The 15 women sitting around Renee Glick’s West Orange living room take seriously the maxim that if you make three matches, you earn your place in heaven. Each was serving as a representative for someone looking for love — a daughter, a friend, a fellow congregant, even someone they had just met. For 30 seconds, they offered a brief bio of each person on their lists.
“This is E.R. She is 23, Modern Orthodox machmir,” or religiously strict, said one of the women, holding up a photo and reading from a brief bio.
She then went on to describe where “E.R.” lives, where she went to yeshiva, where she attends synagogue, and what she does for a living.
“She’s an easy-going and positive person with a sense of humor,” said the woman. E.R., she added, is “looking for a real mensch, mature, responsible, who values emes [the truth]…and has a positive attitude and a sense of tsnius [modesty] in the way he behaves.”
Others in the circle described “a 38-year-old Lubavitch ba’al teshuva,” or newly Orthodox Jew, as well as never-marrieds, the recently divorced, and widows and widowers variously described as “beautiful,” “bubbly,” and “yeshivish.”
And so it went, at the third meeting of the Shidduch Project of West Orange and Livingston, a matchmaking club that recalls an era before JDate and other websites usurped the roles of community shadhanim.
Begun about six months ago by Glick, a resident of West Orange and member of Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David, it joins matchmaking clubs all over the east coast, including the North Jersey Shidduch Club. While there are on-line dating services serving the Orthodox community — including frumster.com and sawyouatsinai.com — the shidduch club aims to be a grassroots response to what some call a “matchmaking crisis” in the Orthodox community. In short: The pool is too small, the expectations of single people can be too high, and modern matchmaking has lost the heimische touch.
“There seems to be a growing number of people who are single in our area,” Glick said. “And this is such an easy mitzva with the ability to change people’s lives.”
Still, she was wary in forming the club.
“I’ve been to shidduch club meetings before, and they can be so depressing, with all these mothers representing their daughters. And you get 20 guys and 120 girls,” said Glick.
While women are welcome to present their daughters, Glick said, she is trying to right the gender imbalance by actively tapping into the young men in her own community.
“I go to shul on Shabbos and walk around after the kiddush, talking up the young guys to get their single friends. The best way to tap into the guys is to go through their friends,” she said.
So far, her list includes 60 women and 40 men.
At the most recent meeting, the women offered a few tidbits about various candidates. They passed around photos and exchanged meaningful looks, and occasionally whispered the name of someone they thought might be a good match or scribbled a note about whom to contact. Those seeking a match ranged in age from 19 to 71.
Among the singles were a regional bank manager, a speech therapist, a nurse, and a teacher. Some were young and probably didn’t need the services of the shidduch group as much as older candidates looking for companionship did.
On this particular day, most of the people being presented were Orthodox, ranging from “very modern” to “black hat.” There were one or two liberal Jews for good measure. And while most were from the Livingston and West Orange Orthodox communities, there was at least one person from Elizabeth.
At previous meetings, according to Glick, there was more denominational diversity, enabling her to fix up, for example, a man from the Conservative Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell with a woman from Temple B’nai Abraham, an independent liberal synagogue in Livingston.
So far the group has arranged at least a few dates, but no weddings — yet; Glick remains hopeful.
Barbara Listhaus of Livingston shares Glick’s enthusiasm. She comes to the meetings with her smartphone in hand, scrolling back and forth through her own lists. She has already made dates for six people presented at previous meetings — including one couple that had been fixed up in the past. So far, none blossomed into relationships, but, like Glick, she persists.
After the presentations, the women exchanged information and possible matches over dessert.
In addition to these meetings, Glick keeps a data base of the people who have been presented. For each person, a form must be filled out that includes more information than can be offered in 30 seconds — everything from religious affiliation to specific levels of observance to height and eye color. One man — described as a “very good looking guy” — specified that he was looking for a woman who doesn’t restrict her wardrobe to skirts, doesn’t insist on covering her hair if she marries, and doesn’t have more than one child already.
Although the forms are very specific, Glick wonders if all the information encourages people looking for dates to narrow their criteria too far. “What happened to just getting set up with people with similar values and seeing what happens?” she wondered aloud.
The group is still in its infancy, and the next meeting will be just for administrators and synagogue representatives to refine the process and work on networking with larger organizations, such as North Jersey Shidduch Club and YU Connects, the matchmaking effort of Yeshiva University.
Sitting in on the meeting is enough to make almost anyone start thumbing through those mental address books, looking for a match.
L.W., if you are reading this, are you interested in E.R., described above?
The next open gathering has not been scheduled, but will be held in early August or September.