JDate Swipes at Competitors

phone[1] JDate is suing its non-profit competitor for its use of the letter “J” and the idea of using a smartphone application to match people anonymously.

JSwipe is a new free Jewish dating application for smartphones. JDate’s parent company, Spark Networks (NYSE: LOV), takes in more than $50 million a year in fees from their online dating network, including JDate, ChristianMingle, and BlackSingles. JSwipe, on the other hand, is a small team based out of a factory in Brooklyn, and “motivated by passion, inspired by impact, and committed to making love free” according to JSwipe’s founder, David Yarus.

Of course the letter “J” was not invented by JDate. It was introduced as a letter in its own right by the Italians around 1524. And online dating was not invented by JDate either. It was invented in 1965 by Harvard students Jeff Tarr and Dave Crump who founded Compatibility Research.

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“From a Judaic ethics standpoint this lawsuit is inappropriate,” argues Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law. “Here we are talking about creating Jewish families that will have Jewish children. All the more so that we should encourage competition if the aggregate number of matches increases.”

Jonathan Loeb

Jonathan Loeb.

My smart, eligible, handsome, son Jonathan uses both JDate and JSwipe. However, he has found that JDate is oriented more toward older singles (Jonathan is 21) while my tech-savvy son really enjoys JSwipe and has had an excellent experience with the application.

While JSwipe is a literally a free gift of love, I have paid the Spark Network $72 per quarter for more than a year to pay for Jonathan’s JDate membership. However, given Jonathan’s success on JSwipe, and JDate’s abuse of their position as market leader, I will now cancel Jonathan’s membership at JDate and contribute $180 of my future savings to JSwipe’s legal defense fund.

Perhaps JDate hopes to win this lawsuit not by the force of its legal arguments but by JSwipe’s lack of resources. If they can intimidate JSwipe then other Jewish dating sites such as Simontov, The JMom and My Jewish Matches are likely to fair no better.

To help Jewish singles, please contribute generously via Indiegogo to help crowd-fund the legal battle to keep JSwipe alive. (If you happen to be a lawyer interested in providing pro-bono legal support, you can contact JSwipe at [email protected])

Don’t Be Embarrassed to Meet Online

— by Steve Hofstetter

It’s not embarrassing to meet a girl online. It’s embarrassing to meet a girl at a bar. Imagine knowing the only reason you have a girlfriend is because you met her when she was drunk and now she feels trapped. Tell that story to your 8-year-old son one day.

“How did you and mommy meet?”

“Well son, it was dollar shot night. Your mother looked so beautiful as the neon “Pabst Blue Ribbon” sign hit her while she was dancing on the bar. I got her to come down with a few shots of Jack Daniels, we went back to her place, one thing led to another, and that’s why your name is Jack.”

More after the jump.
“Where do babies come from?”

“Spring break.”

A friend of mine said that dating on-line stopped being lame the first time a guy scored, because a guy can justify anything if it leads to women. But despite that and a study that says 17% of all couples meet online, there’s still a stigma attached to internet love. That same study only lists “work/school” and “friend or family member” as greater hook up potential. And many of the people who said one of those two were probably lying and really met online.

Whenever I hear a non-specific origin story about a couple, I assume they’re hiding an online love affair. Couples that meet through a friend will almost always volunteer the friend’s name. Couples that say “oh, friend of a friend” – well that friend’s name is probably Mark Zuckerberg.

I’m not just defending online dating because I met my wife on JDate — I had been using the internet to meet women since I was 15. As a high school kid tired of being ignored, I turned to Compuserve chat rooms to meet girls. I met one of my first “girlfriends” that way. And by “girlfriend” I mean “someone who I talked to on the phone for a month and never kissed.”

Compuserve was a few bucks per minute and existed before you could choose your own email address, so mine was twice as long as my phone number. But the principle that got 15-year-old me past (and to spend hundreds of dollars of my parents’ money) is also what drew me to JDate.

“But mom, I didn’t realize it was still connected!”

Simply put, I wanted to meet someone who could skip past the superficial and actually get to know me. Of course, I wanted that person to be hot, too.

“Captain irony, your table is ready.”

