Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a queer match.
Though finding a Jewish partner is hard as it is, the challenge is intensified if you’re queer and Jewish. That’s why software engineer Joanna Halpern set out to create Saw You At Stonewall, a new matchmaking site for queer Jews.
“There’s tons of dating sites but there’s nothing specific to being Jewish and queer,” said Joanna Halpern, an undergraduate student at McGill University who identifies as a Jewish lesbian. “That’s what’s beautiful about this website. Unlike other dating apps, it has all the perfect questions for being Jewish and all the specific questions for being queer that other websites would be lacking.”
“There’s tons of dating sites but there’s nothing specific to being Jewish and queer.”
The site name plays off of Saw You At Sinai, one of the most popular Jewish matchmaking websites for Jewish singles. “Stonewall” references the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and historic landmark in Greenwich Village where the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement took place.
The website, currently in its trial period, uses an algorithm to divide users into groups based on factors such as age and geographical location. Users are asked to identify their gender as well as their sexual and romantic attraction to men and women on a sliding scale. Human matchmakers then make the actual matches within those groups.
“It’s not that big of a pool.”
Though dating only Jews can be limiting for queer Jews – “it’s not that big of a pool,” says Halpern – a shared religious background can be a big factor in understanding a romantic partner.
“The non-Jewish LGBT world seems to be a lot more radical in some ways that I’m just not accustomed to,” said Isabella Kalish, who grew up Orthodox in Baltimore and has signed up for the trial. “Especially with the people who are formerly Orthodox, there’s a lot more camaraderie in terms of personalities.”
The site is geared towards people looking for long-term relationships, with all participants receiving a single match on a set date, with an option to receive another match after a certain period of time, said Halpern.
“Because you get that one single quality match, it means a lot more and you’ll take it seriously.”
“Because you get that one single quality match, it means a lot more and you’ll take it seriously,” said Halpern, differentiating it from other dating sites where users can click through dozens of profiles.
Saw You At Stonewall also does not use public profiles, allowing participants to remain anonymous until they receive a match. “That’s hugely important to people.”
Though the site is still in the testing phase, Halpern hopes to expand the concept to other communities that are underserved by existing dating apps. “These niche communities don’t necessarily have apps specifically for them,” she said. “But once I’ve built the Jewish and queer model, if the model works, why not apply it for other cultures?”