Do You Want Your Jewish Mother Playing Matchmaker?
By Piet Levy
Religion News Service
(RNS) Denice Beckerman is heavily involved in her daughter Amanda's life. She's tried several times to set her up on dates and is connected with several of her daughter's friends on Facebook.
"My mom is the typical Long Island Jewish mommy," said Amanda, a 29-year-old teacher in New York City, with a laugh. "She likes to meddle in all of my affairs."
So it was only natural that Denice would try to use social media to play matchmaker. The problem is, on dating sites like Match.com, Denice has no authority or ability to nudge.
But on the new site TheJMom.com, Denice is the authority.
That's because on TheJMom, it's Jewish mothers -- not singles -- who are making connections, trying to find potential mates for their kids.
"Sometimes moms do know best," Denice said. "I just love (Amanda) and want to see her happy. There's a little selfishness involved too. I love babies, and I want to be able to play with (grandchildren) before I'm too old."
TheJMom was the brainchild of Brad Weisberg, a 30-year-old real estate agent in Chicago, and his sister Danielle, a 26-year-old elementary education student at Loyola University Chicago.
When the siblings were visiting family in Louisville, Ky., their mother Barbara asked to look through an online dating site to find potential matches for Brad. He relented -- this wasn't the first time she had asked -- and his mom later presented him with a long list of possible matches.
"My brother and I looked at each other and a light bulb went off in our heads," Danielle said. "She wants to set us up and wants us to be happy and fall in love. Why not give her the right tools to do this?"
Users, who don't have to be moms even though most are, write about their families and can upload pictures of themselves and their single children. They also fill out profile information with their child's name, age, location, education, occupation and religious background, and
write about their kid's interests.
Moms can kibitz and kvell about why their kids are such a great catch and what they're looking for in a match. Users can contact mothers of other singles and suggest potential matches to their kids through the site.
The Weisbergs catered the site to Jews so users would have similar backgrounds and could find singles who share their religious beliefs. For now, the site is free.
Since the site was launched in December, 60 dates have been established and 500 people have signed on as users, Brad Weisberg said. That's a small number compared with the 18,215 members on the 14-year-old Jewish singles site JDate.com, but with mothers as the
target audience, TheJMom avoids direct competition, and the Weisbergs argue mothers may have more time to search for matches for their busy kids.
According to the most recent National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America, 42 percent of adult Jews in the United States are single, suggesting a potentially sizable audience.
Sylvia Barack Fishman, chair of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., believes TheJMom could work since more Jews are looking for spouses after college, increasing their reliance on personal connections.
"This, in certain ways, is a contemporary reinstatement of a behavior that used to be really common when I first started studying Jewish families back in the 1980s," Fishman said. "Sometimes surveys used to ask, 'How did you meet your spouse?' and a very, very common
answer was through friends and family."
Parents' desire to stay up to date on modern dating is not restricted to Jews. Millanus is a "premier Muslim eligible professional matrimonial event" where parents are encouraged to observe rounds of speed dating from the sidelines.
Denice Beckerman said she's had fun trying to find a husband for Amanda, even though she hasn't found a match yet. One problem: mothers were setting up profiles for their kids without telling them, including Beckerman herself. That can cause problems, but Amanda took the covert actions in stride.
"I laughed it off," Amanda said. "She thinks this is the coolest thing since sliced bread, so I've got to let her have that."
Another potential problem is that TheJMom could reinforce the stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother shoving their kids toward marriage. That shouldn't dissuade interested families, Fishman said, but the idea of the site could elicit jokes.
"And that's too bad," she said, "because a lot of singles are very open to help from any family corner."