Hip Modern Orthodox ISO Same

By Rachel Zuckerman

Published September 19, 2003, issue of September 19, 2003.

For those who consider Jewish observance paramount, there’s another option: Before there was Friendster, there was Frumster, an Israel-based company bought this week by a group of American Orthodox investors.

Grayson Levy, who immigrated to Israel from Canada in 1995, created Frumster’s forebear, DosiDate.com in 1997 (dosi is Hebrew slang for an Orthodox Jew). Four years later, he created an English-language version: Frumster.com. His inspiration for the English-language site’s name came from the mid-1990s Rob Schneider character on “Saturday Night Live,” who stood by a copy machine annoying his colleagues by loudly adding the letters S-T-E-R to the end of their names. Levy created Frumster to satisfy a demand among American Modern Orthodox Jews who felt that sites like JDate.com didn’t cater to their dating needs.

“For most of them, other dating sites are inappropriate or full of irrelevance for them,” Levy said about Frumster’s users. “People write and say to me that they are also members of other dating sites and are often approached by Conservative and Reform Jews, when in fact they want to meet more observant people.”

At press time, 48 couples that have met through Frumster have announced engagements or gotten married. Frumster, which is free, allows its Orthodox users to post and browse through profiles that include descriptions, political affiliations and levels of observance: how often they read Torah, for example, and the extent of their Jewish education. The site boasts 10,000 users.

Becky Feen, a 27-year-old New Yorker, almost married a man she met on Frumster. Feen, who in June broke off her four-month-long engagement, said she had a positive experience using the site despite the fact that the relationship did not work out, which she blamed on “irreconcilable differences.”

But Feen has not lost heart; she is once again online, searching for her bashert on Frumster.

“Frumster is more serious than other dating sites,” said Feen, who is Modern Orthodox. “Most Orthodox people I know are dating… to get married, and Frumster weeds out the people who aren’t thinking in those terms.” Yes, it’s true, some Web daters are more interested in casual sex than marriage, but Frumster seems to attract the latter.

Levy — who, as of the sale, is no longer involved in what is to be called Frumster LLC — believes that online dating is becoming more accepted and popular in the Modern Orthodox community. After all, there are other sites aimed at the same audience: Jewishcafe.com, Jsoulmate.com, Orthodate.com and Sephardiconnect.com, to name a few.

“I can’t speak for the whole Modern Orthodox community, but a lot of people from the site e-mail me and tell me how they feel. And I think there is less of a stigma to meet someone online now,” he said. “I think a lot of people would rather go online than to a matchmaker, which is less popular amongst Modern Orthodox.”

The Orthodox community is divided on the issue of singles meeting online. But Rabbi Avi Shafran, public affairs director for Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox advocacy group, defends Internet dating.

“Many of our constituents shun the Internet and believe the whole medium is treyf,” he said. “But as you move further to the left, to the Modern Orthodox end of the spectrum, you see many more people taking advantage of it.”

“It provides an opportunity for people to get to know people by their thoughts,” he said. “When you take away the element of meeting someone in person, some of the less important things are removed.”

Ironically, Shafran sees a connection between the modern concept of people meeting online and the age-old tradition of an older member of a religious community getting two younger people together.

“This is the same idea behind the concept of a traditional match,” Shafran said. “In a sense [meeting online] is ultra-traditional.”



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