Shira Lloyd and Michael Avramenko, a Points of Contact couple. (Photo: Shahar Ziso)
Searching for a Soulmate: Helping Religious Zionist Anglos Find One Another
BY RIVKAH LAMBERT ADLER
Sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for her husband’s cancer-staging surgery, Tzippi (Schechet) Sha-ked made a decision that would ultimately impact thousands of people.
“I felt that I needed to pray, yes, but also to do something far more significant and far-reaching. I had to beseech the heavens and get our Maker’s attention. I prayed, pleaded and pledged, ‘I will help those feeling the same darkness I’m feeling this very moment. I will be there for singles, day and night. I will storm the heavens on their behalf.’ From his hospital bed, I created Points of Contact (POC). I didn’t have even one single at that moment. Ten minutes later I had three, an hour later, six. By the time David landed in the recovery room, I had 15 singles.”
Today, Points of Contact is a closed Facebook group of more than 600 volunteer matchmakers (called Point People) working primarily on behalf of marriage-minded religious Anglo-Israelis. There are approximately 1,200 English-speaking singles in POC’s private database, and there have been close to 90 marriages of couples who met through POC.
One of the matches was Sha-ked’s own daughter, Tehila, who married Noah Michael, son of Deborah Michael, one of the site’s Point People. Noah Michael reflected on his good fortune:
“My initial reaction was one of both excitement and hesitation. I was 20 years old at the time and wasn’t sure I was ready to date. However, after hearing my wife’s description, I had a really good feeling about it and went for it. With our third anniversary around the corner, I’m happy I did… I have many friends who have struggled for years to find a match. Groups like POC certainly help speed up the process, and people shouldn’t be embarrassed to join them.”
Shoshana Scharf is one of the more active volunteer matchmakers on POC. “I try constantly to find my singles their bashert (soulmate). I try to match according to similarities, interests and differences. It’s important to listen to the singles’ [opinion about] what is important. I always ask what they don’t want in a partner. It gives me a [better sense] of what they want and what they need.”
Scharf and her husband have been making matches for decades, but she has a particular fondness for the POC way of bringing people together. “We interact with our singles, guiding, listening, working together with truly special shadchanim whose only purpose is to work together to encourage, offer suggestions, and in the end, make matches.” As Scharf explains, there are safeguards in place to protect the singles. One of the fundamental rules is that each single is represented by a Point Person. Before a match is suggested to a single, both Point People have to agree that it’s a reasonable match.
She emphasized that “no single or anyone from the outside can enter our database. Our site is totally closed and used only by our matchmakers.”
Sarah Glaser, another active Point Person currently representing 25 singles, emphasized that the reach of POC far exceeds that of any matchmaker working alone. “We have matchmakers from all over Israel and the States, so it gives the single so many options that they would not have known if they didn’t use our platform. What if your husband is waiting for you in Haifa, but you had no idea, and didn’t have the resources to find him? That’s why we are here to help.”
Board member Esther Hoffman elaborated on what makes POC exceptional. “A lot goes on every day on POC Facebook. Point People post singles and other Point People respond with suggestions. You can potentially have several hundred Point People looking at a particular post, racking their brains to come up with a really good idea. Our goal is to make sure that the Point People who represent them have talked over the idea and have agreed to share information before either of the prospective partners is approached.
“I know what being an older single is like. I started dating at age 18 and got married at 28, so I dated quite a bit. I’ll never forget the frustration of feeling out of place, the embarrassment and loneliness, and the uncertainty about what the future has in store for me. I’ve also had the privilege of making several matches for others. Seeing the fruits of your labor as you watch the two people you put together build a home is so satisfying and rewarding.”
Hoffman wants people to know that “POC is looking for committed individuals to join our network. Becoming a dedicated Point Person is not just about advocating for their brother-in-law’s sister or friend’s son but also ‘adopting’ singles who don’t have POC representation. That means really getting to know the single and checking out references.”
Board member Mordy Derovan is one of the group’s very few singles. “In a world where we find ourselves increasingly dependent on our phones and the internet, POC provides singles with a personal connection on their journey to finding their soulmates. As is now fairly common, especially during the coronavirus era, singles use a multitude of dating apps and services like Saw You At Sinai to connect with potential matches. POC gives singles a personal touch to matchmaking and reminds them that there are other people who can look out for their best interests, too. Being single can be lonely. We help singles maneuver through this exhausting period.”
Sha-ked shared that POC has “Point People in virtually every community, city, university and yishuv [settlement] where Anglos reside within Israel. We address the issue of singles feeling jaded by knowing everyone in their respective communities. We post singles from within our respective communities or individuals we know well from Israel and abroad. We grow via word of mouth. My motto is that anyone with a passion and a sensitivity toward singles can join in on this effort.” The only exception is professional matchmakers, who are not allowed to join POC.
“I view the angst of singles searching for their bashert and our attempts to address this as one of the most important and vital jobs we can perform. It is no less a job of nation-building than promoting Aliyah [immigration to Israel]. My husband always teases that POC is the silver lining to his cancer diagnosis. Baruch Hashem, he is doing well and POC is thriving,” Sha-ked concluded.
• Originally published by the Jerusalem Post; modified and reprinted with permission. To get in touch with the POC team, please message firstname.lastname@example.org.