BROOKLYN, NY — No longer is the matchmaker the village busybody who knew families and their foibles.
Today’s Yenta is an algorithm whirring in a server miles away.
“Everyone is crazy for internet dating,” said Rabbi Laivi Forta of Chabad of Aventura. “But it has to be done the right way.”
Around the world Chabad centers have created websites crafted to avoid the pitfalls endemic to Internet dating. All are free, eliminating financial obstacles to the hunt for a spouse. All are designed to ascertain that registered users are Jewish. Linked to Chabad centers, they return some of the personal touch and concern of the old matchmaker missing in newfangled sites.
To receive a password to register on Mazeltov, a site run by Chabad of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, users first present papers to confirm their Jewish heritage to a local rabbi.
“I get screamed at a lot by people who are not Jewish and want to register,” said Liza Goldenberg, who has been running the site since its inception in February 2006. “But there are plenty of sites that don’t have this requirement.”
After registration, Goldenberg calls the potential user to chat. “We only want people who are serious about getting married, who are normal, not pranksters or people looking just to date,” she said.
At least 40 couples met and married through Mazeltov in the past year. Goldenberg suspects that the actual number of marriages is higher. “People are embarrassed to say they found a husband on the Internet, so they don’t tell us.”
In celebration of the site’s second birthday, Goldenberg, a graduate of Chabad’s Or Avner school in Dnepropetrovsk, will be embarking on a road trip across Ukraine and Russia to publicize the site and help people become more comfortable with the idea of finding a spouse online.