get-togethers, filled with bowls of cut-up fruit, replated leftover Shabbos desserts, and quickly swept floors (still newish friendships require an extra five minute cleanup before arrival), but I don’t think it’s too soon to say: WHAT A LINEUP. The girls are all individually and collectively awesome, there’s a healthy group dynamic where everyone bounces off one another and laughs together, and we just started a sefer on parenting that has already made for some really rich conversations. One girl hosted another for Shabbos lunch a few weeks ago, as their husbands are both residents and it’s just nice to have someone else who gets it, and those that I’ve bumped into on the street greet me with the warmth of a friendship that’s decades old.

It’s scary to be too vulnerable in relationships with friendlies. There’s a lack of security, not knowing if the other person really likes you, if they’re inwardly trying to end this conversation, or if they’re truly invested in getting to know you. And with such limited time in our busy lives, we often don’t give ourselves the chance to find out.

By putting myself out there, I knew  I was risking rejection — but I also knew  I had the potential to build something great for myself. The worst that could happen? The girl would say no and know that I hold her in high regard. There’s something very humbling about stepping outside of your comfort zone — but it’s also so rewarding.

We’re constantly encouraging our kids to branch out, to make new friends, and to be confident. But maybe we need to turn that message back toward ourselves.

So to all of my friends, you are each such a brachah in my life.

And to my new chevreh: Pencil in my son’s bar mitzvah in November 2026. Can’t wait to get your sesame noodles.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 897)

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