It is not easy being single in the religious-Zionist society. Other than the constant search for a partner, singles have to deal with endless offers – some stranger than others – from friends, family, and even the girl next door, who are all worried that you'll spend Shabbat eating alone. But a new invention lets a computer take care of the first screening and saves heartache for all concerned.
The national-religious matchmaking organization Yashfe is set to unveil its new program, which is designed to save matchmakers some work. Singletons answer a few questions about themselves and their expectations, and the program will find appropriate candidates – and even calculate compatibility in percentages.
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I showed up at Yashfe's offices in Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem neighborhood to test out the new technology. Shirat Malach, director of the organization, was in the middle of running "Matchmaker Commando," which includes more than 500 single men and women who are looking to catch a potential mate.
"How religious are you?" Shirat asks bluntly, and I am to choose between "moderately religious" and "Torah-observant." After that, I rank myself according to 10 parameters related to all aspects of my life thus far. Then I rank my ideal woman according to 35 parameters: I'm looking for someone college-educated, a non-smoker (or at least trying to quit), don't care about ethnicity, but want to meet woman aged 20-26 only.
The matchmaker inputs the information quickly and presses "match!" Immediately, hundreds of single religious woman appear on the screen – of all colors, ages, and sleeve lengths. The auto-matchmaker arranges them according to compatibility. Four fit me 100% and make me re-think polygamy, and no fewer than 16 fit me 99%. Shirat keeps the names hidden until "I decide seriously whether or not I'm interested."
"Torah-observant" A., a nice-looking 1.64-meter tall 22-year-old, catches my eye. She and I are 97% compatible. "Why not 100%?" I asked in disappointment. It seems that A. prefers young men who have gone through hesder yeshiva. Luckily, she's willing to compromise on a guy like me.
"The program knows how to calculate how much each parameter would bother you," Shirat explains. "We defined a few percentages to drop for every year of an age gap or requirement not met."
In the past few months, the "auto-matchmaker" has been running as a pilot, and thus far has set up 21 couples, one of whom defied the statistics. The computer ranked the happy pair's compatibility at only 41%.
"That's proof that you also have to use your head," the experienced matchmaker smiled. "The girl absolutely wouldn't consider divorced men, but thanks to a stubborn matchmaker the invitation to their wedding is up here on the wall."