|Online dating finds religion
Goldmann, founder of the Jewish online dating service SawYouAtSinai.com. (Photo
courtesy of Marc Goldmann)
By Erin Cline
Edited by Adam Beam
“What’s your sign?” might be
replaced by “How’s your prayer life?” as singles are signing up at faith-based
dating Web sites in search of a perfect mate.
After an increase in users in 2002 and 2003, the online dating industry as a
whole has been in decline. According to a Feb. 9 report from Jupiter Research –
a group studying the impact of the Internet on business – 33 percent fewer
people use online dating than a year ago. But faith-based dating Web sites say
their client bases are increasing as people search for mates who share their
spiritual and moral values.
Sites such as JDate.com, Qiran.com, WhereChristiansMeet.com and
CatholicSingles.com are trying to attract singles searching for a deeper, more
Marc Goldmann, founder of SawYouAtSinai.com, a dating service based out of New
York that caters to Jews, predicts a migration from more generalized
online-dating sites to those like his. In the past year, Goldmann said his
membership has grown from 700 to almost 8,000. He said religious sites will
aggressively develop to compete with dating sites with a more secular
“There is a growth in religious fervor in the U.S. and across the world,” he
said. “That is a factor that must be focused on in online dating.”
On SawYouAtSiani, members can’t browse other member profiles. Instead, the site
uses the Jewish tradition of matchmaking to pair its members. The site has 160
matchmakers who get to know other members by telephone, e-mail and online
chatting. The matchmaker pulls profiles of potential dates for a member to
review and decide whether to pursue.
“Matchmaking goes back as far as the three founding fathers of Jewish religion,”
Goldmann said. “It is very ingrained in our Jewish belief, but times change and
you have to meld the old with the new.”
Ranya El-Farnawani, founder of TwoMuslims.com, said she wanted to make it easier
for Muslims to find each other. She said her site factors traditions found in
Islam that value different dating customs. Not only can Muslims check out the
more than 16,000 other members for relationships, but parents can also browse
the site’s members in order to make a selection for their son or daughter.
“Just being a Muslim isn’t enough,” she said. “You want to find someone who is
Muslim the same way you are a Muslim.”
El-Farnawani also views her site as a way to help Muslims maintain their
religious standards in a secular world.
“Our site helps them to find people without being tempted for things they aren’t
looking for on a regular site,” she said.
Eharmony.com, which markets itself as a “relationship-building service,” has
close to 7 million members, with almost 15,000 joining daily, spokeswoman
Marylyn Warren said. Although eHarmony does not promote one religion, the
matchmaking process considers members' religious preferences and denominations
to match people who have a similar religious foundation.
That foundation is vital, according to Howard Waddell, a counselor at Palmetto
Health Pastoral Counseling Services.
“Faith-oriented traditions are drawing people into better relationships,” he
Waddell said mixing religions in a relationship can be a burden on the already
tough adjustment to the other person’s family, values, economic standing and
background. It’s something that Christian ministers, including Shandon Baptist
Church’s Steve Turner, have come to agree on.”
“The Bible says we are not to be unequally yoked,” said Turner, who serves as
the Columbia church’s college minister. “I think that’s a principle that shows
Christians should, for the most part, date Christians.
“Whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist, you’re going to want to
marry someone with similar beliefs,” he said.
While online-dating services can help their members find people with parallel
beliefs, some fear that online dating ruins a fun tradition.
“So many of those things try to take what I consider some of the mystery and
excitement, and heartache, from finding suitable dating partners or spouses,”
said the Rev. Michael Henderson of Cayce United Methodist Church. “Computers
can digitize and quantify some of our information, but it can’t make up for the
mystery that comes between two people.”
Henderson said he has known successful couples that have met online but said it
seems that online couples “miss out on something.”
But El-Farnawani said she isn’t worried about people doubting her site.
“Once you meet the right person, you won’t care how you met them,” she said.
“That’s the bottom line."