Young Modern Orthodox single people face a unique challenge: the dating apps don’t feel marriage-minded enough, and a shadchan feels stuffy and perhaps a little too “frum.” In an ideal world, couples would meet organically, or at least get set up by friends who know them well. This thought crossed the mind of Evan Harris, a young marketing strategist who lives on the Upper West Side and faced his fair share of Modern Orthodox dating woes. In the summer of 2020, Harris came up with a streamlined way of matching single people by creating MoDate, the mutual friend you wish you had.
“I have a pretty classic Modern Orthodox background,” Harris said, elaborating that he attended HAFTR for elementary and high school, Orayta for yeshiva in Israel, and Baruch College for his finance degree. “When I began dating, I realized that many of my friends were not willing to go to shadchanim because they felt like it might be ‘too frum’ for them. On the other hand, a lot of friends wouldn’t use dating apps because it didn’t feel ‘frum enough.’ The middle ground is getting set up by friends, which feels a lot more natural.”
The problem Harris faced was that this realization came at the outset of COVID, when singles events and in-person dating were limited. “There was no system in place,” explained Harris. “I knew there had to be a more systematic way to get set up.”
Harris toyed with the idea of becoming a shadchan himself, but knew that might be a tough sell. Then, he teamed up with close friend Menachem Losev, a software developer with a passion for building intuitive, streamlined products. The duo created an algorithm for matching mutual friends while maintaining users’ anonymity—and MoDate was born.
“We functioned off of Google Sheets for a while,” Harris shared. “Within eight months or so, we quickly grew to about a thousand users. That was thrilling.”
After building a proof of concept, Losev suggested to Harris that MoDate should have a website to support its rapid growth. They pieced together an online system, which is still “changing all the time,” and modate.org launched in April 2022. Harris explained that because MoDate users have to manually sign up for a website account, the database is still getting back to what it once was before the website was launched, but still boasts over 850 daters and 500 connectors.
The way it works is as follows: the user can sign up as a “MoDater” or a “connector,” depending on how they would like to be involved. A MoDater will have a “MoDater dashboard,” where matches will appear and daters can decide whether they’d like to pursue a date based on that profile. The response is anonymous until both parties agree (or disagree) to a date. If both parties agree, then their respective accounts become inactive—because they’re dating someone. If the relationship does not work out, daters can go back into their accounts and reactivate them, notifying the connectors that they are open to matches again.
A connector has a “connector dashboard,” which consists of four sections. When a MoDater signs up and assigns someone as their connector, the connector must review their profile to make that account active, and answer several personality questions. Once those MoDaters’
profiles are verified, they will appear in the “verified MoDaters” section of the dashboard, and connectors can begin matching.
Under “new matches,” MoDate’s algorithm will suggest potential matches for the connector’s set of daters. The connector may begin matching their friends with suggestions by reviewing the profiles of daters, and rate match suggestions for their respective MoDaters. After making a match, connectors can track how the matches are going and monitor any inactive connections.
What sets MoDate apart from other dating platforms is not just the mutual friends based system, but also the fact that everyone can get involved in the process. “The connectors here can be dating, or single or married. Anyone can be involved with MoDate…you don’t even have to consider yourself Modern Orthodox to join,” said Harris.
Harris’ vision is that MoDate becomes a “top player in the Jewish dating industry,” and ultimately hopes that along with plenty of engagements and marriages, there will be an app to go along with the platform as they continue to grow. Harris also hopes to continue growing what he and Losev have coined as the “MoVerse”—an array of IRL dating events, mixers and a podcast hosted by Harris known as the MoPod.
“MoDate is not just a dating platform, but rather a dating community,” Harris explained. “We want to allow everyone to be a part of the conversation and help people find their perfect match in a fun and easy way.
“You’re not broken if you’re single,” he continued. “I really want to eliminate the stigma around dating.”
Individuals can sign up for MoDate at modate.org and listen to the MoPod—a podcast hosted by Harris that explores all aspects of Modern Orthodox life—on their preferred podcast streaming platform.
By Channa Fischer