A Match Made on Sinai SawYouAtSinai.com gives
Orthodox singles a piece of the online dating pie
By Pat Launer
Looking for your bashert (soul-mate)? You’ve probably already seen him/her – at
Sinai. When the Torah was delivered, every Jewish soul stood at Mt. Sinai with his
or her soul-mate, according to the Midrash (Jewish commentaries). Now all you need
is someone to reunite you.
An online site just for Orthodox Jewish singles, it has been in business for two
years, and boasts 13,000 members worldwide. 194 “matches” have been made, thanks
to, in the site’s words, “more than 300 reputable matchmakers.”
SawYouAtSinai claims that it “combines the power of technology, the accessibility
of the internet and the personal touch of a matchmaker.” Their shadchans work with
Modern Orthodox to ‘Yeshivish’ to ‘Black Hat’ Jews from around the world.
Founder/CEO Marc Goldmann reportedly had “a midlife crisis at age 34,” when he was
still single and working in the corporate world. He decided that he had to dedicate
himself to a project that had impact on the Jewish singles community. So, after
he found a wife in 2004, he left Wall Street behind to create “the ultimate online
There are other sites that cater to Jewish singles (JDate.com is the granddaddy, begun in 1997, with 600,000
members around the globe), and others that address themselves to the orthodox community
But though the costs are comparable (from free listings to $40/month), they don’t
have the two distinctive qualities of SawYouAtSinai (SYAS): matchmakers and privacy.
Unlike most dating sites, there is no ‘browsing’ of other members’ profiles and
photos. Each member gets to choose up to three personal matchmakers, who hand-pick
potential matches. The matchmaker only shows a profile and picture to potential
matches. That makes the site more confidential and discreet than most others. It’s
geared for people who are interested in marriage (JDate also accommodates those
who are looking for ‘just a date’ or an ‘activity partner’).
Like some other sites, there is a charity section; SYAS supports Simchat Tzion,
an organization that covers the wedding costs of needy Israeli orphans. There are
also listings of restaurant discounts and singles events (lectures, parties, cruises),
and lists of rabbis and community leaders who affirm that SYAS conforms to halacha
(Jewish law), including the President of the Rabbinical Council of America and the
National Director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY).
When you become a member of SawYouAtSinai, you fill out a comprehensive questionnaire
about your religious background, lifestyle, interests, references, self-description
and criteria for a mate. You then select your matchmaker(s), based on their background,
interests and focus; some specialize in particular ages, religious orientations,
locations or personalities.
Matchmakers get to know you through email or phonecalls. They may verify your information
through your references or an interview. Once the matchmaker offers a matching profile,
you have ten days to “accept” or “decline.” The system blocks the same match from
being suggested twice, and all responses are kept in strict confidence. When two
members agree to a match, SYAS sends contact information so you can arrange a chat
or date. Men are expected to contact women within three days. The matchmaker may
assist the couple through the dating process, if they desire.
A year ago, Ron Caplan was a 24 year-old student at the Ohr Somayach Yeshiva/Educational
Center in Monsey (Rockland County) New York. He had signed up on several Jewish
singles sites, but found that they just amounted to “looking at pretty girls.”
For months, he didn’t go on one date. When he found SawYouAtSinai.com, he realized that everyone there was “serious
about getting married.” His matchmaker lived in Chicago, but she seemed right for
him. She sent him four matches at a time. “They send them to the guy first,” says
the affable Caplan, who’s currently a graduate student in computational science
at San Diego State University. “That way, the girls don’t feel bad if you ‘decline’
Caplan reviewed about 40-50 profiles, and ‘accepted’ about 15. “I was rejected by
most of those,” he admits.
“It just came back ‘Female Declined.’”
Ultimately, he only dated two women through SYAS, one of whom he married. He liked
the idea of having a matchmaker as intermediary.
“Most of the time,” he says, “people don’t know what they want. There’s often a
big difference between what people say they want and what they really need. It’s
good to have an independent party to match you up.”
Only after they were married did the couple share their original, online ideal-mate
lists: “I don’t fit any of hers,” Caplan chuckles. “And she doesn’t fit at least
half of mine!”
SYAS encourages members to be open-minded, to take as long as they need to get acquainted
before they get engaged, but then they should schedule the wedding as soon as possible.
Caplan was committed to the ‘no-touch’ pre-marital rules of Jewish law. He and Molly
Cherniak, age 23, who lived in Baltimore, dated for two months (about ten dates),
then they were engaged for four months (“too long,” Ron says). They were married
on December 28, 2005. Both would definitely recommend SawYouAtSinai.
“It’s a larger, nationwide dating pool, for one thing,” says Ron. “It’s a different
style from those geared to people who are not religious,” adds Molly. Both agree:
“Bashert is a concept we believe in.”
In the middle of the SYAS dating game is the matchmaker. San Diegans Karen Bloch
and Raquel Schraub have both served as SYAS matchmaking volunteers. Karen, born
in South Africa, is a marriage and family therapist in La Jolla. She and Raquel
co-wrote a singles/dating advice column for the site called “Kol Chatan V’kol Kallah”
(voice of the groom and the bride).
“It’s a great site,” says Karen. “The potential for people to be matched is very
good. I had never done matchmaking before. I realized I’m better at analyzing or
deconstructing marriages than constructing them,” she says with a laugh. She’s backed
off on the matches, but still continues the column.
Raquel, a former actor with a Ph.D. in history, has left SYAS. “I’ve always been
a great networker,” she says. “I see lost souls, people who are lonely, and it’s
easy for me to see who might go together. I made about 20 shidduchim for them, about
40 total over the past 15 years. But I felt that my philosophy of matchmaking was
vastly different from all these sites.”
So what’s a shatchan to do? Schraub just launched her own site, called odyeshama.com,
taken from the title of a joyous Jewish wedding song. Jewish converts (ger tzedek,
converts for righteous reasons) are her specialty, but she accepts all orthodox
“I’m trying to take the best of all sites, and add my sensitive, caring approach.
I don’t think you can be trained how to make matches. I believe it’s a gift from
Meanwhile, SawYouAtSinai is also branching out, with a new site called jretromatch.com.
Currently centered in the Tri-State area (New York/New Jersey/Connecticut), it’s
organized just like SYAS, but caters to Conservadox, Conservative, Reform, Secular
and Unaffiliated Jewish Singles. The ‘Retro’ name refers to the traditional means
of getting together -- matchmaking.
Many of these sites attract primarily younger singles, age 20-40. But there’s probably
someone out there – from Sinai to cyberspace – for everyone.