This matchmaking site helps religious Jews looking for love

Shagririm Ba’Lev, an online matchmaking program, is giving religious people the privacy, discretion and personalized attention they need to help find their basheret.

 UNLIKE TINDER, OkCupid and others, Shagririm Ba’Lev is not an app, and there’s no need to swipe. (photo credit: Courtesy)
UNLIKE TINDER, OkCupid and others, Shagririm Ba’Lev is not an app, and there’s no need to swipe.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Helping someone find their soulmate is one of the greatest deeds in Judaism, and with good reason. After all, God brought Adam and Eve together, igniting thousands of years of couplehood. A matchmaker, then, is quite literally doing the Lord’s work.

But today, when dating apps reign supreme, many singles are lamenting the lack of magic in finding that special someone. This is especially true of religious singles who not only aren’t interested in the casual encounters that have for better or worse defined Tinder culture, but they also value their privacy.

Ambassador's of the Heart: Online matchmaking, no need for swiping

Enter Shagririm Ba’Lev (“Ambassadors of the Heart”). Unlike Tinder, OkCupid and others, this is not an app and there’s no need to swipe. The only ones able to access the network of applicants are a carefully curated group of ambassadors – 1,000 volunteers in total – who have pledged their time and personal connections to help those who are close to them find the love of their life.

It’s a lofty goal, but since its establishment in September 2019, some 102 couples have stood under the huppah thanks to the network, so much so that one Shagririm Ba’Lev couple has been getting married, on average, every five days.

Deputy CEO Oriel Lax, who also serves as a volunteer ambassador, is still riding the high from attending the wedding of his sister, Yael Lax, after he introduced her to her husband, Bezalel Beck, only a few months ago.

 UNLIKE TINDER, OkCupid and others, Shagririm Ba’Lev is not an app, and there’s no need to swipe. (credit: Courtesy) UNLIKE TINDER, OkCupid and others, Shagririm Ba’Lev is not an app, and there’s no need to swipe. (credit: Courtesy)

“I logged into the network, and on paper, Beck seemed like the perfect fit. But it wasn’t enough for me to think so. I had to discuss matching him with Yael with his ambassadors as well. Only after both of us thought it would be a good match did we present the idea to each of them,” he explained.

While it might not seem obvious that Atlanta-born Beck would find his bashert (soulmate) with Yael, who grew up in Israel, the two ambassadors saw potential, given their shared values.

“I think they thought we’d connect over our shared views on religion,” Beck said. “Religiously, it’s difficult to put either of us in a certain box. I guess you could say we’re Modern Orthodox/yeshivish, but Yael doesn’t identify as haredi [ultra-Orthodox] or National-Religious. She’s just religious. So in many ways, we’re outliers,” he explained.

The two wasted little time in getting to know each other, to the point that Lax and Beck’s ambassador both suggested he set up a date with Yael mere days after he immigrated to Israel this past March.

THE TWO AMBASSADORS were clearly onto something as it only took an hour-and-a-half meeting at a nondescript English Cake café for the two to hit it off.

“I have a very simple approach to these things. I saw that I’m going out with someone whose personality I get along with, we’re on the same page regarding religion and she has so much value, and I know she’ll help make me a better person. I did not want to miss this opportunity, I wanted her to be my wife.”

Bezalel Beck

“I have a very simple approach to these things. I saw that I’m going out with someone whose personality I get along with, we’re on the same page regarding religion and she has so much value, and I know she’ll help make me a better person. I did not want to miss this opportunity, I wanted her to be my wife,” Beck declared.

While Yael laughed that it took her a bit more time to know that he was the one, she eventually came to the realization that, “he has a great heart. What more do you really need?”

Like all other couples, Lax and Becks’ ambassador continued to keep tabs on the couple. For dates that are successful, they touch base to see if there’s anything they can do to help move things along. And for dates that are a bust, ambassadors take into consideration why the match didn’t work out in order to help fine-tune their search for future dates.

Beck was impressed with that level of personal attention that is unique to Shagririm Ba’Lev. 

“You’re not just an account where you’re mindlessly swiping. Here, you get matched based on personal recommendations by people who actually know you and are invested in the outcome.”

Bezalel Beck

“You’re not just an account where you’re mindlessly swiping. Here, you get matched based on personal recommendations by people who actually know you and are invested in the outcome,” he said.

While the network isn’t an open-ended list of matches like other dating apps, it does have a filter that lets the algorithm do some of the initial heavy lifting. So ambassadors can search the secure database based on age, profession, location, language, army service, hobbies and other basic criteria.

“It’s a great mix of man and machine coming together to yield the best results,” Lax said.

It makes sense, then, that the network was born out of the Jerusalem College of Technology as a student social activity established by then-student David Shimoni, and was widely supported by the head of the school’s Beit Midrash, Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon. The platform thrived at the college that prides itself in providing a healthy balance of Torah and secular studies. 

In its infancy, the platform was once exclusively for JCT students. Now, though, by partnering up with World Mizrachi, it’s looking to scale its initiatives, not only within the entire National-Religious community in Israel, but beyond Israel’s borders as well.

“We’re so proud that JCT is part of a legacy of helping Jews find their life partner, building a future together and strengthening the fate of Am Yisrael [the Jewish people]. JCT is not just a higher education institution. In fact, the college has always played a significant role in addressing social issues facing the Israeli population,” said JCT vice president and Shagririm Ba’Lev cofounder Stuart Hershkowitz. “There’s no greater honor than helping one find the person that they choose to spend the rest of their life with.”

Those who are unlucky in love often hear that they’ll find their soulmate when they’re not looking for them. In the case of couples who found love with Shagririm Ba’Lev, the opposite is true: Love can be found if you have the right person doing the searching for you.■