Dating on the YentaNet
Imagine if your parents or grandparents had never met. If you could go back in time, as did Marty McFly in Back to the Future, what would you do to ensure your existence? In Ruth Rabbah 6:1, we learn that when King David would rise at midnight to praise G-d, he would specifically recall G-d’s great kindness in enabling his grandfather Boaz and grandmother Ruth to meet, against all odds. If Boaz and Ruth had never joined in a loving union “how would I have come into being?” David powerfully asks.
Ensuring the creation of future Jews is a sacred mission that transforms strangers into loving families, representing a rich diversity of Jewish belief, lifestyle and practice. The art of shadchanut (matchmaking) goes back centuries in our tradition and is making a strong comeback.
After informally serving as a matchmaker within my own social circles for several years, I founded YentaNet shortly after moving to New York City in 2012. In order to accommodate the steadily increasing matchmaking demand and represent more demographics and social circles within the Jewish community, I needed a network of talented matchmakers with whom I could work and expand our reach, thus YentaNet was born.
While YentaNet has a website for people to contact us initially, all of our work is through person-to-person conversations. We currently do not charge for our services and are entirely volunteer-operated. To ensure the in-person component of our work, our current focus is the New York City area, but our hope is eventually to expand our reach. If you are feeling like giving love a try this Tu B’Av, we are a highly personalized, values-driven, confidential and safe alternative to online dating and, unlike most traditional Jewish matchmaking, cater to Jews of all denominations and orientations (and we’re always seeking new matchmakers).
Last summer, with the generous support of the Alumni Venture Fund of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel and the PresenTense Myers Fellowship, YentaNet hosted its first formal matchmaking training. Our matchmakers — male and female, married and single — range in age from 25-60, span a wide range of denominations and include several matchmakers who speak Hebrew and/or Russian. We just held a training at the JCC Manhattan, which featured dynamic speakers, including Daniel Jones of the New York Times’ Modern Love Column, Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus (aka “the Orthodox Sex Guru”) and Rebecca Stone Kagedan, WGF Alum (Class 25).
I would like to express my profound gratitude to The Wexner Foundation, the JTS Rabbinic Innovation Program and to many of the Wexner fellows, whose encouragement, resources and insights have helped to make YentaNet a reality. I thank whatever forces — perhaps even a matchmaker — that helped your parents create you.
Raysh Weiss (WGF Alum, Class 25) holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2016 and was a J. William Fulbright research fellow in Ethnomusicology in Berlin. Raysh brings to her rabbinate her joint passions for building vibrant, inclusive community, spiritual and intellectual inquiry, social justice activism and artistic expression, including cartooning, film-making and playing jazz and klezmer on the saxophone. She is the founder and director of YentaNet, a network of matchmakers serving commitment-minded Jews of all backgrounds. Raysh is excited to serve as rabbi of the Shaar Shalom Congregation of Halifax, Nova Scotia, beginning this August. She can be reached at email@example.com.