A Blast From the Past: Shadchanim Venture Online

By: Mordechai Shinefield  |  9/20/05

Having traded matchmakers for profiles, a new website is offering a deal to all Yeshiva University students; SawYouAtSinai.com will give Yeshiva Students one free month on their Jewish dating site.

JDate and other popular online dating sites have long dominated the booming market with their profiles, pictures, and one-shot browsing. Influenced by the burgeoning online dating scene, they've carved out a niche with their emphasis on Jewish participants.

SawYouAtSinai.com contrasts sharply with the open source free-for-all of other dating sites. "We didn't have the standard JDate approach, where everything is just open," explains founder Mark Goldman. Instead, the site arranges for all members to be paired with matchmakers, and potential mates are matched through them. "Here we have a new dating approach."

That approach contains categories for Modern Orthodox Liberal, Modern Orthodox Machmir, Yeshivish Black Hat, and Traditional. While the site might pair a Liberal Modern Orthodox Jew with a Machmir one, Traditional has little chance of getting matched with Yeshivish. "Catagories are just that. Nobody fits the mode. We don't say only date within this category," Goldman said.

SawYouAtSinai.com believes that their methodology of referring users to shadchanim solves many of the problems plaguing the online dating community. In an age of cyberstalking and identity theft, anonymity is assured when one contacts potential mates only through an intermediary. Another abuse of the system is also circumvented by using matchmakers: false and misleading profiles. "Matchmakers call you, get to know you, sometimes require a face-to-face interview. The Jewish community is small," says Goldman.

64 couples have met through the site already, and 11,000 members have registered since their launch in December 2003. Most members are located in the United States, though some clock in from Europe and Israel. The majority are liberal, Modern Orthodox Jews.
In order to further the website's audience, SawYouAtSinai.com is recruiting college-aged users by offering a voucher to Yeshiva students. "When in school, they haven't had a chance to explore what options they have outside their group of friends," Goldman explained. Entering the code YU on the website will give students one month free as part of a three-month package. Dissatisfied customers can cancel their subscriptions. "It takes three months to get a really good feel for which matchmakers they are clicking with."

Goldman says the website has been endorsed by a number of Roshei Yeshiva, including Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Herschel Schachter. He claims that they have indicated that the site falls within normative halachic guidelines. "We are doing it in a modest way that pays attention to the singles themselves," Goldman says.

The offer speaks both to the reality of multiple Jewish matchmaking sites vying for a position in a small market and an attempt to align SawYouAtSinai.com with the Modern Orthodox community. Whereas JDate offers the ability to advertise for "short-term" dating, appealing to a wide swath of Jewish identity, SawYouAtSinai.com says they are only for serious users. "The focus is for serious minded individuals," Goldman said. In response to JDate's short-term dating offer, he explained, "That's not on our site at all. We're for people who are looking to get married, whether in two weeks or two months. That's what the matchmakers are there for."