JWed.com (formerly known as Frumster.com) was launched in 1997 and has seen over 3,600 marriages, averaging eight engagements/marriages a month.
As a pioneering service, it faced many early challenges, not least hesitancy and even some resistance to online dating within the observant community.
Nevertheless, the need was real and co-founders Ben Rabizadeh and Derek Saker were driven by the mission to empower Jewish singles to take charge of their dating lives.
As Ben Rabizadeh recalls, “Healthy social mixing was becoming a rarity, traditional dating was characterized by an increasingly dismissive environment, and there were far more dating challenges that specifically pertained to single Jewish women.”
Within the first years, thousands of Jewish singles joined the service from different observant backgrounds and from communities far and wide. Membership aggressively increased and the number of marriages continued to exponentially grow.
The early success of the service – which has always been defined by the number of marriages – was nowhere more apparent in the fact that over 65% of the marriages were initiated by women. That is, in these cases the female partner was the first to initiate an email.
The reality, still today, is that in the “traditional” Jewish dating world, and certainly the more observant world, it is often the woman who finds herself playing second fiddle as it were, waiting for the phone to ring. The online dating service empowers Jewish singles – especially women – to take charge and to take the lead in their dating life.
In 2007 Derek Saker left the online dating service to take on the position of Director of Communications at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.
Fast forward 11 years later to 2018.
Derek, still in New York, but divorced, began dating again and created a profile on what was now JWed.com.
The name had been changed from Frumster.com to JWed.com in 2012, to meet the need of a growing market of Jewish singles who while not necessarily religiously observant, were equally marriage-minded and equally focused on marrying someone Jewish.
Derek says he created a profile on the JWed App “more out of curiosity” – but was immediately taken by one specific profile, to whom he sent a message.
Within 24 hours, he received a response from Devorah, a 46-year-old Londoner. She was also divorced and a single parent. They began communicating and found much in common. However, shortly thereafter, Derek felt he needed to take a break and self-suspended his JWed profile.
Imagine his surprise 10 days later when Devorah sent a message to his work email!
Devorah had tracked him down, knowing his place of work and full name.
The email subject line was “Either You Will Think I Am Desperate, a Psycho, or Just a Tenacious Woman!” It was a bold move, and the perfect way to win Derek’s heart. “I loved her email, and we started communicating again,” Derek said.
This led to hundreds of emails, and WhatsApp calls and in December 2018 Derek flew to London for the weekend to meet Devorah for the first time.
Many back-and-forth flights followed, and in May 2019 they were engaged, after Derek permanently moved to London, they were married in the winter of 2019.
Shortly thereafter, Derek re-joined JWed.com as CMO.
Derek says that while distance was of course a considerable challenge – he had not thought of leaving the US after so many years – it is important to bear in mind that a significant majority of JWed’s over 3,600 marriages took place between members who were out of city/state and even country.
As he says from firsthand experience, “JWed enables Jewish singles – whether from a major metropolitan city or from a small town, whether from across the street, or across the world, to meet one another, like never before. “And while geography is admittedly a major factor in whom one communicates with, JWed has in fact always encouraged members to search way beyond their immediate location – where character, shared life goals, personality and other virtues, are so often far more important than just location.
As he says, “If two people meet and find so much in common, both current and their plans for the future – geography, however challenging, can be overcome.”
Interestingly the pandemic has seen membership continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Many JWed marriages haven taken place during the pandemic – although very small events.
Derek says the younger 18-28 generation, greatly curtailed by social interaction, has taken advantage of the default opportunity to try a dating medium that before some may have seen as unnecessary or had an aversion to.
So too, he conveys that JWed has seen a huge increase in senior members where before, online dating may have been the furthest thing from their minds.
Solitude during the pandemic has no doubt had a profound impact on senior Jewish singles. While some seniors have been technology-averse, this loneliness has certainly fueled the drive to overcome any hurdles with the help of family and support staff from the service itself.
Today, JWed has an international membership of tens of thousands, from younger singles to members in their eighties. Derek says, “We even have a member in his nineties!”
As Derek says, “You’re never too old to love and to want to be loved by another.”