Hot and not superficial are rare characteristics for one person to share, but they were both on my checklist. I wanted a match to have many, many characteristics, some of which I couldn’t discover if I was just approaching people in the offline world. Part of why people get so excited when they meet someone they think could be the one is the astronomical odds of doing so. Even if you meet someone at a bar, and even if you hit it off with that person, and even if you’re slick enough to get to the point in the conversation where you exchange numbers, there are still dozens of levels of compatibility that you haven’t even broached.

Online dating has tons of advantages over in-person meeting. First, everyone there is there for the same reason you are – to meet someone. A LOT of people at a bar are married and out with friends, just got out of serious relationships, or aren’t even interested in people of your gender. More importantly, you’re able to narrow down your matches before even speaking to any of them online, which you don’t have time to do at a bar. Online dating is much more methodical and scientific than offline.

And that’s where the stigma comes from – because there’s no cool factor. Online, you’ll never have a crazy origin of how you just bumped into each other, or how animal magnetism forced you to say hi. There’s just no story involving anyone who would eventually be played in a terrible romantic comedy by Kathryn Heigl and Hugh Grant.

I prefer using a more intelligent method to meet people, so I have never found anything wrong with using the web. But for anyone still worried that meeting their soul mate on a website might somehow reflect poorly on them, I offer this metaphor.

Let’s say you were offered a choice – a hundred million dollars to be an exec at Facebook or $5 an hour plus tips to work at a bar. Wouldn’t you happily tell everyone you made your millions online?

Me too.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central, and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

The Jewish Gene Pool


— by Steve Hofstetter

Compatibility is typically measured in likes and dislikes, general station in life, and temperament. But maybe its time people started measuring it in health, too.

Whether you believe in common interests or opposites attracting, we’ve always measured a relationship by preferred hobbies. I once had a girl break up with me because she liked to go hiking and I’m not outdoorsy, and she liked a glass of wine with dinner and I don’t drink. When she ended things, I suggested that I’d build her a bar in the woods. What was she going to do, break up with me twice?

Station in life is also important. We first notice the awkwardness in high school – seniors dating freshmen are both sketchy and annoyed. When you’re worried about college, you don’t want to be dating someone still wearing braces. Later in life there’s more of an impact. If you have kids from a previous marriage, the last thing you want to do is find a wonderful companion who is still in their party phase. Unless you’re Casey Anthony.

And of course there’s temperament – the potential success of a couple can often be measured by how they argue. Every couple argues eventually. So if you’re both people who fight hard and make up, or both people who casually debate, that could work. But if one of you loves conflict and the other avoids it, your relationship will end quicker then a typical boxing match – and with one of you knocked out, too.

Through all this, something I’d never considered before is genetic compatibility. Sure, someone who wants biological kids needs to be able to get pregnant and someone who loves fitness should avoid dating a partner with a glandular problem. But if the J in JDating is important to you, you should also consider genetics.

More after the jump.
I’ve watched enough House and Gray’s Anatomy to know about Tay-Sachs, which is carried by 1 in 30 Ashkenazi Jews. 1 in 25 of us carry Cystic Fibrosis, and 1 in 12 carry Gaucher Disease. There’s Niemann-Pick, Bloom’s Syndrome, even something called Maple Syrup Urine Disease. Yes, that’s real – though it sounds like something off a Wikipedia page.

We survived the holocaust, pogroms, exiles, and general Anti-Semitism, and our own genes are trying to kill us off. No wonder resilience is in our nature. The good news is that, despite the carrier frequency of these diseases, the actual occurrences are much smaller. For example, the probability of one Tay-Sachs carrier mating with another and then passing both mutations to a child is less than 1%.

But one thing I learned about recently that effects more Ashkenazi women than any of these is the BRCA mutation. Basically put, it’s a recently discovered genetic mutation that causes breast cancer in up to 85% of women who carry it, as well giving them up to a 50% chance of ovarian cancer. And while the rest of the population has a 1 in 300 chance of carrying this mutation, Ashkenazi Jews are 1 in 40.

What do we do with that knowledge? Well, science has given us a few options. What is known about BRCA mutations is fairly new, and due to a controversial patent on the testing, new knowledge isn’t coming out as quickly as it could. But we do know that the mutation can avoid being passed on to children. We do know that extensive surveillance can catch cancer early enough to prevent it from being fatal. And we do know that a prophylactic surgery can take a patient’s chance of developing cancer down to 2%.

