Matchmaker, Make Me A Match!

Catherine Wallace
The Montreal Gazette

Marriage minded only need apply.

Devora Alouf, matchmaker to the Jewish community, keeps detailed files in her Snowdon apartment. Putting your name in Devora Alouf's files is not the same as placing a personal ad in the paper. You're divorced? She'll ask to see the documents. You're 6 feet tall? Hand over the photo at the personal interview. You just want to live with someone? Forget it.

"It's not a dating service" Mrs. Alouf emphasized in an interview yesterday in her Snowdon office "It's a marriage service" And Devora Alouf is the matchmaker. A bible teacher in adult-education classes, Mrs. Alouf said she follows guidelines from the Old Testament, the Talmud and other mostly Hebrew writings in matching up Jewish singles from around the world. And there are plenty of guidelines to follow, she said. The first matchmaker in the Jewish tradition was the man who found a wife for Abraham's son Isaac.

"How do you overcome troubles? Infatuation? Love at first sight? What does the Talmud think about attraction? There's a story about it," Mrs. Alouf said. "You can apply everything today." She believes strongly that Jews must marry Jews. That was one of the reasons she started the service, called Jewish Quality Singles, four years ago. "Many people are calling me who are not Jewish" Mrs. Alouf said. "But Jewish people have an extra problem. According to our faith we are not allowed to intermarry. Therefore their choices are fewer.

"I'm very much Jewish and I'm very much aware of what's happening to the Jewish nation." That said, Devora Alouf has not ruled out expanding her service to non-Jews in strictly separate files. "I know that the system will work with everyone." Devora Alouf starts with a three-hour personal interview with each potential client. There are varying costs after that if you continue with the service. She goes through the client's personal history, lifestyle, interests, goals, character. Then she moves on to the person the client wants to meet.

"When I have these two things who you want to meet and who you are I open up my books." Mrs. Alouf's books are binders, inches thick with photos and brief descriptions of the people she has on file. Everything is also computerized, "but the real computer is in my head" She said.

"The people on file are from all over the world, and of all ages," she said. Devora Alouf has connections in Toronto, Miami, New York and Israel, and people write in from other places. She spends a lot of time traveling to her other centers to talk to people personally.

Mrs. Alouf will describe some potential dates to a client, and if he or she is interested she'll hand over the names and phone numbers. If a woman doesn't feel comfortable calling a man, "I will do the job for them." If you go out on a date and don't want to see the person again, Mrs. Alouf will break it to him. If you have a specific criticism of the person that she has heard from several other clients, she may talk to him.

If a couple likes each other, Mrs. Alouf stops handing out their files. But if a relationship goes on too long without marriage being proposed, "I try to break it up. I don't want them to waste their time. I am against, of course, any living together or any kind of test." She's not successful with everyone, she said. "The idea is that if you are marriage material, you will meet someone. Some people will never marry. They keep looking. They don't realize how much time passes." Others, especially those who have been in unhappy marriages, may need more time to settle down. "I have cases where I think I have a marriage and at the last minute it's like a hurricane or an earthquake, and at the end everything is a ruin."

Mrs. Devora Alouf won't say how many marriages she has arranged, or even how many people she has in her files. "Numbers I will not give you because it's against my religion. If you count, there's a curse. It's like boasting." But she believes people need help these days in arranging marriages. "More and more they need direction and planning to find some sense in the trauma someone who is impartial and will have some sense of the solutions," she said. "I think today it's the best way to meet. You plan it, you have the possibilities, and you follow up. It's like building a house."

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