Valentine's Day

New dating app has Jews swiping one another off their feet

Free to all users, JSwipe speaks to younger generation’s preferred matchmaking methods

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Israeli students at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University, October 30, 2011. Illustrative photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Israeli students at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University, October 30, 2011. Illustrative photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Finding your soulmate isn’t always easy, but a new Jewish dating app would have us believe that true love could be just a swipe away. JSwipe, which made its debut last Passover, already has 200,000 users in 70 countries connecting with one another with the hopes of finding their bashert…or at least maybe someone to hang out with or hook up with.

Targeted at Millennials, JSwipe was inspired by the Tinder matchmaking app, which has been around since late 2012. But while Tinder has a reputation for being used by individuals simply looking for someone attractive and nearby for casual sex, JSwipe’s founder insists that his app is about helping single Jews make meaningful connections.

“The moment I touched Tinder, I knew we needed something like this for the Jewish community,” JSwipe founder David Yarus told The Times of Israel while on a recent visit to Israel.

“Tinder is about hookups, but JSwipe by design has a different intention. It’s about connecting people for love, friendship, travel, or whatever they seek. JSwipe’s users are a serious community, and we’ve already had engagements and marriages of people who met using it,” he said.

People who sign up to use the app on their smartphone create a short bio and upload five photos of themselves from Facebook. Users search for potential partners by filtering for geographical location, sexual orientation and other criteria. Photos of potential partners pop up on the screen (along with their short bio and Facebook-generated mutual friends and interests), and the user swipes to the right if they are interested in the person, or left if they aren’t. (Selecting Jews to the right or the left apparently does not evoke Holocaust associations for this younger generation.)

If two users end up swiping each other to the right, a chat box pops up enabling them to communicate.

A chat between two JSwipe users who swiped each other to the right. (Courtesy)
A chat between two JSwipe users who swiped each other to the right. (Courtesy)

Yarus believes that JSwipe appeals to the young people (average age 26) who are using it because of its mobile platform and streamlined experience.

“Young people today don’t have time to search listings or craft long profiles or messages,” he said.

“JSwipe is about efficiency and fun. You only end up spending time on someone when there is a mutual interest.”

Yarus is also certain that the fact that JSwipe offers free love—as in, there is no charge to use the app—is a significant contributor to its popularity.

JSwipe user Rachel (not her real name), 29 and living in Boston, told The Times of Israel that she refuses to use Jewish dating sites that require membership fees, such as JDate (which charges $40 for a one-month subscription).

“I’ve had much more success meeting Jews by using a search filter for Jewish profiles on OkCupid, a well-run, modern, and free dating site,” she said.

Yarus, 28, sees JSwipe as a natural extension of the work he has done since his years studying entrepreneurship at Babson College near Boston.

“I’ve always loved bringing people together. I was always running parties and events,” he said.

Yarus, who also does social media marketing for Taglit-Birthright Israel, has a personal stake in JSwipe’s mission. Marrying someone Jewish is important to him.

“Being Jewish is central to my life, including professionally. Judaism cuts across my whole life, so I want to share that with whomever I end up with,” he said.

The JSwipe team at work in their Williamsburg, Brooklyn headquarters. (Courtesy)
The JSwipe team at work in their Williamsburg, Brooklyn headquarters. (Courtesy)

A group of young, successful Jewish entrepreneurs, including Platinum Rye Entertainment chairman Ryan Schinman and Salesforce’s chief strategy officer Mike Lazerow, is providing financial backing for JSwipe. According to Yarus, everyone involved is focused—at least at this point— on growing JSwipe rather than monetizing it.

A staff of eight works out of a small factory in Brooklyn on making this desired growth happen. The team’s engineers have been working out technical bugs on both the IOS and Android versions of the app that some users have encountered so that “swiping someone off their feet,” as Yarus put it, will become technologically smoother.

JSwipe has really taken off, but it’s too soon to tell whether all Jewish singles will want to let their finger do the swiping when it comes to searching for their soul mate and life partner.

Rachel is looking for “a serious, committed relationship, hopefully with a Jewish person.” Consequently, she’s not completely sold on JSwipe, which she calls “a crapshoot” that emphasizes physical attraction rather than long-term compatibility.

JSwipe founder David Yarus' JSwipe profile. (Courtesy)
JSwipe founder David Yarus’ JSwipe profile. (Courtesy)

“On other dating sites…, you learn about a person and decide whether or not they could be a match for you. Then you meet them and decide whether there is chemistry and attraction. With JSwipe…it’s the other way around. You first narrow down the pool to people you’re attracted to, then you have to meet them to find out if they might be a good match for you,” she said.

Twenty-nine-year-old Josh (not his real name) from New York doesn’t mind JSwipe’s approach to matchmaking.

“I think there is a momentary excitement that comes when you get a match, shallow though it is.  The same way slot machines can be addictive because they trick the brain into thinking reward is just around the corner, the swiping model ties us to the app,” he said.

Before JSwipe came along in April 2014, Josh had used other dating sites and apps, but never Jewish ones. He’s glad he decided to try it.

“I’ve had two JSwipe dates, and both were with great women, and both led to second dates,” he said.

True, a second date is not quite the same as standing under the huppah, but a swipe of the finger could eventually lead to a walk down the aisle.

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