Jewish Dating in the Time of COVID-19

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Matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin with her husband, Leon.
Matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin with her husband, Leon.
(Courtesy of Lori Salkin)

Philadelphia-based SawYouAtSinai matchmaker Lori Salkin was shocked by how busy she’s been in the weeks leading up to Passover.

“My phone is exploding,” she said. “People are really motivated to find someone now. There’s always this desire for companionship, but in times of crisis you really need someone to be there alongside you.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic has led local, state and federal governments to implement social distancing measures, including prohibiting gatherings, closing businesses and encouraging people to stay six feet apart if they must leave their homes. According to Salkin, many people are now wondering how to find and maintain relationships without in-person contact.

Talia Goldstein, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based matchmaking company Three Day Rule, believes social distancing will make people reconsider the qualities they are looking for in a partner.

“When you’re inside your house for two months, and you’re with someone you love, what are the characteristics that matter?” she asked. “People have been swiping past their soulmates because they’re focused on things that don’t matter. Now is the time to slow down and really get to know people.”

Salkin has transitioned many of her clients in Philadelphia and New York City to video dating since the cities began enforcing social distancing. She said there are a few things people should keep in mind as they navigate this new reality.

“A first date is easy to do on the phone, but activities are also very important in dating. You need a mix of deep conversation and lighter, fun experiences,” Salkin said. “You could make dinner together and talk while you cook. There are some games you can play online together. You can watch a TV show and talk during the commercials.”

Aleeza Ben Shalom of Philadelphia, founder and dating coach at Marriage Minded Mentor, recommends that people who are seeking a relationship now focus on websites like JDate because they provide more in-depth information than swipe-based apps.

Aleeza Ben Shalom (top left) meets virtually with matchmakers Danielle Selber (top right) and Michal Naisteter (bottom).
Aleeza Ben Shalom
(top left) meets virtually with matchmakers Danielle Selber (top right) and Michal Naisteter (bottom).
(Courtesy of Aleeza Ben Shalom)

“These are emotionally and physically difficult times, and people who are looking for a genuine, real connection are going to have an easier time finding that,” she said.

According to Ben Shalom, the main concern for people in new relationships is the potential for growth.

“People are asking, ‘Is this a relationship we can sustain or should we put it on hold?’ If there’s a very strong connection, and both people are comfortable being on the phone a lot, this might be a good time to continue,”
she said.

She also believes the pandemic provides an opportunity for long-term relationships to grow.

“If your relationship cannot weather this storm, it was probably a relationship that could not handle the ups and downs of life,” she said.

According to Rabbi Marsha Friedman, a clinical psychologist practicing in Jenkintown and Bala Cynwyd, romantic partnerships aren’t the only relationships to be impacted by social distancing. People confined to their homes may suddenly find themselves spending much more time with family and roommates and far less time with friends and coworkers.

Friedman stressed the importance of spending time interacting with people offline even as more of our interactions go virtual.

“Relate to the real people in your house, play board games, talk, have conversations, watch things communally with other people. If you’re living alone, pick up a telephone and hear a real human voice,” she said. “Try to offer love and support to each other, and talk about other things besides this crisis. We have to remember our lives are broader than this.”

She also said people should prioritize taking time to accomplish tasks and finding ways to stay involved with their communities.  “It is vital that our sense of accomplishment and self-worth continue during this time,” she said.

Katherine Schneider, a licensed clinical social worker based in East Falls, said parents who must now work from home and home-school their children may feel especially stressed.

“For people with kids, there’s this pressure to be the perfect parent with homeschooling and Pinterest projects,” she said. “Sometimes making it through the day is an accomplishment enough. Give yourself permission to take
a break.”

Carolyn Michaels, a marriage and family therapist who practices in Center City, said it was important for people to increase communication with members of their households, especially when navigating conflict.

“Stay away from accusations and avoid attributing someone’s actions to their personality,” she said. “Instead of saying, “You’re so thoughtless,’ try, ‘I feel frustrated when you leave dirty dishes around.’”

She also recommends online party games like Cards Against Humanity and the new Google Chrome add-on Netflix Party for those searching for ways to stay in touch with their friends now that social gatherings are no longer an option.

“Overall, social distancing can make us even more mindful of the relationships we value. There’s never been a better time to text someone and ask for a FaceTime date,” she said.

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