Jewish dating app JSwipe helps millennials find their beshert

It was love at first swipe for engaged couple Samantha Rudnick and Michael Brand, who met on the photo-driven mobile app JSwipe, popularly dubbed “the Jewish Tinder.”

“It’s totally cliche, but as soon as I saw his picture, he looked so kind, so personable — I don’t know how to explain it,” said Rudnick, 26, a marketing strategist at a medical supply company in Boca Raton, Fla. 

Brand, 39, who works at J.P. Morgan in New York, stressed that there’s much more to creating a solid relationship than simply looking at someone’s photo and swiping to the right with a finger to initiate communication.

“It’s a cute headline, but it isn’t that simple,” he said. “You can’t love a person until you get to know a person.”

Regardless, both Rudnick and Brand swiped right on each other’s profiles when they were using JSwipe last year. The app, which was launched last Passover as a way for eligible Jews to meet each other and interact, allows users to swipe through one photo after another, until they find someone who looks interesting. So far it’s been used in more than 70 countries.

In the case of Rudnick and Brand, it took a little more than mutual swipes to get love going, though. That happened when Rudnick’s 3-year-old niece got a hold of her phone and accidentally sent a private JSwipe message to Brand consisting of a hurricane of numbers, pound signs and exclamation marks. Little did they know, this garbled message would lead to an engagement proposal exactly six months later in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World.

David Yarus, 28, founder and CEO of JSwipe, originally created the mobile app for people just like the engaged couple. 

“I don’t literally think you’re going to swipe and be in love, but what we try to do is bring the most efficient, effective way of meeting eligible and interested Jews or people who celebrate the Jewish culture in your community or worldwide,” he explained. “We’ve had … literally hundreds of stories about relationships, several engagements and one or two marriages so far.”

The secret behind JSwipe, according to Yarus, is the accelerated screening process. Think of it as speed-dating with profile pictures. 

This is not to suggest, Yarus said, that modern technology is replacing in-person relationships.

“You’re always going to get dinner, and that’s where the magic happens, but getting you to that dinner, getting you to that drink, getting you to that coffee … and through that, I definitely think love at first swipe is possible.”

Yarus, who is originally from Miami, moved to New York five years ago. Adjusting to a new city, he attended synagogue, as well as all sorts of events. Then, after witnessing the success of the secular, swipe-based dating app Tinder, he came up with the idea for JSwipe.

“In one Sunday, sitting on a couch at home using JSwipe, I swiped through more eligible interesting people than I did in the entire course of my four years going to these events,” he said.

JSwipe has had over 250 million swipes so far, and “249 million are probably me,” Yarus said, joking. Currently single, he originally used JSwipe’s services and even went on a few dates.

But people are using JSwipe as more than a dating app, too, he said. There are stories of people using the app while traveling or moving to a new city and finding a group of friends.

“It’s what you make of it,” Yarus said. “Whatever the point is, we leave it up to you — whether it’s friendship, love or anything in between. That being said, we want it efficiently.”

He went on to say that efficiency is one of the “main values of our generation,” as millennials are notorious hyper multitaskers. “We’re always over-extended. We don’t have time or, frankly, the attention span that our parents’ generation had.”

He hopes to expand JSwipe’s reach offline. It just hosted its first event earlier this month, which took place in three different cities (New York, Miami and Washington, D.C.), kicking off the 2015 registration for Taglit-Birthright Israel.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish and the numbers we see every day, it’s super powerful. I don’t know how to explain it, but you feel it — very, very meaningful work that we’re doing,” he said.

You don’t have to tell that to Brand and Rudnick. Just six months after their first conversation, he popped the question. It was their first conversation after connecting on JSwipe that sealed the deal for the both of them.

“It was like we’d been friends for years. We were so comfortable, we spoke right off the bat, we really hit it off, our personalities really meshed right away,” Rudnick said. 

