Montreal is no Anatevka, but a local matchmaking site is bringing the matchmaker back to town.
The city’s locally based Jewish matchmaking network, JMontreal.com, has garnered over one thousand sign-ups. An algorithm identifies similar personalities, and matchmakers review the suggestions from the system, and then extensively interview each individual before passing contact information on to the each party.
“It started with a growing local base of young professionals,” explains Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, director and Chabad of NDG and Loyola Campus. After he made twenty matches with people in his network, he took it online with JMontreal.com, which has facilitated over 250 introductions.
It didn’t take long for Bernath to identify a large group of natural partners in his matchmaking efforts: In recent years, Chabad representatives have cultivated communities of young, Jewish professionals -- the same audience and demographic that Bernath is targeting with JMontreal.com
“It’s an extraordinarily efficient way for Chabad representatives to tap into their networks of young professionals and make Jewish marriages happen,” says Bernath.
But it took two and a half years of work on the back-end of the site before Bernath was ready for expansion. Working closely with Woodmere Asset Management, the parent company of the popular Jewish matchmaking site SawYouAtSinai.com, Bernath developed a powerful database behind a secure user interface that records the necessary information for each profile. Users cannot browse or access other profiles on JMontreal.com.
Then Bernath took everything he learned at JMontreal.com and partnered with Chabad centers in the US who cater to young professionals. Three sites launched in the last two months, JDallas.com, JBoston.org, and JMiami.org, in each respective city. Ten more sites are set to launch over the next year. Also part of the network is JJunction.org.au in Sydney, Australia, run by Rabbi Mendel Kastel. All the administrative work on the back-end is streamlined between all sites, and the new sites are using the same database system.
Already, JDallas.com has drawn over 70 sign-ups on the site, according to Aida Drizin, co-director of The Intown Chabad in Uptown Dallas for young professionals.
“So far, people have been very receptive,” she says. “They’re happy to know that someone they can trust is looking out for them. And for us, it’s important that we help the young adults that we come in contact with to marry Jewish.”
Like all the other sites, JDallas.com is limited to residents of Dallas. While online matchmaking sites generally create global or national networks, the location-specific element at JDallas.com is a big draw for young adults, says Drizin.
“Many people aren’t ready to commit to a long distance relationship,” she explains.
Yet for the segment of members who would consider dating a Jewish person out of state, Bernath is well prepared. Over the next ten years, he plans to roll out 50 sites in locations around the world. Eventually, users will be able to choose to stay local or be matched with a member in the country, or abroad.
Ultimately, one international website will connect the dots for Jewish singles involved in networks of young professionals at Chabad centers, globally.
“With the network we have in place in the Chabad movement, we can launch this locally and on a global scale,” explains Bernath.
“We think this will change the way Jewish people think about dating.”
It will also change the intermarriage rates. “Technology can definitely help connect Jewish singles,” says Doron Kornbluth, author of Why Marry Jewish? and a sought-after international speaker on intermarriage.
“As long as they veto power over who they meet, people are open to this, and once they meet they take it from there,” says Kornbluth. In addition, the matchmakers offer members guidance throughout the dating process when members enlist their help.
More than 100 years since matchmakers plied their service, “matchmaking is back,” says Bernath, “but with a modern twist.”
The project was sponsored in part by a grant from The Machane Israel Development Fund.