What Kind Of Kipa Do You Wear?
Julie Wiener
SawYouAtSinai’s Marc Goldmann: Site combines Internet dating with matchmaking. Michael Datikash

Chasia, 27, is seeking “a bright mensch with genuine simchas ha-chaim, enthusiasm for yiddishkeit and learning, and Yeshivish-style hashkafa.”

Melech Tvi, 28, wants a woman who is “ warm and fun loving with a zest for life, a love of Yiddushkite, and has a desire to grow spiritually down life’s path with me.”

Forget your Internet stereotypes about steamy, anonymous hookups. Forget the photos of scantily clad babes. Unless you have a fetish for Yiddishisms, yarmulkes and detailed descriptions of religious observance, you’ll find the thousands of profiles on Frumster.com to be, well, frum.

With more Orthodox Jews believed to be unmarried than at any other time in history, according to experts — and decreasing opportunities out there for observant singles to socialize in person with the opposite sex — growing numbers are turning to the Internet for help finding a soul mate.

Even those from the fervently Orthodox end of the spectrum, where leaders tend to frown on Internet use for anything other than business, are surfing en route to the chupah.

Challenging Frumster, another site — SawYouAtSinai — recently ventured into the market. Both sites see themselves as the marriage-minded, observant Jew’s alternative to the immensely profitable Web giant Jdate. Currently both are free, but they plan to charge in the near future.

Frumster, founded in December 2001 by Canadian-born Israeli Grayson Levy (who recently sold the site to Orthodox investors), has 9,900 active users around the world, approximately 80 percent in the United States.

The site offers users the chance to search by age, geographic location and “hashkafa.” The choices: “modern Orthodox-liberal,” “modern Orthodox-machmir,” “yeshivish-black hat,” “Carlebachian” and “Chassidish.”

In addition to posting personality traits and smoking habits, each Frumster male also lists how often he prays and studies Torah and what kind of yarmulke he wears, and each woman lists whether she wears skirts exclusively and intends to cover her hair after she marries.

Frumster officials insist the site is under rabbinic supervision and is heavily screened to ensure that profiles are truthful and everyone is actually Orthodox, but they are somewhat mysterious about the details of how.

Derek Saker, the site’s director of marketing, said he cannot disclose the site’s screening techniques and will not reveal the rabbi’s identity other than to say he is a “YU type” and “more to the right.”

Channie Braun Michanik, 27, of Cherry Hill, N.J., is one of 196 people who met her spouse on Frumster. She credits the process with being “private, modest” and enabling her and her future husband to “do things on our own terms.”

However, she insists that one should be sure to “check references” before setting up a face-to-face meeting.

Michanik’s husband, Tzvi, also 27, said he was reluctant initially to try Internet dating, seeing it as “the latest fad.” But he ultimately decided “it empowers people who did not feel they were attaining success through the traditional shidduch method.”

With its novel approach, the rapidly growing SawYouAtSinai hopes to avoid some of the perils of Web dating. Launched in November, the site is the brainchild of management consultant and entrepreneur Marc Goldmann, a single Orthodox Jew.

Goldmann, 35, was impressed by the large pool of Internet dating sites offered, but he was reluctant to post his profile for all the world to see and leery of managing e-mail contacts with people who could be lying. SawYouAtSinai, which is open to Conservative as well as Orthodox Jews, aims to be a discreet and more personalized alternative. Users must meet with a matchmaker and provide references; the matchmakers then select appropriate profiles for them to view.

Goldmann likens the approach to having an “agent,” and many of the 74 matchmakers currently working with the site say it has revolutionized their trade by expanding the pool of potential matches and substantially reducing their administrative burden.

However, users have to limit their contacts to people the matchmaker selects.

Frumster and SawYouAtSinai officials insist that the market is large enough for both.

“Orthodox singles who really want to get married will choose a variety of vehicles if they see potential in them,” said Frumster’s Saker, who estimates that there may be as many as 80,000 Orthodox singles worldwide.

While SawYouAtSinai is “a great idea,” Saker said that “for people frustrated with the shadchan system it doesn’t provide an answer. Our site lets people be selective themselves and make the judgment themselves.”

Unlike Frumster, SawYouAtSinai is too new to have spurred marriages, but it already has 2,100 users and takes the credit for three engagements.

And the site also appears to have provided good luck to founder Goldmann: He started dating his current girlfriend the day he decided to start the company.