Just a few days after Tisha B’Av comes the holiday of Tu B’Av. In contrast to the baseless hatred that brought about the destruction of the Holy Temple and the Exile, the events commemorated on Tu B’Av revolve around love and unity among factions of Bnei Yisrael. Tu B’Av (the 15th day of the month of Av) is considered one of the most joyous festivals in the Jewish year. It is well known that Tu B’Av is traditionally a marriage-focused day of dating and betrothals since prohibitions against marriage were lifted on that day against the daughters of Tzelafchad and the tribe of Binyamin.
In recent times, Tu B’Av remains an important day. In some circles, Tu B’Av has again become synonymous with dating, relationships and marriage. Even for the secular population in Israel today, the holiday and its undertones are well-established: radios play romantic music and roses are popular gifts throughout the country.
Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, director of YUConnects, the innovative matchmaking and relationship-building program of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, noted that it is a day in our calendar that can spur each of us, in our own neighborhoods, “to develop ways to bring about more matches and provide healthy outlets for young people to meet or connect.”
Powered by SawYouAtSinai, the on-line Jewish matchmaking site, “connectors” (YUConnects matchmakers) have access to 30,000 Orthodox Jewish singles signed up in their extensive and comprehensive database, with hundreds of dates made each week. YUConnects, which will soon (iy”H) celebrate its 100th engagement, is also at the forefront of dating options by offering 10 – 12 unique, comfortable social events per year. In addition, YUConnects compiles empirical research on relationship trends and regularly presents educational forums and workshops to the general community. “Our ultimate goal,” Sobolofsky adds, “is to work on many planes to identify and remove barriers and increase opportunities for all.”
“There are so many ways communities can become empowered and improve the dating scene,” said Marjorie Glatt, special projects coordinator and community liaison of YUConnects. “We are contacted daily by rabbis, rebbitzins, shul presidents and concerned lay leaders who ask us what can be done. The good news is that a few simple actions can make a huge impact.”
According to Glatt communities from Los Angeles to Panama have used YUConnects as a resource in starting their own programs and creating new options for unmarried community members. Sobolofsky and Glatt recommend numerous activities and programs that have a proven track record and can be successfully replicated in other neighborhoods. The YUConnects staff has offered the following helpful and practical tips for communities to get involved:
Create a database. Start with the basics. Gather names of those men and women in the community that would appreciate more suggestions. A simple email with links to a “Google document” spreadsheet is one of the easiest and most efficient ways for a community to gather basic information and build a potential data base of potential matches. Similarly, generate a list of interested shul members that can be quickly and electronically contacted to help publicize and recruit attendees to fun single events or interesting mixers.
Organize a “Shidduch Brainstorming Night.” Invite area residents to participate in a session where profiles can be formally presented or young couples can gather to offer suggestions. YUConnects regularly assist shuls and other organizations in running such successful brainstorming programs.
Run A Singles Event. There is a panoply of ideas… including running a “panoply” multimedia trivia game where participants switch tables each round to increase networking, chessed activities, food-based programs, lectures or trips. An event or shabbaton allows natural meeting venues and expands horizons for many.
Home Hospitality. Start small. A couple or a shul can invite Shabbat guests who are compatible. This can create the ideal forum for relaxed conversation in an informal setting.
Power in Numbers. Shuls are banding together and sharing their databases in new ways. “Shul Shares” founded in Brooklyn or “Shul Links” in Monsey bring together smaller kehillot in scheduled meetings to exchange suggestions or ideas.
Promote a Resource Fair. Have a Melava Malka with matchmakers present or lists of matchmakers available to your community for future meetings. Provide lists of organizations or online websites that can be useful to the single members or their families.
Sensitivity and Inclusion. Michael Feldstein, an advisory council member of YUConnects, often states the need to recognize that singles are talented members of any community who can, and should, be included in development or planning of local organizations.
Enlist the Pros. Invite speakers or workshops to come to your community who can offer guidance on the entire dating experience. There are set programs offered by SHALOM Taskforce, “The Relationship Couple,” Sasson V’Simcha in Israel or Chabad that provide advice in profiles, maximizing networking and moving relationships forward.