Responding to widespread concern about the plight of single
Orthodox Jews, nine influential Orthodox rabbis have endorsed an
Internet dating site.
The rabbis, who include two heads of
Yeshiva University’s rabbinical seminary and the president of the
Rabbinical Council of America, declared SawYouAtSinai.com — which
combines the Internet with traditional matchmakers — to be a
“halachically permissible way for people to find their match.”
One of the rabbis, Hershel Billet, immediate past president
of the RCA and the spiritual leader of Young Israel of Woodmere,
added, “For religious Jews who consistently abide to a stringent
level of modesty, the Internet-matchmaker combination bridges the
gap between a traditional private approach and a popular modern
trend that is widely gaining acceptance.”
comes as EndTheMadness, a campaign “to alleviate the stresses and
hardships of dating in the observant Jewish community,” is
circulating a “code of responsibility” for matchmakers and talking
to various players about creating a course or certification program
for prospective matchmakers. Among other things, the code — which
proponents say is being used as a “jumping off point for discussion”
— asks matchmakers to advocate honest exchange of information, be
open about fees and treat individuals with sensitivity and respect
“regardless of their idiosyncrasies or seemingly undesirable
As with other Web dating sites, users on
SawYouAtSinai, which was founded in November, submit profiles and
pictures for potential partners to view. But they also meet with a
matchmaker and provide references — and can only access profiles
that the matchmaker sends their way. Founder Marc Goldmann, a
35-year-old entrepreneur from the Upper West Side, likens the
SawYouAtSinai process to having an “agent” and notes that it
protects users’ privacy more than typical sites in which profiles
can be viewed by anyone surfing the Web.
Goldmann — who
works with 90 matchmakers, all volunteers — said he is in discussion
with EndTheMadness leaders about incorporating some sort of code of
responsibility into his work, but they have not agreed on the
wording or details.
The rabbinic endorsement is a major coup
for SawYouAtSinai, since it caters to people who are highly
concerned with halachic issues and the opinion of respected rabbis.
Goldmann said he intends to seek additional rabbinic endorsements,
not only among modern and centrist Orthodox rabbis, but among haredi
ones as well.
“Once certain well-respected rabbis get on
board it is easier to get others,” he said.
the only other major North American dating site targeting Orthodox
Jews, does not have any rabbinic endorsements and is not currently
seeking them, said Derek Saker, Frumster’s director of marketing.
The site is under Orthodox rabbinic supervision, but Saker declined
to say which rabbis it consults.
“Frumster is not in direct
‘competition’ with SawYouAtSinai,” Saker added by e-mail. “We
sincerely wish them best success in their endeavors. Frumster offers
a completely different dating service model — that works! Frumster
empowers single Orthodox Jews, both male and female to conduct their
own searches and make their own judgments in a secure environment of
anonymity — as opposed to the traditional reliance on other third
Founded in 2001, Frumster has 12,000 users and
takes credit for 111 marriages. SawYouAtSinai currently has 3,100
users. Currently free, SawYouAtSinai plans to charge approximately
$10 per month in a few months. Frumster recently began charging
$8.95 per month for “premium” memberships; regular membership, which
is free, enables users to post and view profiles, but not contact or
be contacted by other users.
Of the rabbis endorsing
SawYouAtSinai who agreed to speak with The Jewish Week, all praised
SawYouAtSinai but declined to offer opinions about Frumster.
“I’m not saying other systems are no good. I just don’t know
about them,” said Rabbi Kenneth Auman, president of the Rabbinical
Council of America and spiritual leader of Young Israel of Flatbush.
“I’m not familiar with the other sites,” agreed Rabbi
Billet. “I have nothing bad to say about them: I simply don’t know
Other rabbis endorsing SawYouAtSinai are Rabbi Shmuel
Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah of Endglewood, N.J.; Rabbi Mark
Wildes, founder and director of the Manhattan Jewish Experience;
Rabbi Eitan Meyer of the Jewish Center of Manhattan’s Upper West
Side; Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the RCA;
Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohab Zedek on Manhattan’s Upper West Side,
Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter.
Willig and Schachter are both roshei yeshiva of YU’s Rabbi Isaac
Elchanan Theological Seminary. The two, who are widely regarded as
being on the right-wing end of centrist Orthodoxy, both declined to
be interviewed, citing longstanding policies of not speaking to the