It works. It really works.
It is hard to find a Jewish organization today that is not talking about Jewish continuity in some form or another. In the wake of the Pew report on Judaism, we have learned that intermarriage rates in the Jewish community continue to rise. And perhaps more noticeable a trend than the charted increase is the fact that it is worrying to fewer people.
All surveys point in the same direction: endogamy – Jews marrying Jews – is the simplest recipe for Jewish continuity.
The best program I know of to get that result is JDate.
I am the rabbi of a congregation well known for its beauty and its world-class caterer, so weddings are common occurrences here at Temple Emanu-El. Not only do I meet with every couple at whose I nuptials I officiate, I also invite them to our home for Shabbat dinner beforehand. That way, my family can model the blessings of Shabbat and get to know one another better.
About eight years ago, a group of couples all getting married in the coming months sat around our table. My wife, who does not get to know the couples in meetings as I do, always asks each one for their story: how they met, their proposal stories, and so on. On that Friday night, in between chicken soup and gefilte fish, each couple told their story – and we learned we were at a JDate table. Each of the five couples met through JDate.
After that dinner, I started keeping track of how the couples whose weddings I performed met. I was amazed when the data showed that more than 70 percent of them were the result of JDate.
Shortly after, I decided to do something radical. On Rosh Hashanah, I described my findings to our congregation and offered to pay for monthly subscriptions to JDate for all eligible members. A few minutes after Havdalah, my phone began ringing off the hook. Single members of all ages were asking for me to sign them up.
For many, the barrier that stopped them from doing it for themselves was not the money. It was their mother or father nagging them to go on JDate that inhibited them. They thought JDate had a stigma, that it signed desperation or embarrassment. For some reason, the “cover” I offered encouraged people to take the plunge. (Of course, I kept all registrations a private matter.)
While half of the singles in the congregation were getting subscriptions, the parents and others donated funds to power the endeavor.
This past year, our synagogue community witnessed a wonderful dividend on our investment. Three couples were married there, all of whom had heard about the JDate initiative on Rosh Hashanah and followed up with subscriptions. They were married within a few months of each other.
One couple is in their late 20s, another couple is a set of widowers who had lost their spouses a few years earlier, and the third couple was both professionals who were approaching 40. In each case, the magnetic field of JDate allowed them to pull one toward the other. Now, their hearts are filled and their lives are infused with added meaning. I can hear my Bubbie saying from above, “every jar has a special lid.” Indeed.
We have come a long way from Yenta the matchmaker – or maybe we haven’t. Maybe she is just doing the same work using a different platform, one that speaks the language of our tech-driven society.
I guess that is the essence of Judaism: synthesizing new realities with our tradition.
So, all the single ladies (and men) get on JDate. It works. It really, really works!