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January 31, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 31, 2014 Meet the Jewish matchmaker-in-chief  , ,,& PAGE $m AN EVENT SETTING FOR EVERY SIMCHA. No matter what you're celebrating, Rosen Plaza Hotel offers friendly, award-winning service, elegant presentations, custom menus and talented master chefs to enhance any event. And we welcome you to host your next celebration with us. The homepage of the Jewish dating website By Beth Kissileff PITTSBURGH--Tova Weinberg will do anything to make a match--even adopt a dog. In an interview from her home in Pittsburgh Wein- berg, the matchmaker who co-founded the Jewish dating website (SYAS), recalls her confusion when a man whom she thought was in a relationship asked to come to her Hanukkah party for singles. Asked why he would attend a singles party, the man said he wanted to marry the woman he was dating, but he hated her dog. Weinberg called the woman to let her know that her boyfriend wanted to marry hersans the dog. When the womanbalked,Weinberg said, "I'll take the dog." Within a few months, Weinberg was a pet owner, and the couple was married. Launched in December 2003, SYAS was one of the first Jewish dating websites. The site's approach is unique in that it fuses the old-school shidduch (matchmaking) strategies with new-school Internet dating. Unlike most dating sites, in which users independently browse pro- files, SYAS relies on a team of volunteer matchmakers who scour databases of users and suggest matches to the users they represent. Only match- makers who are married and willing to devote at least six hours per week to the proj- ect are eligible to volunteer. SYAS now boasts more than 30,000 users, and nearly 1,000 matches resulting in marriage have been made since the site's inception a decade ago. At the helm of the operation is Weinberg, who works from what she calls "command central"--a small desk area in her kitchen. That space is where the "magic" happens, she says. "Here is a profile. I look, think who is out there, who might be good," Weinberg tells As a shadchan (match- maker), Weinberg deals with all kinds of clients with special needs, from Asperger's syn- drome-spectrum individu- als, to widows and widowers, to divorcees. She believes her toughest customer is a 30-year-old "Bais Yakov girl" (referring to the Brooklyn- based Orthodox school for girls) who is looking for a "Tom Cruise lookalike who says Tehillim (Psalms)." Weinberg has also had male clients tell her that they are gay but haven't come out yet to their parents. Other men have told her they aren't in- terested in her matchmaking services because they have a shiksa (non-Jewish woman) girlfriend they don't want their families to know about. In those cases and similar ones, Weinberg stays quiet, doesn't make a match, and leaves the client to sort out his or her issues. In fact, Weinberg got into matchmaking not to help Jews who are already observant, but to help prevent intermar- riage. When Weinberg and her husband Joel moved from New York to Pittsburgh, where he works as a physician, he kept bringing home Jewish doc- tors with nofi-Jewish spouses or girlfriends. Weinberg did not want to speak to the non-Jewish partners due to her distress about intermar- riage, but Joel told her to stop complaining and instead do something about it. Weinberg's matchmak- ing career had unofficially started before she moved to Pittsburgh. When she lived in New York in her early 20s, she got to know a philan- thropic woman named Else Bendheim, who would host single men and women--30 of each gender at a time--at Shabbat dinners. Bendheim told Weinberg that she would sponsor more singles events if Weinberg would host them. The first of Weinberg's parties was an unbelievable success: she connected Debbie Atlas with Mark Goldenberg, and the next day they both called her to tell her they liked each other and that it might turn into marriage. That was Weinberg's first unusual success story, after which point she continued to make seemingly un-makeable matches. She recalls having one wealthy client who did not want to marry someone who needed him financially. She thought the wealthy man and one of her other clients had a future together, so she lied to the man that her other client was an heiress. The match was successful, and the man thanked Weinberg for lying because he would not have gone out with the woman he loved if he had known she was actually penniless. Weinberg explains that it is the "match- maker's touch" to perceive aspects of others' character and the reasons why two people would work together, even if the attributes perceived aren't on the "list" of what a single person says he or she is looking for in a partner. Asked about the role of technology in dating, Wein- berg says there is a "sickness" in that singles think more potential mates can magically appear, and dismiss suggested matches for trivial reasons like a girl's hair being too curly. She says there are those who think online dating is as simple as Starbucks: "Take skim milk with caramel and a dash of Splenda, [and] they are getting all they want." Regarding her own mar- riage of more than 30 years, Weinberg first says, "I had to settle." Then she amends her statement. "I didn't really settle," she says. "Physically he had no hair, he was thinner and the same height as me. If I would have met him when I was 19, I would not have looked twice." Instead, she met her hus- band at age 24, when she "realized what was out there." Though Joel wasn't her ideal match physically, Weinberg says her future husband had "everything else'--brilliance, integrity, and the refusal to take no for an answer. Weinberg has five married children and 13 grandchil- dren. A large family photo in her home was taken at her youngest son's recent wedding. How did the couple meet? "He ran after her on the street," she says proudly. For those not bold enough to make such moves, there are match- makers like Weinberg and dating websites like SYAS to help Jewish singles do what it takes to find their soul mates. "Always the right invitation" Gayle Steinhart (Formerly with Write in Style) 407.831.4200 Specializing in: Seder Meals Rehearsal D'mners Jewish Weddings Showers Corporate Functions Bar & Bat Mitzvahs Reunions Email or call 407.966.9700 for more information or to plan your next event. Temple Israel 50 South Moss Road Winter Springs, FL 32708 407.647.3055 you can talk to God anywherez but where do you talk to others about God? Rabbi Joshua Neely Join The Conversation Roth Social Hall Available April, 2o14 Building Community Since 1954 Friday Service: 7:3o pin, Saturday Service: 9:3o am Meet & Greet every Friday at 7:o0 pm before services Sunday Minyan: 9:o0 am - Savage Family Chapel Special Havdalah: February 8 at 7:0o pm & March I at 7:1o pm, 2o14 - Rein Sanctuary Prayerful Meditation: 9:30 am - February 15 & March 22, 2014 - Savage Family Chapel Find us on Facebook