Tu B’Av: Love at first swipe

Eli Wiesel once said in an interview: “In Jewish history, there are no coincidences.”
July 29, 2015

Eli Wiesel once said in an interview: “In Jewish history, there are no coincidences.” 

That might seem hard to believe in the world of Jewish online dating, where finding the right match is in the hands of an operating system or, with increasing frequency, the swipe of a finger.

The options, including Jewish mobile apps claiming to streamline the dating experience into something flirty and user-friendly, continue to multiply. There’s Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge and Grindr, none of which is geared toward any specific religion or ethnicity. Online dating staples such as Match, eHarmony and OkCupid have rolled out mobile platforms to keep up with the growing demand for convenient and clean interfaces. 

The Jewish dating juggernaut JDate, which had 750,000 active users as of last year, has developed a mobile dating app that extends its website capabilities to the mobile scene (pricing starts at $39.99 per month). Competitors JCrush and JSwipe are both Jewish dating apps that were specifically developed for smartphones and pull in thousands of users a month. 

On this Tu b’Av — the Jewish Valentine’s Day, which this year begins the evening of July 30 — which will you choose? 

Most apps are free or have a discounted trial period, and most mobile apps now employ a “swipe” method, meaning users can swipe their thumbs left or right on their screens to accept or reject potential matches. 

Ryan Bort, on the business news website Quartz, wrote that the swipe method appears to be gaining in popularity: “While mobile commerce is growing at an astonishing rate, the effectiveness of elaborate personal profiles, the bedrock of the appeal of desktop-based sites, has been largely disproven. For older millennials, cultivating a digital persona was a social necessity. For teens and younger 20-somethings, however, one-touch swiping, liking, and commenting is beginning to feel more natural than the more old-fashioned face-to-face courtship rituals.”

David Yarus, 29, founder of JSwipe, said his creation came from a personal motivation.

“As a single millennial Jew, I was using different dating apps, specifically Tinder. I thought it was the sharpest, most efficient, most forward-thinking way of connecting people,” he said. “It was, however, inefficient for someone who was looking to date and marry someone Jewish.” 

Unlike eHarmony or JDate, many mobile dating apps do not have a way to filter a search in order to find a Jewish match. 

So Yarus, who grew up in Miami Beach, Fla., and who has worked with organizations such as Taglit, Hillel and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to help connect Jews around the globe, got to work on an alternative. It launched last year and, as of last month, JSwipe has attracted more than 300,000 users in more than 70 countries. 

“I set off to bring the Tinder utility and experience to the Jewish community,” Yarus explained. “The process was pretty blessed. I had a great team of smart minds from across the app and technology space to design and launch the product. 

“We strategically launched it over Passover over two years ago. We figured that everyone would be home with their family and friends. The app would be a funny thing to talk about,” he continued. “It became buzz-worthy over Passover and then everyone went back to their community — whether it was college, work or a young professional group — and continued the conversation. There was an exciting gust of activity right after launching. It can be attributed to the combination of social media strategy and a clean, user-friendly, fun and safe app that builds community and spreads the love.” 

Yarus, who is based in New York City, said 90 percent of the app’s users are millennials, though the fastest growing demographic is people 35 and older. JSwipe’s design, he said, is a reflection of changing times.

“Millennials don’t have time to log in and craft lengthy messages and search for people. It’s not the way we think, and it’s not the way we are programmed — or wired — to interact anymore,” he said.  

“In the course of a year, we were able to go from a brand that no one had heard of to being a staple brand of the millennial Jewish community,” he concluded. If you’re a single millennial Jew, it’s likely that your friends are swiping, or that your mom is nudging you to join in a funny way. We work a lot and think about de-stigmatizing the swipe dating experience. People are swiping at brunch with their friends or at home with their bubbes. It’s a funny and social experience.” 

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