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Tradition! In a time of pandemic, singletons ditch dating apps for matchmakers | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof | romancescams | #scams


We all know that 2020 is not  a good year. It’s even less of a good year if you’re looking for love. One in four couples in the UK meet at a social gathering and one in five meet in the office, so finding a partner is all the harder as Covid-19 has changed our working and social lives.

Many single people came out of lockdown determined to find a partner, but because we are all now doing so much online, the prospect of scrolling through JSwipe or Tinder is having less and less appeal.

Aimee Belchak,  26,  is bright, bubbly and single. She enjoys dating and has always loved setting people up. When she was made redundant from her job in theatre production a few months ago, she decided to put her exuberant personality and networking skills to good use. 

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“Covid has made it even harder to meet people, but I’m bored of dating apps – it’s like shopping for a boyfriend,” she says. “I really felt that the human touch had gone out of the dating game. 

“Matchmaking is a good old-fashioned way to meet people and I thought people might enjoy a new type of experience.”

Once restaurants and pubs began to reopen, meaning there were physical places where dates could take place, Belchak set up The A-gency, a blind-dating agency for those aged 23 to 36. 

She sent a WhatsApp message to lots of people and 100 signed up straight away. The concept is simple. Each singleton fills out a form with details about themselves and how religious they are, plus what they are looking for. They only pay an admin fee when they get set up on a date.

Belchak matches them up, arranges the date and makes a booking in her own name at a pub equidistant to both partners. Five minutes before the date, the attendees receive an email with the name and number of the person they are meeting. Crucially, there is no photo – it’s a true blind date. 

Lily and Jason were among The A-gency’s first sign-ups. “Turning up and seeing who will be sat at the other side of the table can be scary, but at least you’ve got an instant conversation starter!” says Lily. 

“I love the fact there are no expectations  on either side from scrolling, swiping, Facebook stalking and playing Jewish geography,” explains Jason.

The first round of blind dates was in August and led to several people arranging to meet up again. Word spread fast and 220 people signed up for the second round of dates last month. There is another batch of hopefuls meeting up this month and just a couple of weeks ago Belchak announced a LGBTQIA+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual/ally] pool. 

In total, more than 400 people have signed up to The A-gency. How has she got it right so quickly? 

“I am a people person and I trust my own intuition. I speak to all the clients on the phone or meet them in person, so I get to know them a little,” she explains. “Everyone has loved going on a blind date and most people have signed up again. I document everything on my Instagram account @AimeeBelchak and there is a podcast in the works.”

Suzy Goldberg has been a shadchan, or matchmaker, for nearly 40 years and has sent many couples down the aisle. She worked on her own for most of that time and, seven years ago, started working with shidduch.im, part  of sawyouatsinai –  a huge database, run by volunteers, with thousands of Orthodox Jewish people and matchmakers worldwide.

Suzy Goldberg

This is much more personal than it sounds. Goldberg meets her clients and helps them create a profile. She then helps them work through the suggested partners thrown up by the database. 

“The beauty of working with advance algorithm-based technology is that we know immediately if someone has already been suggested and declined, so we don’t waste any time,” says Goldberg. “You can accept or decline as many times are you like – the computer doesn’t get offended!” 

Many people who come to Goldberg have never had relationships before and find the process overwhelming. She mentors them through every aspect of the journey, even suggesting where they should go for their dates. 

“There has been a big increase in demand for our services this year,” she says. “Covid-19 has meant that people have fewer opportunities to meet partners and the loneliness of lockdown has made singles want to meet someone more than ever. 

“People who actually want to get married will find their partner on a dating site.” 

Shidduch.im is behind Zoom with Whom, an initiative set up as a way of dating during lockdown. It expedites the initial stages of dating by meeting on Zoom and seeing if there is any potential in proceeding with an actual date.

With many long-term relationships and three engagements to its name, We Go Together is a matchmaking service set up in 2017 by Lady Daniela Pears and is open to any member of the Jewish community over the age of 28. Initially operational only in London, it is now expanding into Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.

Lady Daniela Pears

The matching process focuses heavily on values compatibility, believing that shared values are fundamental to a successful long-term relationship. No computers, no swiping, no algorithms – just good old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations between each client and a committee member. It is completely free. 

Pears said: “I set up We Go Together to introduce a deeper dimension to the dating process. We are truly cross-denominational, and now working across the country, too, so if anyone reading this is single and wants something more than swiping on an app, please do get in touch. We are always especially on the lookout for more single men!”

Paul and Penny are the third couple to get engaged. They each turned to We Go Together seeking a more personal approach after getting bored of internet dating. They were put together by matchmaker Caroline and, after living together for a year, Paul popped the question. 

Paul and Penny are the third couple to get engaged after meeting through We Go Together

Paul says: “It was so refreshing having the support to think deeper about myself, my values and that of my future partner, as well as the type of person and relationship I wanted. I loved the fact that Caroline would check in with me after dates and offer encouragement.”

Penny added: “After my first chat with Caroline, she immediately said she had someone who she thought would be a good match for me. As soon as I met Paul, I knew that she was right. I have found my true soul mate and my best friend for life.”

So much of our lives may have moved online, but it just goes to show that when it comes to finding love, nothing beats a true human
connection. 

 

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