Innovative Approach to Shidduch Crisis

By Devora Mandell

JP Correspondent

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C. and a leading Jewish activist, says he is very concerned over the alarmingly high rate of intermarriage and dwindling Jewish statistics. Similarly, he is troubled over what has recently been labeled “the shidduch crisis” where a growing number of singles in the Jewish community are unable to find a proper match.

Nevertheless, Herzfeld says he has grown tired of just discussing these serious concerns without any real solution in sight. Eager to put his money where his mouth is, Herzfeld decided on a plan of action and announced through a mass email to several thousand his innovative plan and The National Synagogue’s commitment to pay a year-long membership fee for any individual who requests to join either one of the dating websites SawYouAtSinai.com or JRetroMatch.com.

SawYouAtSinai.com is an online matchmaking service with over three hundred volunteer matchmakers that caters exclusively to the Orthodox Jewish community. Founded in 2003, SawYouAtSinai.com claims responsibility for the successful matches of over 500 members. JRetroMatch.com works on the same model as SawYouAtSinai.com but serves anyone who classifies themselves as anything other than Orthodox. The goal of JRetroMatch.com is to ensure that Jewish people who date are given potential Jewish matches regardless of their religious affiliation and subsequently have hired ten matchmakers to implement this. Both dating websites were created by Marc Goldmann. Some of the other dating services which nominally serve the Jewish community, and one would assume champion Jewish survival, paradoxically allow non-Jews to participate in the dating process.

Herzfeld says he was inspired while reading an article in USA Today about a New Jersey Rabbi who offered to sponsor the online dating membership for any of his congregants if they would only ask for it. But Herzfeld has his own reservations about online dating websites ever since a congregant confided they dated someone they met in this manner to only discover after well into the relationship that the other was never Jewish to begin with. Herzfeld says his interest is in making Jewish to Jewish matches and building the Jewish community, “I personally recommend SawYouAtSinai or JRetroMatch since I trust the quality controls they have in place.”

Ron Kleinfeldt, a member of The National Synagogue and a registered volunteer matchmaker with SawYouAtSinai.com says, “There is a two-fold goal in sponsoring this program, the first is to take care of the singles in our community and the second is to offer an incentive to get them to come to services.”

While Herzfeld repeatedly stresses that one does not have to be a member of The National Synagogue to take advantage of the sponsorship, he stipulates that one must attend The National Synagogue at least five times in a two-month period. The grant will be offered to the first forty people who request it. With an optimistic attitude, Herzfeld says, “Of course, if this works out, I know a rabbi who can officiate at the wedding for no charge.”