July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Young Israel of Teaneck’s Shidduch Committee Helps People Connect

Dating in the age of a global pandemic is yet another obstacle we face, as modes of human interaction are increasingly challenged. “Let’s Connect,” the Young Israel of Teaneck’s shidduch committee, is intent on connecting those who are single, especially during this time.

A few years ago, upon hearing of their matchmaking success in the Jewish community, YIOT contacted Rikki Menczer, Loretta Paley and Leah Shteingart of Teaneck to form the committee. The group started small, and has since grown into 26 volunteers comprising experienced shadchanim, some of whom had made 20+ matches prior to joining.

“Our goal is to expand our network, and work together to have single people meet and get married,” said Menczer. Their reach now spans areas including Bergen County, Manhattan, the Five Towns and even Israel.

The targeted demographic includes mostly Orthodox individuals who are single and “sincerely interested in getting married,” said Paley. The committee’s efforts have led to successful matches including two marriages. “Every connection,” she continued, “leads you closer. If it doesn’t work out for one, it might lead to a match for someone else.”

Let’s Connect sensitively aims to humanize the dating experience. Oftentimes, those who are single are reduced to a written profile, yet tools for long-lasting relationships transcend literal descriptions. Paley noted, “The personalized connection is special. You really can’t know someone just from a profile on paper.” The written piece is important for reference, but in order to get to know the person, committee shadchanim meet with each individual.

“These shadchanim are enthusiastic about connecting others, and the beautiful part is that everyone does this l’shem mitzvah,” remarked Paley.

They meet monthly and expect no payment for their efforts. Members share proposals of single people who they think would be compatible.

Shteingart said, “A key to its success is following up about outcomes. If you organize an event and just talk about people, it doesn’t progress.” Each individual’s status is recorded in their database.

Pre-COVID, the committee organized many events, including collaborations with YUConnects. Factors including but not limited to age, gender and hashkafic values are intentionally considered in order to streamline events. A recent trivia night drew 60 single people, and was held at someone’s home in Teaneck.

“The community came together, made food and the event felt homey,” Menczer said.

Encountering “ever-evolving” COVID regulations, Paley noted, the group is adapting to the times. “We strive to be creative, providing both in-person and virtual dating opportunities,” said Menczer.

They curate virtual events where those who are single can meet. Shadchanim speak with individuals, and are available to guide attendees along. They are then careful to follow up. Currently, they are entertaining the idea of outdoor backyard speed-dating. This would allow couples to meet in “booths” with heaters in anticipation of upcoming winter weather.

While the pandemic poses obstacles, the committee also recognizes benefits. A virtual date excursion not only means that one can wear newly-embraced virtual garb entailing coiffed hair, a presentable top and pajama bottoms, but it can also happen from the comfort of one’s home.

“Because each person is at their own house, the experience is less stressful and intimidating,” observed Shteingart.

The pandemic has also led people to prioritize what matters most. “People are more open-minded, and realize the importance of life,” Shteingart added. In the same vein, she has noticed that the single people she encounters as of late are also “more accepting of things they might not have accepted in the past.”

When it comes to seeking a potential partner for someone, there are generally two categories of matchmakers, said David Schwartz, YIOT’s president. “There are individuals advocating for their single friend or family member and have a personal stake in it but lack the network to draw from.” Then, there are those who do this globally or professionally. They have access to large pools of single people, and “though they want to see it through, typically don’t have that same motivation.”

The shul identified a “sweet spot” between those two categories. The unique communal feel at the 250-member YIOT is ideally situated for this type of committee, Schwartz continued. “It’s a large enough critical mass with a pool of people personally invested in success.” The shul’s community is close, and people look out for one another.

“We enjoy being together, and look forward to our WhatsApp chats and Zoom meetings,” said Shteingart. Coordinating events is easy because the congenial group is connected through “love and passion for the work.”

“Ultimately,” Paley said, “it’s up to Hashem to make this happen, and we all pray for more successful matches to come.”

Those interested can contact the committee at letsconnect@YIOT.

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