Jonathan Strauss was reached by the woman who would become his wife ‘4 hours after he posted his picture on the Jewish dating Website www.frumster.com even though he lived in New Jersey and she lived in Switzerland. A week after they first made contact by e-mail, she visited New York and they met. A few weeks later, he traveled to Switzerland, and they began a serious relationship.
Jonathan and Rachel Strauss on their wedding day in ‘005.
Rachel Strauss said, "We were living in different countries and had no friends in common, so if it wasn’t for Frumster, it is possible we might never have met."
Frumster calls itself the most successful Jewish dating-for-marriage service worldwide, on the basis of the number of marriages that have taken place (710 and counting) and the average number of members who get engaged or married each month (18).
Frumster began in Israel in ‘001 as an online service for "sincere and marriage-minded" Orthodox Jews. The company was bought by a small group of investors in ‘003 and moved to Passaic; now 75 percent of its members come from North America, with the rest from South Africa, Israel, Europe, Australia, and other places. From the start, the owners recognized that the audience had needs that were different from most dating services. Modesty was one; photos are routinely checked for appropriate garb and pose. Another was screening and security; applicants who apply online are only approved after a telephone interview. Another concern, as stated on the company’s Website, is that its members "care as much about a potential match’s values and character as how he or she looks."
Jerry and Rachel Schranz, married in ‘003.
Frumster "adheres to Orthodox values and consults with an Orthodox rabbi to maintain service suitable for all Jews serious about finding a marriage partner and building a Jewish home." Necessary qualifications include being Jewish and being marriage-minded. "Marriage is seen as an end point for this group," reports Frumster’s director of marketing, Derek Saker. "It’s not like other online services, where people date and date, and no one ends up getting married." Today Frumster has nearly ‘4,000 members.
According to Saker, Frumster began to notice that more Jews who were not Orthodox were signing up for the service because of its track record for marriages. This group turned out to be equally marriage-minded and looking to build a Jewish home, but frustrated by mismatches and dating services that were Jewish in name only. When less-observant Jews began expressing interest, Frumster’s owners realized they had a second market in a non-Orthodox group. The Website allows applicants to indicate their level of observance in order to find someone who matches it.
"With Frumster, you have to declare yourself," says Rachel Schranz of Fair Lawn, who met her husband Jerry through Frumster and is now pregnant. "On other services, you can sign in as Reform and Conservative and Orthodox at the same time. You can’t do that on Frumster."
Membership costs between $10.95 and $14.95 per month, depending on the length of the subscription. Frumster also provides some scholarships each month to those facing difficult financial times usually widows with children.
Frumster also makes much of its ability to empower singles to take charge of their own dating fate, through careful monitoring and the insightful information provided on its profiles. "It is a great service because it puts the single person in the driver seat of his or her destiny, as opposed to relying on other people for a set-up," says Rachel Strauss.
"A Frumster profile is insightful, allows for creative expression, and, with audio introductions, enables the single to really provide a very comprehensive and absorbing introduction of him or herself," says Saker. Rachel Schranz’s husband Jerry says the profile allows any misunderstandings to be straightened out in advance.
In addition to their level of religious observance, applicants are asked to define their "Jewish outlook," their political views, their secular and professional backgrounds, and their views on aliyah, among other things. Unless they live outside the United States, they are then interviewed by telephone by a member of Frumster’s screening team. Profiles must be approved by the team, which usually takes less than ‘4 hours, before being posted on the Website.
The service also sponsors interactive forums for members, which means that they can connect with any online forum on www.frumster.com and express an opinion. Comments are published and linked to their profiles, giving members another way to find each other.
"You can do your own research on Frumster, ask your own questions," says Jerry Schranz. "It’s not like putting yourself in the hands of the shadchan, like you used to."