Elana Bergovoy was trying in 2005 to help her daughter find a husband. An Orthodox Jew who grew up Reform, she had never experienced shidduch, the Orthodox matchmaking process, herself.
“My daughter subsequently went on many dates with potential partners. She did not meet her bashert after several times of dating nice young men who seem to have the right stuff, but they didn’t work out to be the ones,” the Mount Airy resident said.
This experience would lead to her becoming president of the Shidduch Group Network, an organization that helps observant Jews find marriage partners.
After a year-and-a-half of searching, Bergovoy approached her mentor for advice. She recommended consulting the Torah and the book “Eternal Joy: A Guide to Shidduchim & Marriage” by Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg and Rochel Chana Schilder.
Bergovoy bought the book and called some friends to set up a group discussion on Shabbat at her home in Chicago, where she lived at the time.
“We got the idea that doing mitzvot helps spiritually to bring us what we want,” Bergovoy said. “Finding a marriage partner is not only the physical act of making phone calls or going on dates — it’s also doing mitzvot, giving to charity and praying.”
The group set up regular meetings to offer support and spiritual guidance during a process that could seem daunting and complicated.
“The camaraderie was important, the strength we got from each other was very important and you didn’t feel like you were alone,” said Rena Citrin, a shidduch group member.
A few weeks after the first meeting, Bergovoy got a call from a rabbi in Brooklyn, where her daughter lived. He asked if her daughter would be interested in going out with an Israeli friend who was studying in New York. The pair met, got engaged and later married.
“After that it was like wildfire. All the ladies in our group started experiencing similar mazel, we kept meeting to study every week and one by one our kids started getting engaged,” she said.
Word of the group’s success spread quickly. Bergovoy began getting calls from friends who wanted to start their own support groups in Miami, Los Angeles and Montreal.
“Before the year was up we had many shidduch support groups that had sprung up and become a network, a Shidduch Group Network in the U.S. and in Canada,” she said.
After three years, there were 50 shidduch groups located in cities around the world and Bergovoy had traveled to several of them to speak at events. The network has no formal sign-up process or dues structure, but groups host conferences in person and online.
The support system is particularly helpful for those who, like Bergovoy, were not raised Orthodox and did not experience shidduch themselves.
Network member Tamar Stone found the process emotionally difficult before joining a shidduch group in Brooklyn.
“When my oldest daughter was in shidduchim the first year, I was trying to figure the process out. I myself, I didn’t grow up with the system, and I didn’t have a built-in network of family that could explain the whole process,” she said.
Bergovoy’s spiritual matchmaking savvy eventually brought her to Philadelphia by way of Brooklyn, where she moved in 2018 after her first marriage ended in divorce.
She wanted to experience calling a matchmaker and going out on a date, so she asked her network colleagues if they knew of any potential matches. One of them suggested David Pearson of Philadelphia.
The pair made some reference phone calls before he visited her for their first date, and they clicked immediately.
They married in a small ceremony on May 12, and Bergovoy moved to live with Pearson in Mount Airy the next day.
“This time around I feel so, so lucky that I was able to meet someone who seems so suited for me and I feel incredibly blessed to be here in Philadelphia,” she said.
She wants to support a local shidduch group even though meetings can’t take place in person yet.
“I’m looking for some new blood, people who are looking for themselves or for the singles in their lives who would like to be part of this inspiring journey,” she said.