By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2009
MEMBERS OF BETH EL CONGREGATION in Baltimore come see Rabbi Steven Schwartz for all sorts of reasons: to discuss their faith or a problem they're having at work or at home.
More frequently than one might imagine, they come to say: "Rabbi, I'd like to meet someone. Do you have anyone in mind?"
He doesn't. Not usually, and not right off the top of his head anyway. Matchmaking is one part of the job for which he was wholly unprepared.
But Schwartz, ever ready to meet his congregation's needs, has done so most recently by purchasing bulk memberships to JDate.com.
"We are proponents of the idea of Jews marrying Jews. And you can say that, but what can you actually do about it?" he asks. "I'm not going out to bars at night walking up to people and saying, 'Are you Jewish? You should meet that guy over there, 'cause he's Jewish.' "
Already, Schwartz estimates that 15 to 20 percent of the couples he has married in recent years met on JDate. So when he heard that the online dating site offered discounts to rabbis buying memberships for their congregants, he signed up his synagogue for a dozen and distributed them to willing singles.
More than 20 rabbis like Schwartz have enrolled in the JDate program, which to some Jewish singles might seem like a conspiracy of tag-team pressure -- as if Mom's incessant nagging wasn't annoying enough on its own.
But Greg Liberman, president of JDate, which has 600,000 active members, says from his perspective it's a win-win. It's good for business, of course, but also for rabbis looking to keep their synagogue services packed for generations to come.
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