While everyone’s route is their own individual decision, and as a man I can’t possibly understand what the psychological effects are, I do think it would be ignorant for those with a history of cancer in the family to risk passing that gene on to their children simply out of fear. That controversial patent also makes BRCA testing prohibitively expensive, unless you have a history of cancer in the family and decent insurance. Then it costs a few hundred bucks in co-pay to make sure you’re not sentencing your kids to cancer.

So what does all this mean for dating? I don’t recommend you lead with any of it. “I like long walks on the beach, Woody Allen movies, and avoiding debilitating diseases.” But it would be helpful for you to know this information about yourself before a relationship gets to the serious phase.

You know – the serious phase where you start finding out how you two fight. I don’t recommend that for first dates, either.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central, and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

For Your Romantic JDate: Meme

Spring has arrived in Philadelphia, putting my unmarried relatives in the mood for romance.  A shy young man in my family called me for advice about a JDate, a date from the Internet based Jewish dating community.  He was very interested in a young lady he had only met online, and wanted to take her out to a special place.

“First, set the tone by picking the right ambiance,” I suggested.  I told him to invite her to Mémé, in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. One of my favorite places in Philadelphia, it makes me feel like I am enjoying a meal in a Bistro in Paris.  I love watching the food being prepared in the open kitchen. “You can make a reservation for dinner this week,” I encouraged him.  “Or suggest brunch,” I added.  “You can reserve a table on the sidewalk and invite her to bring her dog.  The staff will welcome him with a bowl of water.”  

More after the jump.
“You may have butterflies in your stomach when your date arrives,” I said to my relative.  “Order a glass of wine to help you both relax,” I advise.  I love Mémé’s excellent selection of French, Italian, and domestic wines.

Being from my family, he cut straight to the food, “What should we order?” he asked me.  That is a very good question, since the menu does not stay the same for long here.  Chef David Katz is very creative and adventurous.  The cuisine is mostly inspired by France, Italy, and the Mediterranean.  One item that David Katz does not get to take off his menu is the roasted bone marrow with grilled bread.  This delectable dish would have made Julia Child drool all over her manuscript of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  “Definitely order this appetizer,” I tell my young man.

“I don’t know what surprises will be in store for the main course when you go there,” I said.  The food in this restaurant is New American Cuisine.  David Katz explains, “Nobody in America is an American, except Native Americans.  You need to go to a reservation to taste their traditional food.”  What this means for Chef David Katz is cooking the dishes that the American immigrants brought with them from the Old World, using the finest local and organic ingredients, and employing the best cooking techniques. Chef Katz, who has been cooking professionally since age fourteen, does not try to mask the flavor of the food.  He coaxes out the natural taste and aroma so we may appreciate each ingredient.”  On his mother’s side, David Katz’s family traces its lineage back to Spain, Morocco, and then America.  His personal New American food echoes the Moroccan flavors of his childhood.  One such dish is the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Loin with grilled eggplant, harissa, and lemon oil.  “If you see something Moroccan, be sure to try it,” I encouraged the eager courter.

“To conclude the meal, order the chocolate ganache cake with vanilla gelato, even if she says she does not want dessert!” I instruct the young suitor. “This is the cake that explains without words why there are no vanillaholics!”  “It will be on the menu,” I tell him.  “David Katz would probably have a riot on his hands if he dared take it off!”

In Moroccan French, “Mémé” means grandmother.  It is very sweet that David Katz has chosen to honor his grandmother by naming his restaurant for her.  She is probably there in spirit saying, “Nu!” to all the couples present.  “After your date finishes the last crumb of your chocolate cake, take her on a lovely walk through the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood,” I tell him.  “Enjoy the warm spring breezes, the fragrance of the flowering trees, and the singing of the birds.  This JDate will be great!”  And so will Mémé!  

Mémé

2201 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735-4900
www.memerestaurant.com

Two New Websites: Saving Jewish Families One Match at a Time


The latest surveys paint an alarming picture of intermarriage in the Jewish community: 47% of American Jews who married between 1996 and 2001 did so outside of their faith. While intermarriage affects only 6% of the Orthodox community, it reaches 32% of Conservative, 46% of Reform, and 49% of secular Jewish households.

