A Match Made on Sinai
gives Orthodox singles a piece of the online dating pie
By Pat Launer
Looking for your bashert (soul-mate)? You’ve probably already seen him/her – at
Sinai. When the Torah was delivered, every Jewish soul stood at Mt. Sinai with
his or her soul-mate, according to the Midrash (Jewish commentaries). Now all
you need is someone to reunite you.
An online site just for Orthodox Jewish singles, it has been in business for
two years, and boasts 13,000 members worldwide. 194 “matches” have been made,
thanks to, in the site’s words, “more than 300 reputable matchmakers.”
SawYouAtSinai claims that it “combines the power of technology, the
accessibility of the internet and the personal touch of a matchmaker.” Their
shadchans work with Modern Orthodox to ‘Yeshivish’ to ‘Black Hat’ Jews from
around the world.
Founder/CEO Marc Goldmann reportedly had “a midlife crisis at age 34,” when he
was still single and working in the corporate world. He decided that he had to
dedicate himself to a project that had impact on the Jewish singles community.
So, after he found a wife in 2004, he left Wall Street behind to create “the
ultimate online matchmaking network.”
There are other sites that cater to Jewish singles (JDate.com
is the granddaddy, begun in 1997, with 600,000 members around the globe), and
others that address themselves to the orthodox community (frumster.com,
But though the costs are comparable (from free listings to $40/month), they
don’t have the two distinctive qualities of SawYouAtSinai (SYAS): matchmakers
Unlike most dating sites, there is no ‘browsing’ of other members’ profiles and
photos. Each member gets to choose up to three personal matchmakers, who
hand-pick potential matches. The matchmaker only shows a profile and picture to
potential matches. That makes the site more confidential and discreet than most
others. It’s geared for people who are interested in marriage (JDate also
accommodates those who are looking for ‘just a date’ or an ‘activity partner’).
Like some other sites, there is a charity section; SYAS supports Simchat Tzion,
an organization that covers the wedding costs of needy Israeli orphans. There
are also listings of restaurant discounts and singles events (lectures,
parties, cruises), and lists of rabbis and community leaders who affirm that
SYAS conforms to halacha (Jewish law), including the President of the
Rabbinical Council of America and the National Director of the National
Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY).
When you become a member of SawYouAtSinai, you fill out a comprehensive
questionnaire about your religious background, lifestyle, interests,
references, self-description and criteria for a mate. You then select your
matchmaker(s), based on their background, interests and focus; some specialize
in particular ages, religious orientations, locations or personalities.
Matchmakers get to know you through email or phonecalls. They may verify your
information through your references or an interview. Once the matchmaker offers
a matching profile, you have ten days to “accept” or “decline.” The system
blocks the same match from being suggested twice, and all responses are kept in
strict confidence. When two members agree to a match, SYAS sends contact
information so you can arrange a chat or date. Men are expected to contact
women within three days. The matchmaker may assist the couple through the
dating process, if they desire.
A year ago, Ron Caplan was a 24 year-old student at the Ohr Somayach
Yeshiva/Educational Center in Monsey (Rockland County) New York. He had signed
up on several Jewish singles sites, but found that they just amounted to
“looking at pretty girls.”
For months, he didn’t go on one date. When he found
SawYouAtSinai.com, he realized that everyone there was “serious about
getting married.” His matchmaker lived in Chicago, but she seemed right for
him. She sent him four matches at a time. “They send them to the guy first,”
says the affable Caplan, who’s currently a graduate student in computational
science at San Diego State University. “That way, the girls don’t feel bad if
you ‘decline’ their profile.”
Caplan reviewed about 40-50 profiles, and ‘accepted’ about 15. “I was rejected
by most of those,” he admits.
“It just came back ‘Female Declined.’”
Ultimately, he only dated two women through SYAS, one of whom he married. He
liked the idea of having a matchmaker as intermediary.
“Most of the time,” he says, “people don’t know what they want. There’s often a
big difference between what people say they want and what they really need.
It’s good to have an independent party to match you up.”
Only after they were married did the couple share their original, online
ideal-mate lists: “I don’t fit any of hers,” Caplan chuckles. “And she doesn’t
fit at least half of mine!”
SYAS encourages members to be open-minded, to take as long as they need to get
acquainted before they get engaged, but then they should schedule the wedding
as soon as possible. Caplan was committed to the ‘no-touch’ pre-marital rules
of Jewish law. He and Molly Cherniak, age 23, who lived in Baltimore, dated for
two months (about ten dates), then they were engaged for four months (“too
long,” Ron says). They were married on December 28, 2005. Both would definitely
“It’s a larger, nationwide dating pool, for one thing,” says Ron. “It’s a
different style from those geared to people who are not religious,” adds Molly.
Both agree: “Bashert is a concept we believe in.”
In the middle of the SYAS dating game is the matchmaker. San Diegans Karen
Bloch and Raquel Schraub have both served as SYAS matchmaking volunteers.
Karen, born in South Africa, is a marriage and family therapist in La Jolla.
She and Raquel co-wrote a singles/dating advice column for the site called “Kol
Chatan V’kol Kallah” (voice of the groom and the bride).
“It’s a great site,” says Karen. “The potential for people to be matched is
very good. I had never done matchmaking before. I realized I’m better at
analyzing or deconstructing marriages than constructing them,” she says with a
laugh. She’s backed off on the matches, but still continues the column.
Raquel, a former actor with a Ph.D. in history, has left SYAS. “I’ve always
been a great networker,” she says. “I see lost souls, people who are lonely,
and it’s easy for me to see who might go together. I made about 20 shidduchim
for them, about 40 total over the past 15 years. But I felt that my philosophy
of matchmaking was vastly different from all these sites.”
So what’s a shatchan to do? Schraub just launched her own site, called
odyeshama.com, taken from the title of a joyous Jewish wedding song. Jewish
converts (ger tzedek, converts for righteous reasons) are her specialty, but
she accepts all orthodox comers.
“I’m trying to take the best of all sites, and add my sensitive, caring
I don’t think you can be trained how to make matches. I believe it’s a gift
Meanwhile, SawYouAtSinai is also branching out, with a new site called
jretromatch.com. Currently centered in the Tri-State area (New York/New
Jersey/Connecticut), it’s organized just like SYAS, but caters to Conservadox,
Conservative, Reform, Secular and Unaffiliated Jewish Singles. The ‘Retro’ name
refers to the traditional means of getting together -- matchmaking.
Many of these sites attract primarily younger singles, age 20-40. But there’s
probably someone out there – from Sinai to cyberspace – for everyone.
For feedback, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.