When Michael Brand, 39, went down to Florida for vacation last June, he never expected to meet his future bride.
Brand, the divorced father of two from New York, signed up for JSwipe, the Jewish dating app likened to Tinder, just for kicks.
“He really never thought something would come of it,” said Samantha Rudnick, 26, the woman who swiped right to Brand’s profile. “Neither did I.”
Fast-forward a few months: the happy couple got married on Sunday, Mar. 15.
JSwipe, the Jewish dating app that boasts 200,000 users since its launch in March 2014, is helping young Jews connect in more ways than one. In February, the app partnered with Taglit-Birthright, the non-profit organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel, to host an alumni event intended to boost the program’s summer registration. The nearly 1000 attendees used the app to network, mingle and meet up with new friends.
Rudnick, who lives in Miami, signed up for JSwipe because her friend didn’t want to try it out alone. “I figured why not,” she told the Jewish Week during a phone interview while she was getting a pedicure for her upcoming nuptials.
The young, Modern Orthodox bride-to-be described the “instant connection” they both felt after swiping to accept each other’s profiles. Like on Tinder, a swipe-right allows both parties to start a message chat on their Smart phones.
“The connection was immediate, I couldn’t step away from my phone for even a minute!” recalled Rudnick, who said they communicated via text message for the first two days. “We were drawn to one another—Shabbat was coming and we didn’t want to put the phones down.”
The age difference, though significant, didn’t faze Rudnick, who said they two moved past the gap quickly. “We connected on a personal level, it didn’t matter that we’re in different stages of life,” she said.
The two didn’t meet in person while Brand was on break—rather, they spoke for the first time by phone after he had already returned to New York. Though the long-distance relationship continued for a while, the two began flying back and forth between Florida and New York City as things grew more serious.
Brand, who comes from a more haredi background, was on several Jewish dating websites before JSwipe but nothing had worked out. Rudnick was similarly on JDate, but grew skeptical of finding the one online.
“It just seemed that every profile sent my way was the same,” she said. “JSwipe was different. It was immediate, fast and there was a spark.”
After the wedding, the couple plans to move back to New York where Brand works as a risk management consultant for JP Morgan, though the two hope to return to Florida in the near future. Both are Modern Orthodox, went to Jewish day school through high school, and intend to lead observant lives.
“I plan on covering my hair, but that’s the only real thing that’s going to change,” said Rudnick. “We were on the same page religiously from day one.”
The app allows daters to select for specific denominations. When you match with someone, the screen reads “mazel tov” and provides an image of a person getting tossed up in a chair, a tradition at Jewish weddings.
Brand proposed to Rudnick in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disney World—“It felt like a dream come true,” said Rudnick. But though her story might read like a techy happily-ever-after, Rudnick insisted that this was the last thing she ever expected.
“I guess the old-saying holds true,” she said, as her pre-wedding pedicure ended and she had to get off the phone. “Don’t judge a book by its cover—this app actually works.”