You hear it all the time.
The world of dating can be rough. Once you have decided you want to meet someone to settle down with, you have to decide how that’s going to happen.
There are bars and parties, organized singles groups, websites and apps, swiping right and swiping left. There is also the possibility that you’ll randomly meet “the one.” You might have fun along the way, or you might feel you’re wasting your time.
Many in the Orthodox Jewish community bypass these schemes and rely on the traditional method of meeting “the one.” It’s the matchmaker, or shadchan. Think Yenta in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Think Koenigsberg in “Shtisel.”
Denverite Chani Melamed is a modern-day, real-life matchmaker who blends tradition with technology to help men and women find “the one.”
Melamed believes matchmaking is in her blood. Originally from Boro Park in Brooklyn, Melamed says her mother has done matchmaking for decades. After high school, Chani herself, caught the bug and dabbled in matchmaking.
She was successful and became a matchmaker with Saw You at Sinai, a dating and matchmaking website with an Orthodox bent, although it serves Jews of all backgrounds. It combines algorithms with personal matchmakers’ involvement, which is how Melamed applies her skills.
Melamed earned a BA in political science from Brooklyn College and law degree from CUNY.
In 2010, she married Denverite David Melamed, son of Rabbi Shlomo and Esther Melamed. And yes, Chani and David were set up by a mutual acquaintance.
Chani Melamed practiced law for a while and also worked in her husband’s digital marketing business. She is also a health coach for Optavia, a weight-loss program.
Since Chani and David Melamed moved to Denver six-and-a-half years ago, she has continued to do matchmaking on a national basis, both through Saw You at Sinai and her own network of contacts. In Denver, she has effectuated one shidduch that resulted in marriage — that of her brother-in-law Yitzy Melamed and his wife, the former Shira Tessler.
Across the country, and even across the globe, Melamed has made “many, many” matches, through Saw You at Sinai and privately, that resulted in marriage.
“When I tell someone about a match, and they’re like, “Yes spot on,” I realize, ‘Yep, I’m good at what I do,” she quips. “I don’t like throwing together skirts and pants. Some matchmakers do that and they give us bad names, sadly.”
Melamed maintains a website, suggestashidduch.com, which serves as a tip line for her. People suggest possible matches or candidates for matches and Melamed takes it from there, thoroughly researching the prospects.
Melamed’s involvement in a match varies — from setting up the date herself to simply passing a woman’s number along to the man, so they can arrange their own meeting.
She always follows up with each of the individuals the day after the first date. She learns that the date was a success and they have agreed to see other again, or that they do not want to meet again. Often, Melamed learns that there is a mutual desire to see each other again, but that was left unsaid at the end of their first date. She will stay involved with setting up dates for the couple as long as she is needed, up until the engagement.
“I just always make sure they are on the same page, and I always follow up after the first date.”
Melamed realizes everyone’s experiences with the opposite sex may be different. In the yeshiva world, it is likely that young men and young women have had little opportunity to interact with each other, so they may need some extra help in learning how to communicate. In these cases, Melamed is prepared to coach them through this new experience in life.
Melamed does not charge a fee for her services. “I do it because I love it,” she says. However, it is a serious, widespread custom in the Orthodox community for the families of a successfully matched couple to give the matchmaker a substantial monetary gift as a thank you.
While some might view matchmaking as an antiquated social more, Melamed believes in the benefit of this concept: When she sets up two people, she has already determined that they share important core values, such as religion, family, modesty or community. Then, upon meeting, it is up to the couple to discover if their personalities, interests and goals are compatible.
When people meet randomly, they may be attracted to each other personality-wise and physically, but may discover over time that their core values do not mesh. With Melamed’s investigative skills, when a couple is set up, “they know their foundational values are being met.”
Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News