That’s not to say everything was perfect. As they were texting and exchanging information, the 13-year age gap and the fact that Brand was divorced with two children caused Rudnick to put down her phone — and pick it back up — more than once.

And Rudnick herself was coming to the relationship after being engaged to someone else only two months earlier. 

“Three weeks before [walking down the aisle], we realized we weren’t in the relationship for the right reasons,” she said of her previous engagement. The wedding was called off, and, not looking for anything serious, she was on JSwipe only because of a friend’s persistence.

“It’s the last thing you’d expect two months after calling off your wedding — to meet the man of your dreams,” she said.

Despite the distance between them, technology has kept them close.

“We don’t go for a few minutes without a text. We talk several times a day. We’ll always talk when I drive to work and she drives to work, on the way back when I drive home and she drives home. … We’ll talk at night and fall asleep on the phone together,” Brand said.

Still, when their wedding date arrives March 15, Rudnick knows exactly what she’s looking forward to most: “Putting my phone away.”

Meet Joel Simkhai, the Israeli foundr of Grindr

“Everybody knows Grindr. If you’re a gay man and you don’t know what Grindr is, then you’re lying.”

Steve Levin may be head of sales at — you guessed it — Grindr, but he isn’t speaking hyperbole. 

Late at night at a drag bar in West Hollywood, a table of seven gay men in their 20s all discussed the social app, which has revolutionized how gay men meet each other since it launched in 2009. All but one of them had the app downloaded on their phone. When the odd man out was asked why, he said that he used to be on the app, but a year ago he opted for Scruff (a Grindr spinoff designed specifically for men with facial hair). Regardless of the app, though, he continued, “Being gay, there’s no way around it — apps are the best way to meet guys.”

Grindr was started as the first social app exclusively for, as it advertises, “gay, bi and curious guys.” Now embarking on its sixth year, it boasts staggering stats with nearly 14 million downloads in more than 192 countries. 

Founder and CEO of the social phenomenon, Joel Simkhai, never expected Grindr to be such a success. Born in Israel, raised in New York and now living in Los Angeles, Simkhai first got the idea for Grindr as a way for him to meet guys — simple as that. 

“As a gay man, you’re always wondering who else is gay,” Simkhai, 38, told the Journal. “The problem is pretty inherent and [there] has never been a good solution. For years I’ve been thinking about this problem.” 

Finally, when the second-generation iPhone came out in June 2008, he came across an answer. The technology is fairly straightforward: The app uses a geolocation device that allows users to view a selection of profiles categorized by location (the nearest Grindr user is pictured first). Tapping on a profile picture allows the user to read a brief profile and, if he so chooses, send a pic, message or share his own location. The next step, if both parties agree, is an official meet-up.

So what separates this social network from all other social networks? 

“It can help you get out of the house,” Simkhai said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the social networks don’t do that. They’re asocial in a lot of different ways. With Grindr, you interact with the goal to meet, and that’s something that I’m very proud of.”

“[W]e’ve been fighting for our equality and against persecution for a long, long time. Gay men and women are still fighting back now.”
— Joel Simkhai

Simkhai called the app “magic vision” for guys, referring to how it’s changed the dynamic of how gay men meet each other. 

“You sit in your office, you sit in your house, you sit on the bus or wherever, and there’s all these people around us, but it’s pretty hard to figure out who else is gay,” he said. “It really gives you a way to see everyone who is gay around you.”

Sure, the app originated as a hook-up app, but it’s become much more than that, especially in smaller communities, according to Levin. He said that in major cities, “There’s a million ways for gay guys to meet each other, but in other countries and Middle America or rural areas, it doesn’t exist, and it’s terrifying to come out.” 

It’s in cases like those, where gay men are virtually isolated from a larger gay community, that Grindr makes its biggest impact, Levin said.

There are pages and pages of testimonies on where users share their success stories. There’s Mario from Sulzberg, Germany, a place he described as “very conservative”; Min and Paopao found each other in Suzhou, China; and Skip, who’s currently serving in Iraq, met fellow Grindr users in Baghdad. The stories are endless. 

