the Thanksgiving holiday, I had occasion to peer into
two almost antithetical worlds of matchmaking. The
first: a do-it-yourself option courtesy of a Jewish
dating service on the Internet. The second: "Old
School" Jewish Matchmaking like a picture postcard
sent through time from Anatevka.
"It's easy," says my friend who frequents
one of several huge Jewish Internet dating web sites,
"you just type in your requirements and a list of
eligible candidates, complete with photos, pops
In his case, there are more than 80 women that meet
his criteria. Next to their photo is a one-word
description of their body type, from "cuddly"
to "athletic," and a rundown of their marital
history and hobbies. As he showed me, you just click on
a face you like for more information about her history
and fork over a few bucks for the privilege of sending
your top choice an introductory e-mail. She may or may
not respond. Than again, she may or may not be much like
the cyber-self she has created.
"Hey, I know her!" I yelled, pointing at
the familiar face of a former classmate I never much
liked. We took a look at her profile and I must say I
found she was quite generous in her description of
herself, leaving out key details a potential mate might
find pertinent. Where was "still receives a monthly
green hand shake from mom and dad" and "hasn't
eaten in front of others since 1982"?
And that, says Orthodox matchmaker Patricia
Brownstein, is one of the perils of Internet dating
today. In fact, says the French-born Brownstein, you
really never know much about anyone you meet these days.
As one of a handful of such matchmakers in Los
Angeles, she personally interviews hundreds of religious
and non-religious Jewish singles and even checks
personal and rabbinic references. Though she gets 30-40
phone calls a day and has been responsible for several
marriages, Brownstein charges nothing for her services.
In case you're interested, here is the number of the
special matchmaking line she recently had installed in
her home: (310) 286-9947.
With her first large-scale singles mingler
(exclusively for Conservative, Modern Orthodox and
Orthodox) scheduled for December 12, I had occasion to
speak to Brownstein, whose lush Parisian accent and
maternal tone make you feel comfortable right away.
"If you go to a party, you might not meet one
person you're attracted to," she explains.
"You may go to several parties before you meet
someone, and then it turns out he's divorced, over 50,
with four kids and that isn't right for you. With me, at
least you know the match is suitable for you. After
that, it's just a question of chemistry."
Brownstein's work doesn't end with the initial match,
which is crafted from her personal interviews, forms the
singles fill out and a gut feeling she gets through good
listening and prayer. The 39-year-old matchmaker talks
to people throughout the dating process, advising and
coaxing and nurturing what could be a potential
"I would never have gone to a shadchan
myself, so I understand why people are nervous as I
would have been. It's difficult to talk to a stranger
about personal things, especially for non-religious
people who come and they see that I cover my hair and
they feel out of place because they aren't
observant," she says.
"It takes about 15 minutes just to put people at
ease," Brownstein tells. "After that, they
open up like a flower, little by little. It's a
Having spoken to more than 700 single Jews, from the
Valley to San Diego, Brownstein says the biggest mistake
people make is that they become discouraged by the
search for a mate and let it show.
"People get very depressed. There's such
pressure, even in the non-religious world, that people
get unhappy and begin to see themselves in a negative
way if they aren't married. I understand how painful it
is, which is why I do what I do, but it's a big mistake
when people aren't joyful. If you're happy, that
attracts people to you," she says.
Welcome to Dating Paradox 101. When you're looking at
New Year's Eve 2000 with no plans other than ordering in
a carton of sweet n'sour self-pity for one, you're not
exactly exuding the confidence and joie de vivre
that attracts suitors. I guess that's where dating
assistance can come in handy, whether it's the
newfangled point-and-click or the hand-crafted variety.
Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing
writer for the Jewish Journal