Rav and Rabbanit Rimon, their daughter, Renana and her husband, Oriah.

Shagririm BaLev – Changing the Game of Shidduchim

Only a few years ago, a small-scale shidduchim initiative was launched at a religious college in Yerushalayim. Over 100 weddings later, Shagririm BaLev has taken the Religious Zionist community by storm. With World Mizrachi now a full partner in the project, we are proud to share the exciting story of Shagririm BaLev, its success thus far, and its dreams for the future. 

From Yenta to YUConnects, the complex world of shidduchim, religious matchmaking, has changed dramatically as technology and communal norms have developed and shifted over time. Shagririm BaLev, which was founded in 2019, is an incredibly successful new project with over 100 successful matches, demonstrating how innovative thinking and technology continues to upend the ancient practice of matchmaking.

With over 5,000 students studying at separate men’s and women’s campuses, the Jerusalem College of Technology – also known as Machon Lev and Machon Tal – is Israel’s largest religious college. With so many students studying in gender-separated campuses, helping students find their bashert is a high priority issue. But most students weren’t interested in being set up by traditional matchmakers. “When a survey was taken, students said that they wanted to be set up by friends rather than by shadchanim,” said Rabbi Shlomo Annapolle, who works for the project. “So we built a system that combines the best of modern technology and algorithms with a human touch.”

The program’s simplicity is a key to its success. A single person who wants to take part chooses a shagrir, an “ambassador”, who represents them. The shagririm have access to the Shagririm BaLev database, which contains information about all the singles taking part in the program. Using advanced algorithms, the program provides the shagrir with a list of potentially compatible matches for their friend. The shagririm present these suggestions to their friends, who make the final decision about whether or not to go out for themselves. It’s a balance of technology and old-fashioned human wisdom. 

Tuvia Sleigh made Aliyah from Atlanta, Georgia when he was 23. While living in Givat Shmuel, he was introduced by a friend, Zvi Silber, to the Shagririm BaLev project. The Shagririm algorithm suggested he go out with Shira Edrei from Kiryat Arba. Despite coming from very different backgrounds and social circles, the Shagririm program helped them meet, and after dating for a few months they got engaged and married.

Tuvia Sleigh and Shira Edrei.

Shmuel Zomer and Hodaya Lasri were another couple who met through Shagririm. “I like the fact that my shagrir was someone who really knew me,” said Hodaya. “Many times, women feel they get bad suggestions for dates because the person setting them up doesn’t really know them. We actually have now become shagririm ourselves, and have successfully set up one married couple! When setting our friends up, we feel we can ask the right questions and help them have a much more positive experience.”

Shmuel Zomer and Hodaya Lasri.

To date, there are over 6,500 singles who are part of the Shagririm BaLev database. Over 5,000 first dates have happened through the program, and over 110 couples are married today because of it. The 100th wedding brought things full circle, when Renana Rimon, daughter of Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon – the Rosh Yeshivah of Jerusalem College of Technology and Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council – married Oriah Kaplan, after meeting through Shagririm BaLev.

As the program has grown, World Mizrachi decided to become full partners in the project. “Shagririm BaLev has made a huge impact in Israel, and we are proud to be full partners of the program now,” said Rabbi Danny Mirvis, Deputy CEO of World Mizrachi and board member of Shagririm BaLev. “We are excited by the opportunity to leverage Mizrachi’s global network to scale this fantastic initiative, which brings together the best of advanced technology and human insight. Global initiatives for singles are just one of the topics to be discussed at our upcoming World Orthodox Israel Congress in April.”

Eliezer Noy, the newly appointed CEO of Shagririm, is excited about the new vistas the program can open for Jewish life. “As well as our program in Israel that grows on a daily basis, we are looking forward to rolling out our program for Diaspora communities in the coming months. The opportunities are endless – we are excited by the idea of a Jew from Boston finding their spouse in London, and a Jew from Berlin finding their soulmate in Yerushalayim. For many singles who have been dating for a while, there is a sense of desperation and frustration, where they feel they have exhausted all of the relevant possibilities in their circle. Creating this international network will exponentially increase the options for singles, creating new opportunities and hope.”

With over 150 Shagririm BaLev couples dating as we go to print, many more weddings should, with G-d’s help, be around the corner. And as World Mizrachi prepares to bring Shagririm BaLev to communities across the world, matchmaking for the international Religious Zionist community may never be the same!

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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