The headquarters of Jswipe, a Jewish alternative to Tinder, are located in an old, dilapidated warehouse at the very end of North 12th Street in Williamsburg. “When you think you’re lost, you’ve made it,” David Yarus, the 28-year-old founder, tells me. “We’re in this crazy factory, 16-wheelers and all.”
But in an age where religion, race and old world values feel less and less important to young Americans of all denominations, many millennial Jews still seem to care deeply about dating inside their own culture
Like the app, dating sites for teenagers which in some ways harkens back to the idea of the shadchan or Jewish matchmaker of yesteryear, the building feels like a bridge between the old world and the new. Inside the high-ceilinged loft that functions as both the offices for the tech startup and Yarus’ apartment, a half-dozen or so trendy-looking twentysomethings are typing frantically on their laptops as Lil Wayne blasts from a pair of speakers. Down the hall is the Queens Typewriter Stationary Corp., which has been repairing typewriters and adding machines throughout the five boroughs since 1922, around the same time the Jewish population in New York City first began to boom.
“I think JSwipe is kind of the modern day matchmaker,” says Yarus. He’s wearing a slim-fitting gray suit and a backwards snapback with the word “BROOKLYN” printed across the front. “But it’s almost you and your friends are the matchmakers. It’s democratizing the matchmaker through technology.”
The concept of Jewish-specific online dating is nothing new. ) than Tinder, has been around since 1997. There’s now even a mobile competitor to JSwipe, JCrush, which also launched earlier this year. Yarus says Jswipe has “leapfrogged” JCrush’s userbase in recent months, reaching, he says, over 100,000 users worldwide.
JDate, a Jewish dating service closer to other niche pay sites like Christian Mingle and Black Singles (all three are owned by the same company, Spark Networks, Inc
Yarus, who grew up in a predominantly Jewish community in Miami Beach, Florida, is only interested in marrying a woman who shares his faith and cultural background. He started JSwipe because he saw the market for a younger, sleeker Jewish dating app without the stigma that surrounds JDate, a site which Yarus likens to AOL and describes as “clunky.” If JSwipe has, as it claims, engendered 1 million matches, 100 million swipes, and 5 million messages, he may be right.
“Probably even the first day I touched [Tinder] I was like, ‘Whoa, that shit is future. The Jewish community needs it immediately,'” says Yarus. “The only problem for me was that it presented me everyone and that there was no way I could possibly filter for what was most important for me, which was only dating and marrying someone Jewish.”
For some, the idea of seeking out a match based on race and religion might seem a tad antiquated (even slightly bigoted in its exclusivity), despite the undeniable advancements in technology. I myself am a product of an interfaith ily is Jewish by way of Eastern Europe, and my father is Irish Catholic. Neither myself nor my parents are religious, though I do identify as culturally Jewish.
But because of this fact I’ve always wondered how I would fare on a Jewish dating site like JDate, and now JSwipe. Would I be Jewish enough for these people? In fact, the one friend Yarus and I have in common on Facebook is a girl who once chastised me at a party for referring to myself as “half-Jewish.” “I would never call myself half-Jewish,” she had said with more than a hint of disdain in her voice. “I’m Jewish.”