Or Mossaiov and Devorah (Deborah) Gourdji tout the effectiveness of a good matchmaker. They both relate to the front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal from March 2019: “Matchmakers emerge as an antidote to the agony of online dating.”
Or tells his story: “Devorah was the first girl I ever dated. I took the first step when I was a senior at Yeshiva University (YU). I had seen a desk on campus belonging to YUConnects, a program offering targeted matchmaking. Truthfully, I first noticed their doughnuts. I thought to myself: “Maybe I’ll stop by and take a doughnut. Maybe I’ll sign up.”
My family is rooted in Kavkaz (Caucasus region), and my parents moved to Israel before I was born. Though we were originally secular, we became observant during my teen years and now live an Orthodox lifestyle in Teaneck, New Jersey. At first, they weren’t very comfortable with the idea of a shidduch (a match).
After spending a few months figuring out what was important to me, I felt I was ready to date. I made a check-list with 10 must-haves, and my rabbi said to focus only on six or seven. That’s when I signed up with YUConnects and Susie Fenyes became my connector (matchmaker). It was the fall of 2017, and I was 23 years old.”
Devorah tells her story: “My family lives in West Hempstead, New York. They were very supportive of a shidduch and liked the idea of my joining the Jewish matchmaking network, Saw You At Sinai (SYAS). In fact, my brother and sister-in-law were Match #1158 at SYAS. (Note: SYAS partners with YUConnects to provide the personal touch of a matchmaker along with the technology behind Saw You At Sinai’s website.) My cousin recommended that I select Susie Fenyes as my matchmaker; and it was my good luck that she accepted me.”
Fenyes is a popular and passionate matchmaker for both YUConnects and SYAS. Already during her first telephone conversation with Or, she noted many similarities between him and Devorah and told him that she might have the “perfect girl” for him.
In the fall of 2017, Devorah was feeling burned out from dating. She was 22, and a freshman in the Graduate School of Social Work at Touro College. She recalls: “The notification of a match perked me up. But I hesitated. I didn’t really want to go out with an Israeli Sefardic guy. On the other hand, I liked the idea that he was a baal teshuva. It meant that he kept growing religiously. And it was important to me that he was shomer negiah (refrained from physical contact with members of the opposite sex prior to marriage). With some encouragement from a rabbanit, I clicked on “Accept.””
Their first date was at an Israeli restaurant on the Upper West Side. Devorah remembers: “I was purposely late for the first date, thinking Or might be late. I was wrong. He was early.” What does Or remember? “That I did most of the talking. Generally, I’m more outgoing than Devorah, but that night, I took over the conversation about 95% of the time.”
After each of their first four dates, they would report back to Susie. Devorah smiles: “It always made me happy that Or got back to Susie right away.” Many of their early dates were in restaurants. First, it was once a week, and then two dates a week. Frequently they would play Perfect Matches, an interactive game geared for orthodox couples in the dating scene.
Four months after they met, the couple got engaged. On August 7, 2018, Or and Devorah were married in the Great Neck Synagogue. They were Match #1509 on the SawYouAtSinai.com
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 90’s she founded two nonprofit Jewish matchmaking programs, and continues to champion the role of community in helping singles meet. She resides in Jerusalem and Great Neck, New York.