The YUConnects online matchmaking site has been a successful relationship builder for over 600 individuals, with the platform having recently celebrated 300 engagements. According to its website, YUConnects offers social events, learning programming, and one-on-one meetings with the platform’s matchmaking connectors to “foster healthy relationships toward marriage.” While available for the entire Jewish community at large to utilize, YUConnects is also heavily geared towards the Yeshiva University student demographic. For students’ convenience, many of the organized social events take place at the uptown and midtown campuses, and connectors are also available at these locations for in-person meetings. Regarding her decision to join YUConnects, one Stern College for Women (SCW) undergraduate said, “I know many people who met their spouses on dating websites, and when I started dating and saw that this one is targeted to YU students, I was interested.”
To receive the benefits of being a YUConnects member, one must initially pay a yearly membership fee of $100. Once registered, the process of building a profile can begin. The SCW student explained, “It walks you through different questions about yourself, your family, education, etc. You answer questions about your hobbies, interests, music preferences. You write a description about yourself and what you’re looking for.” One SCW graduate and current GPATS student added, “Some [questions] are a little uncomfortable, like putting in physical descriptions about yourself. But that is typical of any dating site.” Tzipora Roffe, SCW ‘18, described the questionnaire as an easy process with “a lot of drop down arrows.” The GPATS student explained that in order for the connectors to know more information about you and your personal preferences, “There is a section that only the matchmaker sees where you can write very candidly about what kind of person you’re looking for.”
Creating a pleasing and eye-catching profile is more tedious than one might initially expect. The SCW student explained that it is part of the matchmaker’s job to help the YUConnects member enhance his or her profile for the most and best possible matches. “They will give you tips and advice on what to change, if you wrote too much information, or too little, or if you need to change your pictures. Anything that will make you stand out,” she added. When looking at a potential match’s profile, Roffe cites “schooling” as a standout factor. Both the GPATS student and SCW student agreed that the most vital component to take into account when looking at someone’s profile is “a good description.” As the profile description ultimately serves as the first impression, the SCW student suggests to “let your personality come through, even a little bit.” The GPATS student noted that it is very important to notice “how they describe themselves and how they describe what they’re looking for, because it is very easy to get shticky with describing yourself. You may want to seem like someone who has a connection to G-d, and that you’re religious, but the way you formulate it really gives off a lot of who you are.”
Once one completes his or her online profile, a matchmaker is supposed to call the member for a phone discussion about the newly created profile and “to get to know you better,” said the GPATS student. “It’s also really nice when you have a matchmaker that you trust because you can go to them for advice with your profile or dating in general. I also like having a middle person; it’s extremely helpful,” stated the SCW student. It is possible, however, that some connectors may not be as actively working on profiles as anticipated. Roffe added, “Personally, I don’t really talk to my matchmaker. It is very slow moving.” Similarly, the SCW student said that “sometimes you can have a matchmaker that is really not on top of your profile and you have to continuously nudge them which can be frustrating.” The dating scene may be a daunting and intimidating new world for users, so it is ultimately the connectors’ primary responsibility and job, as the GPATS students puts it, “To be there for you.”
The interviewed YUConnects members have all similarly experienced a slow-moving and rather uneventful experience with the platform. Roffe says that she “went on one date, and it was bad.” Of her time spent using YUConnects, the SCW student commented, “It’s frustrating because sometimes you will go months without any matches. It can also be very discouraging to see how many times your profile has been sent out and rejected.” Echoing this sentiment, the GPATS student, who has been utilizing YUConnects for a year, said that she has only gone out on two dates with one person from the platform. She herself has turned down potential dates from the site, and is aware that people are also saying no to her profile. She expressed, “It is dejecting because you’re paying money and you want things to happen, but I know that the connectors really are trying to set me up.” Though at times frustrated with the lack of progress and activity that has come out of her time using the relationship-building resource, she remains positive and hopeful. “It’s not anyone’s fault. I know people who have met on [YUConnects], so it really just takes one person,” she added.
In comparing YUConnects to other Jewish matchmaking initiatives, the GPATS student says that YUConnects is “the most legit. It’s a whole operation–people are working day in and day out to get this done.” Furthermore, it is unique in the fact that there are “people of all different hashkafas on the platform.” This enables people coming from varying Jewish backgrounds to meet one another. The SCW student admits that she has tried other online dating profiles, but found that they were primarily based on appearances. She appreciates that YUConnects is a serious, relationship-building platform.
Nevertheless, a stigma surrounds the concept of relying on a matchmaking site to find one’s besheret. Roffe believes that this existing stigma is not uniquely true about using YUConnects, but other “dating initiatives” as well. She explained, “While many people get set up by matchmakers, using resumes, and/or an online profile, it is still not ‘natural’ enough for today’s society–we need to casually meet or be introduced by friends.” Roffe stated that she is unsure as to why this is the norm mentality, but admitted that “I also can’t pretend that I am not immune to this way of thinking.” The GPATS student shares a similar view. She asserted, “I think [the stigma] has to do with using a dating site in general. A lot of people just want to meet someone naturally and may feel looked down upon, or they feel people might pity them because they weren’t able to meet someone on their own. When in reality, [using YUConnects] is no different than going to a shadchan.”
The YUConnects mission is to support and help Jewish singles create meaningful and healthy relationships in their search for the one. When asked if she would recommend YUConnects to her friends, the SCW student said, “I have in the past, and will continue to recommend it. Yes, it costs money and it could get frustrating when you go a while without a date, but so far it’s the best option for serious daters.” In reflection of her YUConnects experience, the GPATS student stated, “Is it dejecting to be on it for so long and not get set up? Yeah, but it’s more dejecting when you’re not on it and you get nothing.” At the end of the day, she believes that the very act of continuously trying to find a match should be a source of comfort for individuals, not a deterrent. In conclusion, she said, “I think that it’s our role to do our hishtadlus. Is it sad that we don’t get set up often? Yes. But it’s not for our lack of trying.”