Simkhai said Grindr adopts a bigger role in the lives of secluded gay men throughout the world, especially in countries where homosexuality is criminalized. 

“From our perspective, in a lot of these countries, there are no gay bars or gay communities, no real gay life, and so for our users, that’s really gay life for them,” he said. “This is their main media to meet other gay men, to interact and to not feel alone, to not feel like they’re a weird creature, that they’re very normal and very human.”

In 2013, Grindr was officially banned in Turkey. Simkhai immediately responded by issuing a public statement: “We are very upset to hear that the Istanbul Anatolia 14th Criminal Court of Peace blocked Grindr as a ‘protection measure.’ Grindr was created to help facilitate the connection between gay men — especially in countries where the LGBT community is oppressed.”

Instances like these are why the company founded Grindr for Equality in 2011, an outreach initiative that mobilizes Grindr users across the globe to bring LGBT equality issues to the forefront. In 2014, its “Get Out Safely” campaign partnered with Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration International, the only international organization devoted to advocating for LGBT individuals seeking refuge from persecution based on their gender and sexual preference. Grindr distributed a message to app users living in countries such as Egypt, Russia and Uganda, providing step-by-step information that would ultimately help them leave their countries and escape persecution. More than 7,000 users clicked on the link to seek help.

“We’ve done a bunch of things around the world to push governments into new things and to warn users of the dangers that they’re facing. We try to figure out what can be done,” Simkhai said. 

Simkhai said that as a Jew he’s a minority already, and “we’ve been fighting for our equality and against persecution for a long, long time. Gay men and women are still fighting back now. I’d love to see that greater equality and greater love for different people and different sexual orientations.”

Coming to this country as an immigrant — not to mention being diagnosed with dyslexia as a child — he is proud to have overcome significant challenges.

“To think that you could build something from scratch that becomes international and is used by millions of men all the time, to have such an impact, is really exciting,” he said. “Hopefully I serve as a role model,” he said.

After a few quiet moments, Simkhai continued, “The word ‘role model’ comes off a little strong. Hopefully, somebody could look at me and say, ‘If he could do it, then I could do it.’ ”

New Israeli cooking app takes off

This story originally appeared on

When Cindy Flash wanted to make eggs benedict a few days ago, she turned to a new cooking app developed in Israel, called Look & Cook.

“It’s a great idea – you set up your tablet in the kitchen and you can see all the ingredients laid out and get step by step instructions,” Flash, who lives in a kibbutz just a few miles from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip told The Media Line. “I read about the app, downloaded it, and the eggs benedict turned out wonderfully.”

Flash says she appreciates the short instructional videos that accompany the recipes. For example, she watched the video on how to poach eggs before tackling the eggs benedict.

Look & Cook is the latest project of Kinetic Art, an Israeli company founded by Oran Huberman, a former journalist, and Dudu Nimran. The cooking app, which is free to download, offers detailed explanations for preparing dozens of dishes, most of them from well-known Israeli chef Meir Adoni.

For a casual cook, some of the dishes seem somewhat complicated. Chicken satay with peanut butter and curry marinade, for example, starts off with “using a mortar and pestle, crush one teaspoon coriander seeds and two cardamon pods and set aside.” The recipe also calls for date syrup, sherry vinegar, and fresh pineapple and cilantro – not everyday ingredients on hand.

The site also has a tab called “Shop” where a user can buy many of the gadgets or utensils used in the recipe. The satay offers a mortar and pestle ($65), a pineapple slicer and de-corer ($19.99), a nonstick oval grill pan ($39.99), a cookbook of Thai Street Food by David Thompson ($41.12), a cookbook called Pok Pok ($22.14), a rainbow knife set ($36.89), a rice cooker ($14.38) and an auto measure jars carousel ($24.52).

