The Jerusalem Report
It was a match made in cyberspace. Sandra was a Miami artist with a penchant for skiing. David was an eligible young lawyer with a keen interest in sports. The catch: he was working in Japan, and the chances of their ever meeting were zero. But surfing the internet one lonely night, David stumbled across Jewish Quality Singles, and e-mailed Devora Alouf, the site's New York Matchmaker, asking to join.
"I was reluctant to let him because we have on other clients in Japan," she recalls. But two days later, Alouf got a phone call from long-time client Sandra: she'd be unavailable for dating for several weeks, because she was taking a trip to Japan. "It was a long shot," says Mrs. Alouf, "particularly since I'd never met one of the partners. But it worked." Mrs. Alouf provided e-mail addresses, the couple spent a week together and, according to Alouf, are almost engaged.
It's unclear how many couples have met and married via the Internet, but experts agree that a boom in websites catering to Jewish singles has broadened the relatively narrow opportunities open to them, especially those in small communities, or without any community at all. "I originally became a matchmaker to help stop assimilation," says Alouf, "and Jews in remote places are at most risk."
Virtual mating rituals reflect real world changes. First came the online chat rooms, sites for personal ads and dating services, where clients can post their addresses, photos, and personal messages without committing to commit. In the past two years, the trend has been shidduch sites carefully controlled by matchmakers who stay in touch and aim for matrimony. Today there are over a dozen such sites; 250,000 are said to have visited the sites, Devora Alouf's Jewish Quality Singles sites are www.jqs.com and www.jmatch.com.
All is not virtual or impersonal in the world of cyber-shaddchan dating. Matchmakers insist that they try to meet clients for interviews, ask for references, and keep in touch by phone.
Jeff Cohen, a 35-year-old owner of a real estate company in Indianapolis, a city with only 13,000 Jews, loves the net. "I used to go to singles parties. But there were no Jews, and I eventually stopped trying." Six months ago, a friend suggested he check out Jewish Quality Singles, and he hasn't logged out since. "I'm satisfied that everyone is Jewish, and that the matchmaker has talked to them. Before I joined, the chance of me marrying Jewish were close to zero. Now, at least I know there are Jewish women out there."