Our entire world has just been upended. It has become a complex and complicated place. The COVID-19 crisis has understandably impacted our health system, the economy, education and many other aspects of daily living. But what about dating? Can it survive, or even thrive, in this new “social distancing” atmosphere? There have always been challenges for the Jewish Orthodox dater. Is it still possible to navigate and build meaningful relationships?
As klal Yisroel, the Jewish people, we don’t give up hope easily. During the bondage in Mitzrayim the Jewish women had the courage to fight for the continuity of our people. And despite the persecution and torture, they knew that ultimately new families and a nation would be born.
At YUConnects, our staff is working hard, contributing their time and skills (and all their hearts), to reach out to our members who are isolated with few “live” social opportunities. The amount of interest in dating is incredible. Indeed, we encourage those who have begun to date to continue. Based on the advice of Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, we recommend only virtual dating (phone calls, WhatsApp or FaceTime/Zoom technology) at this point. Meeting outside, even at a distance or in a large room, all have the potential to spread this dangerous virus, they state. Of course, we pray for a change in circumstances as this guidance is applicable for the end of March 2020, and is always subject to change.
Virtual dating is clearly on the rise and our dedicated matchmakers are offering guidance and tips. A nice benefit is that people are becoming more relaxed in accepting some match ideas…“he doesn’t wear a hat? I’ll speak to him anyway”…. “she didn’t go to a certain school? That’s ok because I’ll find out more on the FaceTime call.” As people seek relationships to remove themselves from isolation, our prior walls and restrictions are falling. The resource guide prepared by YUConnects staff has been circulated online and offers practical tips on lighting and timing for video chats as well as innovative dating ideas. Virtual tours of museums, downloading game apps, reading aloud together or learning a hobby can all bring about new friendships and more.
YUConnects recently ran “The New World of Dating,” a popular webinar which includes some of these pointers and is available on YUTorah. Featuring Rabbi Willig, Rabbi Dr. Glatt, Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Schwartz and Mrs. Mindy Eisenman, many aspects of virtual dating were covered. Zoom capacity was maxed out but further forums are being planned. One young woman even wrote to the organizers asking if she could get information about “the cute guy in the blue sweater” who intrigued her when she spotted him on Zoom. The overall feedback from the community was quite appreciative and positive.
There have also been requests for “virtual social events,” which have been popping up in many creative ways. YUConnects matchmakers, along with other groups like Bergen Connections, have run small, interesting group virtual meetings via Google Hangout or Zoom. Other innovative programs are being planned, such as game nights and special lectures for compatible singles.
Everyone is looking for deeper meaning in this difficult period in our lives. Many of us have tried to become better people and improve our middos, davening or personal skills. Those who are currently unmarried are re-examining their values, honing their own personal/professional talents and doing chesed for others. By focusing on building simple friendships, enjoying some online activities and becoming open to new ideas, may everyone be granted the opportunity to find love. With Hashem’s help, our community will remain safe and be blessed to build many new Jewish homes.
Marjorie Glatt is the special projects coordinator of YUConnects and Mindy Eisenman is the staff connector of YUConnects. YUConnects offers unique social events, targeted matchmaking and educational programs to foster healthy relationships toward marriage. It is self funded and open to the entire Jewish community. As of March 2020, YUConnects has made 403 engagements. For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.yuconnects.com