I want to try online dating, but there are so many Jewish dating sites out there. Why are there so many, and what's the difference between them?
It’s not just Jewish dating sites that have increased exponentially in recent years. Dating sites appealing to any number of increasingly narrow special interest groups are popping up all the time. The same goes for job searching sites, recipe-sharing sites, blogs...you get the picture. As the Internet becomes increasingly accessible and integrated into our lives, more and more people are looking to carve out their little corner of cyberspace. For the singles set, that might mean leveraging the vastness of the Internet to find that one person who’s even cuddlier than those cuddly pandas sneezing on Youtube.
J-Date remains the leader in Jewish online dating. Say what you will about the site, all of my friends know at least one couple who met this way. Other popular sites include JWed (formerly Frumster, for observant Jews), Saw You at Sinai (matchmaking for observant Jews), J-RetroMatch (matchmaking for non-observant Jews) and basically anything else you can put a "J" in front of (jmatch, jsingles, etc. — these all exist). As this article states, "There are more Jewish online dating websites than there are Hanukkah candles." The day that two different people told me about this new site within an hour of each other, I knew that we were far from seeing the end of this proliferation. The secular match.com and OkCupid also seem to be popular among Jews and have an option to indicate religious preference.
I hear that many of the same people put themselves on multiple dating sites, so you don’t necessarily benefit from doing the same. If you get bogged down in deciding which sites to use, you’ll never make it through reading all the profiles once you get online. Pick a small number of sites, post the best possible representation of yourself and go from there. If you must shop around, check out reviews on websites like this one (where, admittedly, I heard about many dating sites for the first time).
If you want the power to browse yourself, use J-Date, at least as a starting point. If you want someone else to do the browsing for you, use Saw You at Sinai or J-RetroMatch. If you want someone to browse for you and you’re a grad student or young professional living in Philadelphia, use GradMatch. (For full disclosure, I founded this site through Hillel's Grad Network and serve as one of the matchmakers. It's hosted by and functionally identical to the other two matchmaking sites I just listed, but provides more of a local/personal connection.) If you’re feeling adventurous, taking someone up on a dare, or having one too many drinks, google “Jewish dating sites” and pick one really far down on the list just to see what happens. If, after reading all of this, you're still distressed over the prospect of online dating, consider hiring a matchmaker. It'll cost more, but you'll avoid hours at your computer.
Online dating is an overwhelming undertaking, but it should also be fun. The process will probably result in more than a few dates, especially at first when all the people who have been online for ages see a new profile show up. As I’ve said numerous times throughout this column (and in real life to anyone who will listen), don’t rely on online dating as the only way to meet your intended, but don’t write it off, either. Also, if you ever want an unbiased opinion on how you’ll be viewed by potential matches, just let me know and I'll be happy to look at your profile (seriously).