JDate, Camp Ramah have a shidduch for you

JDate, Camp Ramah have a shidduch for you

HeatherHughesPhotography.com photo
HeatherHughesPhotography.com photo

In a first season episode of the HBO series “Girls,” Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet), a student in her early 20s, is strolling down the streets of Manhattan when she hears: “Shoshanna! Hey, remember me? It’s Matt. Matt Kornstein? Camp Ramah? You led the most intense kitchen raid I ever saw in my time as a junior counselor.”

Instant connection.

While Shoshanna and Matt’s ensuing romance happens to be short-lived, the prevalence of Camp Ramah-fostered relationships — and marriages — is a real thing, and leaders of the Conservative movement’s network of camping programs hope the number of those relationships will increase with the introduction of RamahDate, a new online dating site for Jewish singles affiliated with Ramah.

Ramah, which runs eight overnight camps and four day camps throughout North America and Israel, is collaborating with JDate to help alumni of the camping movement meet in furtherance of its commitment to promote strong Jewish marriages, according to Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, director of the National Ramah Commission.

“A core component of Ramah is marriages,” Cohen said, adding that thousands of married Jewish couples have met through the system since its inception in 1947.

In fact, many of the camps now boast “shidduch” walls, listing the names of married couples who met at camp.

“Everybody is so proud of that,” Cohen said.

The idea of an online dating network was borne as a product of Reshet Ramah, the movement’s alumni association that works to create dynamic Jewish communities by providing programming for young adults who have aged-out of the camping system. Cohen estimates that Ramah has about 25,000 alumni between the ages of 22 and 35.

Reshet Ramah is supported by grants from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Maimonides Fund.

“Lots of Ramah moms have been saying we should have a Ramah dating service, and we actually considered it a few years ago,” Cohen said. “But it was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. But this year, a woman in my office approached JDate, and they loved the idea of partnering with a Jewish camping movement.”

Because the missions of the camp system and JDate are similar, working closely with Ramah gives JDate the opportunity to “leverage our core skillsets to reconnect Ramahniks with each other,” according to Greg Liberman, CEO of Spark Networks, JDate’s owner and operator.

“Summer camp is a central part of many young Jews’ lives and serves as the foundation for memories and relationships that last a lifetime,” Liberman said. “At JDate, we connect Jews with the goal of strengthening Jewish community and ensuring that Jewish traditions continue for generations to come. … We hope to create many new JDate/Ramah success stories.”

RamahDate users will receive an identifying Ramah “badge” after they subscribe to JDate through a co-branded portal. They can then choose whether they will meet only other former campers or if they will search more broadly through JDate’s 750,000 active members.

A portion of RamahDate subscribers’ initial membership fees will go back to Ramah to fund camp scholarships.

“JDate is so prominent now,” Cohen said. “It’s mainstream. Most of the single 28- or 30-year-olds I meet are on JDate. This partnership with JDate is a natural extension of the Reshet Ramah emphasis on alumni outreach and engagement.”

The new dating tool will meet Ramah alumni “where they’re at,” said Laura Belinfante, Ramah’s marketing coordinator. “And they are already online.”

“Our demographic comes online for everything,” continued Belinfante, 24. “So, why not dating? And if Ramah can be a part of that, if Ramahniks can meet outside of the camping system, that is something very special.”

Ramahniks tend to share many of the same values, Cohen said, so a former camper of Ramah Canada, moving to Miami, may get along well with someone who attended Camp Ramah Darom in Atlanta.

“While Ramahniks represent a wide range of Jewish beliefs and practices, they tend to have a strong Jewish identity, and a very, very strong connection to Israel,” Cohen said. “They also have a tendency to go into leadership positions in the Jewish community.”

RamahDate will be launched sometime this coming winter, Cohen said.

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.

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