Will our grandchildren be Jews?

The number of intermarriages continues to grow (in 1970 only 13% of American Jews intermarried), and only 13% of the grandchildren of intermarried couples continue to identify themselves as Jews.

To respond to this crisis intermarriage, we must encourage intra-marriage. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice has already written about Jdate which is an online Matchmaking service created in 1997. We are now pleased to announce two new online Matchmaking tools at your disposition.

  • The JMom: Geared towards Jewish parents and their single children, the site offers a unique, but old-fashioned, concept: “Let Mom decide.”
  • My Jewish Matches: 100% free, Independently funded, not-for-profit, online matchmaking service for Jews of any denomination. Members are certified to be Jewish, single with no criminal record.

Details Follow the Jump.
TheJMom.com Point. Click. Love. While dating sites have been around and grown increasingly popular throughout the past decade, there has never been a Jewish site that gave exclusive access to parents and made dating an official family affair. Until now.

The JMom breaks the mold of standard Internet matchmaking. Geared specifically toward Jewish parents and their single sons and daughters, the site offers a unique, but old-fashioned, concept: “Let Mom decide.”

“More parents are recognizing that making connections online can lead to love off- line,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder of TheJMom. “TheJMom.com puts parents behind the keyboard and lets them do the clicking and the matching.”

The goal of the site is to create a network of Jewish parents across the country who share a passion for finding their sons and/or daughters love. Members can browse prospective partners by city, email other parents for more information and take the initiative to set up dates. As a limited-time launch offer, from now until January 1, 2011, new members can receive free one year access. Moms – and their sons and/or daughters – can explore the site for free while home for the holidays and start 2011 off with a promising new dating scene.

Through exploring, Moms will find the site easy to navigate with three simple steps to begin the search:

  • Sign Up: Enter an email address and choose a password
  • Fill Out Your Information: Develop the profile of your son or daughter, and upload his or her photo.
  • Find a Match!: Use search tools to find the perfect match

You can browse potential partners in your child’s city, email their parents for more information about their children and family, and set them up on a casual date. All correspondence goes through the parents – so you would receive a message from another parent or vice versa. If/when both parents agree that their children might be a good match for each other, they can click an option in the message that says “Let’s set them up.” From there it is up to the kids to exchange messages, meet and determine if they are compatible.

TheJMom was launched in 2010 by siblings, Brad and Danielle Weisberg, and their good friend and programmer, Matt.

A year earlier, Brad and Danielle’s mother, Barbara, had asked numerous times to look at Brad’s online dating profile and search the site to see if she could find the perfect girl for him. Brad finally gave in and let her go to town, searching the site as she pleased. Two hours later, Brad came back to check on Mom and found her still completely engaged with the computer, searching with a list of about 10 different girls for him to contact. She had put more effort and time into the process than he could or ever would, and she enjoyed doing it. That was their first Ah-Ha moment. Additionally, Brad and Danielle’s Aunt Elaine set up her son Michael with a nice girl and two years later they got married. Hmmm…maybe Mom knows something we don’t?!

Dating is not easy these days for young professionals. It takes lots of time, money, and can be very stressful.

“Moms have been setting up their children for centuries,” said Weisberg. “We’ve made it simple for Mom to get online, and start hand-picking her son or daughter’s next date.”


My Jewish Matches

My Jewish Matches is the only 100% All Free, Jewish Relationship for Marriage Website that pre-qualifies its members to be Jewish and Single. Most so-called “Jewish” Dating websites do not pre-qualify their members and some even offer “willing to convert” as a membership category. As a result, anyone who signs up for these dating websites can join, whether they are Jewish or not, without qualification.

Unfortunately, many Jewish dating websites are charging high membership fees during difficult economic times. A group of single Jewish professionals with Rabbinical input felt it was time to finally take a stand and respond by creating a not for profit, 100% completely free, pre-qualified Jewish-Singles-Only Website, regardless of religious affiliation. There are no false or expired profiles as all members are current and real! My Jewish Matches has a maximum three-month non-visit policy and standards to screen and qualify all prospective members through a very brief questionnaire. Anyone who is not Jewish, is currently married or separated, has withheld a divorce from an ex-spouse for money or custody, has a criminal record or a history of violence is not allowed to join. My Jewish Matches is a completely funded and full-service International Jewish Relationship website with no charges of any kind ever.

