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.”