Co-founder Huberman says the app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, mostly by users in the United States. His 12-person-company has already raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and is in the midst of a second round of financing. They have just signed a deal with the James Beard Foundation, a national professional organization that aims to promote the culinary arts. It will enable them to include recipes from some of the most famous chefs in America, such as Mario Battali and Thomas Keller. As the site is only in English, most users so far are in the US.

“Most people see a recipe on TV as a passive viewer and it ends there,” Huberman told The Media Line. “We want all recipes to be multi-platform, meaning you can see it on TV, and get it on your iPad or Tablet in a step-by-step format that allows you to clearly follow it.”

Amazon Fire TV, a new streaming media player, has included Look & Cook as one of its built-in apps, along with Netflix, Bloomberg, and other content providers.

“We will be built-in on 12 million sets and it will dramatically increase our customer base,” Huberman said.

The app was already featured in a billboard campaign by Apple. Downloads went from several dozen a day to 33,000 daily. While the recipes are free for now, they are introducing premium content as well. Another new feature will be a link to Amazon Fresh, a food delivery service, in which a user will be able to push a button at the end of a recipe and have all of the ingredients needed for the recipe delivered overnight.

Huberman says that as a former journalist he is interested in using different platforms to present content.

“Food touches all of us,” he said. “I think Look & Cook is like a digital Food Network.”

For user Cindy Flash, she’s thinking about what to make this weekend and said the recipe for pancakes “looks quite tempting.”

The Jewish Journal announces iPhone/Android apps

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New app teaches about Zionism

A new mobile app provides a database of information about Zionism and Israel.

The free “Zionation” app for iPhone and Android devices, developed by the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities, includes a Zionist calendar that marks and provides background information on significant dates in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel.

The app, which supports Hebrew, English and Spanish, also notifies users about conferences and events occurring in their communities or around the world.

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, the co-chair of the Department for Diaspora Activities, said the app is designed to resonate with a younger Jewish generation.

“We believe that now more than ever, given the alienation among large segments of the Jewish community from the State of Israel, that it is our duty to encourage the younger generation to create their own Zionist Jewish identity based on knowledge and familiarity with major figures and historical events, values and achievements,” he said in a statement.

Apple removes free ‘Thirdintifada’ from App Store

Apple Inc. removed the Arabic-language “Thirdintifada” application from its App Store following a request from the Israeli government.

The application was removed June 22, a day after Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs, Yuli Edelstein, wrote to Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs making the request.

“We removed this app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” an Apple spokesman said Wednesday evening.

The Thirdintifada application, which had been available for free download from the App Store, updates users on anti-Israel protests or allows them to organize their own. It also features anti-Israel articles and photos of terrorists who have attacked Israel or Israelis.

Edelstein, who in his letter to Jobs had called the application “anti-Israel and anti-Zionist,” commended the decision in a statement issued June 23.

“This is an additional step in preventing hostile elements, which are frequently tainted by anti-Semitism, from spreading incitement via the ‘new media,’ ” his statement said. “By its action, Apple has proven, as Facebook did, that it shares the values that oppose violence, incitement and terrorism.”

In March, Edelman appealed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to remove a page called “Third Intifada” that called for a new uprising against Israel. The page subsequently was removed, though copycat pages arose in its place.

Edelstein in his letter to Jobs wrote, “I believe Apple, as a pioneering and progressive company, places the values of liberty, freedom of expression and creativity as a guiding light. Also, as a leader in its area, I am convinced that you are aware of this type of application’s ability to unite many toward an objective that could be disastrous.”

iPhone app brings Western Wall closer

Using a new iPhone application, the Western Wall is only a touch away.

The new application, the Kotel Application, which was released this week in Hebrew, English and Russian by the Western Wall Heritage Center, permits users to see a live video feed of the Western Wall Plaza. They can also send a note to the wall and use the application’s compass to pray in the direction of the wall.

The application is free at Apple’s iTunes store.