May 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Finding One’s Bashert on a Website Created for Others

JWed sees growth spike during COVID as marriages (including the founder’s) climb to 3,600+.

(Courtesy of JWed) Ben Rabizadeh and Derek Saker founded Frumster.com in 1997 in Passaic, New Jersey.

While it was a pioneering service, it faced many early challenges, not least hesitancy and even some resistance to online dating services by many in Orthodox community.

Nevertheless, the need was real, and Rabizadeh and Saker were driven by the mission to empower Orthodox Jewish singles with a more enabling—and less dismissive—dating environment.

As Rabizadeh recalls, “Healthy social mixing was becoming a rarity and there was a gross gender imbalance, where single Jewish women found dating particularly difficult.”

Within the first years, thousands of Jewish singles joined the service from different Orthodox observant backgrounds and from communities far and wide. Membership aggressively increased, and the number of marriages continued to exponentially grow.

The early success of the service—which has always been defined by the number of marriages— was nowhere more apparent than in the fact that over 65% of Frumster.com marriages were initiated by women. That is, where the female member was the first to initiate an email.

The reality, still today, is that in the “traditional” Jewish dating world, and certainly the more observant world, it is often the woman who finds herself playing second fiddle, as it were, waiting for the phone to ring. The online dating service empowers Jewish singles, especially women, to take charge and to take the lead in their dating lives.

Saker left Frumster.com in 2007 to take on the position of director of communications at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.

Fast-forward 12 years later.

Saker, still in New York but divorced, began to start dating again and created a profile on what was now JWed.com. The name had been changed from Frumster.com to JWed.com in 2007 to meet the need of a growing market of Jewish singles who, while not necessarily religiously observant, were equally marriage-minded and equally focused on marrying someone Jewish.

Saker said he created a profile “more out of curiosity,”but was immediately taken by one specific profile, and sent a message.

Within 24 hours, he received a response from Devorah, a 46-year-old Londoner. She was also divorced and a single parent. They began communicating and found much in common. However, shortly thereafter, Derek felt he needed to take a break and suspended his JWed profile.

Imagine his surprise 10 days later when Devorah sent a message to his work email!

Devorah had tracked him down, knowing his place of work and full name.

The email subject line was “Either you will think I am desperate, a psycho, or just a tenacious woman!” It was a bold move, and the perfect way to win Saker’s heart. “I loved her email, and we started communicating again,” Saker said. “This led to hundreds of emails, WhatsApp calls and videos,” and in December 2018 he flew to London for the weekend.

Many back-and-forth flights followed, and in May 2019 they were engaged. Saker moved to London permanently, and they were married in the winter of 2019.

Shortly thereafter, Saker rejoined JWed.com as chief marketing officer.

He said that while distance was of course a considerable challenge—he had not thought of leaving the U.S. after so many years—that it is important to bear in mind that a significant majority of JWed’s 3,600-plus marriages took place between members who were out of city/state and even country.

As Saker said from first-hand-experience: “JWed enables Jewish singles—whether from a major metropolitan city or from a small town, whether from across the street, or across the world—to meet one another, like never before. And while geography is admittedly a major factor in whom one communicates with, JWed has, in fact, always encouraged members to search way beyond their immediate location, where character, shared life goals, personality and other virtues are so often far more important, than just location.

“If two people meet and find so much in common, both current and their plans for the future, then geography, however challenging, can be overcome.”

Interestingly the pandemic has seen membership continue to grow in leaps and bounds, with many JWed marriages (albeit very small events) taking place during the pandemic.

Saker says the younger, 18-28 generation, greatly curtailed by social interaction, have taken advantage of the default opportunity to try a dating medium that some may have seen as unnecessary or had an aversion to.

So, too, there has been a huge increase in senior members. Pre-pandemic, online dating may have been the furthest thing on their minds. Solitude during the pandemic has no doubt had a profound impact on senior Jewish singles. While many have been more tech-averse, this isolation has certainly fuelled the determination to overcome any hurdles with the help of family and support staff from the JWed.

Today we see an incredible mix in JWed marriages, now averaging eight engagements/marriages a month, from younger couples to members in their early 80s. “We even have a member in his 90s!” Saker said. “You’re never too old to love and to want to be loved by another.”

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