The dedicated volunteers at My Jewish Matches have  spent two years developing the My Jewish Matches.Com website as “The Jewish Singles Meeting Place” and have successfully elevated the standards in Jewish Dating Websites. As they are non-profit, they do not have to accept membership from just anyone because they are willing to pay. The website was created for one purpose – to serve the world-wide Jewish Community by introducing Jews and encouraging them to meet and marry other Jews

The website just started a few months ago, but already has created its first match: Noach (member 108) and Irene (member 73) from Israel are soon to be married in Israel. Mazel Tov to the Happy Couple and Yasher Koach to My Jewish Matches.

Finding Jews in Rural America

— Steve Hofstetter

We have always gravitated towards large metro areas. Perhaps it’s because we’re a communal people. Perhaps it’s for the availability of good Chinese food. Whatever the reason, we’re city dwellers. Which means there’s an awful lot of America without any Jews.
The New York metro area has two million Jews, more than everywhere but Tel Aviv. But it’s a big drop after that. LA has 650,000. Philly, DC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco each have about a quarter million. A few more American cities have 50,000-100,000. But when you get down to the top 40 American cities, we’re talking less than 10,000 in a metro area.

I can just imagine someone on JDate in Pierre, South Dakota, messaging the same two people over and over again. There are only 295 Jews in the whole state – I’m guessing their answer to JDate’s “Will you relocate?” question is a resounding yes.

As a standup comic, I am constantly touring – so I get a chance to see parts of the country most people only dream about. Assuming their dreams are incredibly boring. I recently played a comedy club in Mason City, Illinois. I don’t know how they have a comedy club – they don’t even have a McDonald’s. I also don’t know how they get to be called a city. Mason Rest Stop, maybe. Incidentally, Mason City’s Jewish population is me, whenever I perform there.

Something that’s always been tough for me is being Jewish on the road. I learned very quickly to ask if everything I order is made it with bacon. Salad, steak, even pizza has come with bacon without the menu saying so. In certain parts of the country, they use bacon like Jews use salt. I’m actually shocked that powdered bacon isn’t available in a jar at the table. Most days I have to pretend I’m allergic to pork for any waitress to take me seriously. You try explaining kosher in Wichita.

I try to use the stage to spread love for the Jews, both with positive Jewish humor, and by simply being a Jewish guy the crowd likes. I am often the first Jew a lot of people meet, which is a ridiculous responsibility. To counteract prevalent stereotypes, I have to make sure to tip well, avoid klezmer music, and never eat the blood of Christian babies. Or bacon.

There was one time when I purposefully didn’t talk about being Jewish on stage. Before a show at a small bar in Muskogee, Oklahoma, my friends and I were confronted by what we thought were just local yokels. As they talked our annoyed ears off more and more, yokel turned into racist, and racist turned into two card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s right – they had ID cards. I believe they kept them right next to their Bed Bath and Beyond rewards cards. All those sheets can get expensive.

An aside – while doing research for this column, I checked out the KKK’s website – it looks like it was made by an 8th grader in 1997. Apparently, they hate black people, Jews, and HTML.

No one in the bar knew who I was, so my friends and I swapped positions on the show. I went on first and did ten ad-libbed minutes about growing up a patriotic, Christian American. I am proud to be Jewish, sure – but I am also proud of the Jewish people’s inherent ability to survive. That night, it was my turn.

I happily returned to Manhattan in one piece. I’m not saying we’re immune to anti-Semitism in New York; At some point Mel Gibson will star in an Oliver Stone movie here. But I do recognize that I am spoiled by just how easy it is for New Yorkers to find everything from a synagogue to a Kosher Deli to a Jewish wife.

I am continually impressed by the resolve of Jews in smaller cities, where it’s not as easy to be Jewish. So for those of you who don’t have the luxury of an apartment complex littered with mezuzahs, stay strong. And make sure to check if they put bacon on your ice cream.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.