A match-making initiative is being launched at Orthodox synagogues over the High Holy-Days amid concerns voiced by rabbis over the difficulties people face in finding Jewish partners.
Led by Mitzvah Day interfaith chair Daniela Pears, the We Go Together scheme will see leaflets placed on men’s seats at more than a dozen London area United Synagogue, Sephardi and Chabad shuls over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, inviting singles aged 25 and over to sign up.
Respondents will be interviewed by one of 15 volunteers from a variety of congregations. They will be asked to rank a prospective partner’s characteristics, from least to most important.
Their answers will be used to match them with single women, using a formula devised by Naftali Brawer, former rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue.
We Go Together already has a database of more than 100 single women.
Mrs Pears, the wife of philanthropist Sir Trevor Pears, said: “People would always ask me what single guys I knew for these fabulous single women, and I didn’t know any. But these fabulous single guys must exist.
“It is very hard to meet people sometimes. Someone very close to me was on her own for 37 years. This project is for people who want to find their life partner.”
She added: “The Chief Rabbi said making a match is the highest mitzvah you can do. Hopefully we will get a lot of men responding — I would encourage them to.
“It’s a free service and it can be done in confidence. They have nothing to lose. We’re all doing it because we really care.”
Four out of 10 Jewish adults are not living as part of a couple, according to a 2016 Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) report. Jewish divorce increased by three per cent between 2001 and 2011, with 17 per cent of adults having experienced divorce. The intermarriage rate is 26 per cent.
The report also found that Jews were marrying for the first time seven years later than they were in the 1970s, with grooms aged 32, and brides aged 29.
Laura Janner-Klausner, the senior rabbi for Reform Judaism, attributed the problem of loneliness among diaspora Jews to a “numerical challenge”.
When Jews went out of the community to study or work, “the reality is the majority of people [they are with] are not Jewish”.
Mrs Pears — a member of South Hampstead United, one of the participating shuls — said this year’s project would be a pilot scheme. But if there is proven demand, We Go Together could eventually be extended to the regions and Progressive communities.
Dating website JDate.com and its sister service, JSwipe — described as Tinder for Jews — have become increasingly popular among singles in recent years, mirroring the rise of secular dating websites and smartphone apps.
Brad Goldberg, the board chair at Spark Networks, which owns both services, told the New York Times in December that 70 per cent of US Jews have used either JDate or JSwipe.
The sites have one million registered users combined and JSwipe boasts users in 70 countries.
Rabbi Israel Elia, minister of Lauderdale Road (Sephardi) Synagogue, said apps and dating sites “could not even be compared” to meeting someone organically.
With today’s young generation “more independently-minded” and people living peripatetic lives it was difficult to find a partner.
“Modern city living is tough. There are long working hours and there isn’t time to socialise – or at least socialise in the same way [as in former times].
“You can be somewhere with 400 people and it isn’t the same as being at a dinner party or a gathering where people know why they are there.
“The art of match-making is about bringing people together who have the same values – not just picking people randomly.
“You invite single people for Shabbat. If they then get in touch after, that’s great.
“But if you say, ‘you’re coming to meet Susan or David’, it becomes a burden. It depends how it’s done but it is one of the most important mitzvot we can do.”
Rabbi Elia said he meets congregants and their parents who worry they will not get married, as did Rabbi Mendel Cohen, of Saatchi Synagogue in St John’s Wood.
He said: “This initiative is vital because the age-old Jewish shidduch method of introduction - which includes a communal sense of responsibility and personal knowledge of individuals and their circumstances - cannot be substituted by algorithms and apps.
“We Go Together will emphasise that personal touch and empower the many. I have congregants and have met many individuals who are divorced, widowed or have simply not been able to find their love.”
Rabbi Sam Taylor, the community minister at Western Marble Arch Synagogue, echoed the sentiment, saying the problem of finding partners is “very real in the community and is of genuine concern to many people”.