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Cleveland Yentas, Jewish Matchmaking

Cleveland Yentas
Akron, Ohio United States
Leadership team

Rachel Heiser - President & CEO
Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria - Board Member
Michelle Hirsch - Treasurer
Drew Barnholtz - Board Member

Organization website
Prize category
Local/Regional
Target audience
20s & 30s, Adults, Jewish Professionals, Unaffiliated
Categories
Community Building, Outreach & Engagement

The intermarriage rate in the Jewish community is over 50% and the rate of children being raised exclusively Jewish within intermarried homes at only 33%. As such, we are at risk for our Jewish children to not have a healthy Jewish community in which to celebrate, study, pray, enjoy and marry. While some programs try to engage intermarried families in the Jewish community, Cleveland Yentas is working to keep Jews within our community from the beginning. With almost 500 singles registered and a 40% second date rate, our young organization is moving the right direction to make a real and lasting impact on our Jewish community.

What Jewish wisdom do you use in your work?

Here are two examples of articles we write and send in our enewsletters to our clients and affiliated community members.

"Don't Go It Alone"
Next month, Jews across the world will gather to celebrate one of the most observed holiday on the Jewish calendar - Passover.

As we have told the story over and over each year, many feel they can recite it word for word. What's the highlight? That's right. "Let My People Go."

Moses is the star of the show with this line. But, it's not a solo act. Moses had a speech impediment and was not thrilled about this call to action. He didn't think he was the right guy for the job. His brother Aaron was there to assist him and be his - wait for it - wingman.

While dating may not seem to be on the same level of importance as freeing the Jewish people, it can still make a difference in the future of the Jewish people.

Here's the lesson. Know that you are not on your own. Whether you have a friend to be your wingman or have Cleveland Yentas lending assistance, you don't need to go it alone.

You still need to do your part. When someone catches your eye or you are fixed-up, you need to, actually, pick up the phone and call that person. Be responsive. Don't hide behind text or excuses of work or travel. Yes, you have a life already, but make sure you leave some room in your life to have time for that special someone. Often, a phone call that can make a big difference only takes a few minutes.

Pharaoh didn't go to Moses and offer to free the Jews, right? Moses had to work for it. He had to overcome his fears and doubts. And, so can you.

"More Than Skin Deep"
They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat. That's one theme from the holiday that starts on the 23rd.

Let's look deeper. The story of Purim, after all, is like a well crafted Shakespearian play. Towards the end, Queen Esther reveals her true self in order to protect her people. Heroic? Yes, but is this something we should all do? (Yes.)

Those of us who put up emotional walls to protect ourselves from getting hurt all have reasons for this. But, in order to get to know someone else, you must also let them know you. The true you.

I'm not saying to spill the beans of your whole life on a first date. However, you should open the door a little on the first date and open up more as you get to know someone.

Queen Esther revealed her beauty and kindness in the beginning. Later, she revealed her true identity to save her people and risked sharing in their fate. Eventually, if you want a lasting relationship, you will need to open the door to your soul and risk getting hurt in order to find true love.

How does your program work to make that wisdom accessible and directly applicable to your audience's lives?

While our Board Members and volunteers range in observance level from secular to modern orthodox, our target audience is unaffiliated to Conservative Jews ages 21-45. We use our religious background to help educate and coach our clients on how Judaism can help prepare them for healthy relationships and find their soulmate, through discussions and regular e-newsletters. We make ever effort to meet people where they are in the Jewish spectrum and bring them in or keep them linked to the Jewish community through discussion, advice and matching them with another Jew with whom they can hopefully start a family. Ultimately, we desire to bring people together to create happy relationships and marriages, resulting in more Jewish babies/children and Jewish continuity in Greater Cleveland.

What impact has your program had on your participants?

Currently, Cleveland Yentas has suggested over 500 potential introductions and over 350 have been accepted. Of those, over 250 first dates have occurred. Over 100 people have progressed past the first date to a second date or into a relationship. Our rate of second dates is on par with other successful matchmaking companies across the country.
In addition to these raw numbers, other accomplishments have resulted from the work of Cleveland Yentas.
• Jewish Clevelanders are realizing that they don’t know every other Jew in Cleveland. This gives hope and keeps people from moving on so quickly to leave Cleveland to find love or date outside the Jewish community.
• By going through the Cleveland Yentas intake and dating process, people are thinking about what they really want out of life and a relationship.
• Cleveland Yentas clients are receiving coaching on dating topics including appropriate conversation topics, attire, who pays, and more.
• Many Jewish volunteers are working together to improve our Jewish community and are making new connections during the process.
• Most importantly, Jewish Clevelanders are meeting other Jewish singles with whom they are interested in dating and forming relationships.

What have you learned about applied Jewish wisdom that contributes to your success?

There is always more to learn. Every week, we look to the parsha; every holiday, we look for new insight. Looking for relationship advice in Jewish wisdom is a new lens to look through, even though the text is not new. Not only do we enjoy discussing Jewish wisdom with our clients and hearing their reactions, our volunteers enjoy discussing these insights among each other.