I Played Jewish Geography With My Roommate. Turns Out We’re Cousins.

On a chilly Monday night, I went to see an apartment that I found on Roomi, which is essentially Tinder for living situations. The apartment seemed perfect by New York City standards – the rent was considerably less than what I was spending, I could continue to commute to work by walking, and within a two block radius was a Trader Joe’s, a Fairway, and a future Target and Harmon. As if that was not enough of a selling point, my potential roommate, Tayla, was a girl from Westchester county who also works as a Jewish communal professional like me.

When I went to see the apartment, Tayla encouraged me to sit down with her in the living room and chat before even showing me the room I would inhabit, the kitchen I would cook in, and where I would park my Squatty Potty if I had one (maybe that’s an investment I’ll make after my rent gets cheaper). All I was thinking about was the fact that I wanted to see the space, make sure this girl was normal, then go home and stuff my face with an Enlightened bar while watching The Bachelor – I was not particularly there to meet my new BFF. Alas, I needed a place to live and this seemed like a good contender for that, so I made conversation. After all, it seemed like a much better situation than my last one — sharing a flex wall in the smallest bedroom of a two bedroom, two flex room sorority house… I mean apartment.

At a certain point, I mentioned that “random” living situations are always better with Jewish girls that you have a couple of mutual friends with – at least you can safely assume they are not, like, a serial killer. That’s when the conversation took a turn that I never saw coming.

“You’re going to find this super creepy and weird,” she said, “but I think we might be… cousins. My mom has the same maiden name that your mom does.” Turns out adding my number to her phone had enabled her to find me on Facebook (we can talk about how creepy modern technology is at some other point in time) and knowing that she had long lost cousins who lived in New York City, Tayla realized that my uncle, her second cousin, was a mutual friend of ours. Upon asking her parents, she found out I was her second cousin once removed and that our mothers have been connected on Facebook for years.

I am not often one to be surprised, yet these facts left me in utter dismay. Frankly, I was just a little disappointed that I had not figured it out myself first.

“I always knew I’d find one of my cousins randomly like this, I just always thought I’d end up dating one of them,” Tayla quipped, giving me my new greatest fear. I, too, had always had a feeling I would find a long lost family member or friend of my parents’, but I always imagined it would happen in the Jewish professional world.

In shock, I called my mother on speakerphone right then and there. Full disclosure, I had called her on my walk to the apartment, too. “That was quick,” she said. When I told her the story of who this potential roommate was, my mother bursted out laughing and started reminiscing on the last time she had seen her second cousin — when she was an infant at my first cousin’s bris, of course.

“So… Are we doing this? Am I moving in?” I asked in a rather forward manner. Tayla reluctantly jumped on board; she still had two other roommate dates booked, but she sent me the lease application first thing the next morning.

Turns out there is something nice about living with fellow Jewish women — and sometimes that familial feeling is because they’re literally your family. Not only was Apartment 5N in the perfect location at the perfect price, but it also became the story of how I met my cousin on Roomi.

Alyssa Hartstein

Alyssa Hartstein is a Jewish communal professional who lives in Manhattan. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, taking spin classes, and trying new restaurants. You can keep up with her adventures on almost any form of social media at @arhartstein.

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