Reporter's notebook: We find love in an AIPAC place

Young Jews among 16,000 delegates are using organization’s annual conference to mix, mingle – and maybe find a match.

The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Hey, are you AIPACing? This was how Daniel, 26, active 52 minutes ago, chose to open his conversation with me on JSwipe, that Jewish dating app that has been cheekily coined “Tinder for Jews” by much of the media, which has 230,000 active users all over the world.
Why yes Daniel, I am, in fact, “AIPACing,” as are 3,000 other young people, mostly high school and college age, mixed in among the 16,000 delegates at this conference.
Wherever there are young Jews congregating in large groups, there also necessarily comes an undercurrent from the tribal elders of “pssst, you should really make some Jewish babies.”
And here, at the world’s largest annual gathering of Jews in North America, the pool from which to cull a match and make said Jewish baby increases exponentially. In this connected world, naturally, this is easier than ever, thanks to apps like JSwipe.
Unlike dating sites like OkCupid, Match or JDate that allow a user to write as much about themselves as they want and personally volunteer as little information as they care to, JSwipe pulls a user’s information from Facebook – including “likes,” “hobbies,” age, schools and any other information a user has voluntarily handed over to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The user is left only with a few questions: “What type of Jew are you?” “Do you keep kosher?” and “Write something about yourself.”
It then uses your location to pinpoint which app users around you matches your requirements.
The first profile that pops up when I download the app is Bibi Netanyahu – is it Purim already? His description reads “PM me, if you know what I mean” with a smiley face with hearts in its eyes at the end. I swipe right, meaning that I accept him as one of my matches. Should “Bibi Netanyahu” log on, see my profile, and choose to also swipe right, we will be able to chat with each other.
The next several profiles I swipe through are all under the age of 21 and I don’t really want to play Mrs.
Robinson to some poor AIPAC freshman. I swipe left, eliminating them from the competition.
At one point I make the mistake of abandoning my phone to my co-worker, and he makes several age-inappropriate choices for me (“Come on, it’s AIPAC, live a little,” he says).
Eventually a few more age-appropriate faces swing across my screen and I start getting notifications that the gentlemen in my vicinity find me similarly attractive.
“I hope Susan Rice addresses the question in your profile,” says JD, 29, active six minutes ago and less than a mile away from me. The question in my profile to which JD is referring is a cheeky reference to a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. But in the 20 minutes since I downloaded this app to see how people are AIPACing, no one has gotten the reference.
One message later, JD assures me Bob Menendez (Senator, D-New Jersey), who is about to speak right after Rice, will “definitely address that situation,” he writes.
All told, during both Rice’s and Menendez’s speeches, a combined amount of time of about an hourand- a-half, I receive around a dozen notifications, either informing me of a new match (“Mazal Tov, you have a new match!” the app says [seriously]) or a new message.
So basically, no one’s paying attention to the politics.
David Yarus, the founders of JSwipe who attended AIPAC in a collaborative capacity with Birthright, said that he and his co-founders have embraced the label “Tinder for Jews,” even though the intention is different than Tinder’s, which has fast become the world’s preeminent hookup app.
“You’re looking for someone Jewish, even if it’s for fun, for tonight, friendship or love, that already adds a great deal of integrity and respect and purpose to the app,” Yarus said, adding that the JSwipe team was joking around before AIPAC that the conference might be “our Olympics.”
“Our intention is, how can we make the most fun, exciting millennial connection tool,” he said.
“We saw a space, and there was no good tool to connect with other Jews, locally, globally, who are single or who are just Jewish.”
So, has there been a spike in activity around AIPAC? “On a global scale, we always have a very active audience,” Yarus said. “But locally, after something like this, we definitely see spikes of activity.”
Be that as it may, I’m still waiting for “Bibi Netanyahu” to swipe right.