Controversy `Trendy` - JWed - Jewish Dating for Marriage
and the worst
boychick beatboxer, rockin’ reggae rebel
and hip hoppin’ Hasid ...all rolled into one
8, pre-Spring 2005
Hasid from the Hebrew ’hood
By Dave Gordon
As a teenager in White Plains, New York,
Matthew Miller was a Grateful Dead fan
who sang rap songs, wore baggy pants,
dreadlocks, and tie-dyed tees. Raised in a
non-religious household, Judaism never
played a large role in his life.
Today, he's a reggae singer who is garnering attention, raising some eyebrows
and receiving accolades from critics all
over. Things have changed in the past few
years. Over the course of time, the dreads
turned into peyyot; he traded in his baggy
pants for black slacks and the raps have
turned into reggae. Matthew Miller became
Now going by his Hebrew name, the 25year-old Lubavitcher from Crown Heights
is definitely an uncommon face in the reggae scene, wearing traditional Hasidic garb
of black hat, black coat and long black
beard. "The image is not something people
are used to seeing. It's really a trip for people. I think hopefully once people hear the
music, the music speaks for itself and
they'll get into it," he says.
Matisyahu's music brings to the fore a
unique fusion of styles, from Bob Marley to
Jewish folk singer Shlomo Carlebach, yet
remains original. "It's about beating negative forces, using music to bring people
back to Judaism," he says.
Matisyahu is the latest in a string of
Jewish singing acts that have gained audiences among the mainstream and secular
Jews. Jewish-themed pop music has been
gaining steam over the past ten years with
acts like Neshama Carlebach, as well as
Hoodios, Shlock Rock, Reva L'Sheva,
Lazer Lloyd, Moshav Band, Pey Daled and
Beis Groove. For his own sake, Matisyahu
“...yiddishkeit is the
emes, the truth. I bring
that with me and I think
people sense that.”
says, “I never had Judaism presented to me
as something joyful.”
Along with the music itself, what many
find compelling about Matisyahu is that
that he made his whole transformation
from wild-kid Matthew Miller to
Lubavitch Matisyahu and still somehow
kept his hip tastes. His rabbis not only let
him do that, but he is actually making use
of his hip-ness
to attract all those of too-cool-for-shul
young Jews who are hanging out at New
York's club scene, like the Mercury Lounge
and the Knitting Factory.
It was a high school trip to Israel that
opened his eyes to the joys of Judaism. A
sunset on scenic Mount Scopus began it all.
"It was a transitional moment, at that
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point, watching the sun setting, singing
songs, hearing chanting in the background,"
"Everything was a moment of feeling,
really for the first time, in my soul and my
heart. I was feeling the depth and richness,
davening, intellectualizing, on a completely
pure and emotional level."
There were several more experiences that
solidified his path to observant Judaism.
The following Rosh Hashanah he arrived at
the Wailing Wall and saw a few hundred
Hasidim davening with intensity. "That
made an impression for sure, and that's
something I thought about for years." Those
images of Israel would often stay in the
back of his mind. "I'd always pull something out from these experiences in my
raps," he says.
Soon after, on Simchat Torah, he heard
drumming echoing through the streets of
Jerusalem. He followed the rhythms to a
trail winding through the Old City, and
came to a shteible [a small house of prayer].
Wearing dreadlocks and a tie-dyed shirt, he
looked in, and again saw hundreds of
Hasidim dancing around the bimah, carrying bottles of wine, dancing, and laughing.
"It was the first time I ever saw a Hasid
smiling. Before, religious people were
...continued on next page
pre-Spring 2005, 9
“It's about beating negative forces, using music
to bring people back to Judaism”
...pretty one dimensional and serious
and now I saw another side." But while
his perceptions had changed, his own
religious direction didn't change for a
few more months.
After high school he attended New
School college in Manhattan. His newfound Jewish experiences culminated in
a sudden urge to pray -- to want to connect to G-d. So he borrowed his father's
tallit and asked his Reconstructionist
rabbi for a siddur. He'd go on the roof of
his school at sunset and pray, even
though he didn't know what the words
While at New School, he took music,
and earned a B.A. It was there he met
Rabbi Eli Cohen of New York University,
and began learning Torah with him. "I
was pulling religion in from a lot of
places, like the Carlebach shul, Aish
HaTorah, and Seagate Yeshiva."
The latter he attended during a winter
break, but left after a day, disillusioned.
But it was his leaving that helped bring
him back in. As he left, the rabbi of the
yeshiva called a Chabad rabbi of New
York University, to see what was bothering Matisyahu. The Chabad rabbi and
Matisyahu talked, and something
"He was someone I could really relate
to," says Matisyahu. "He had been on
Grateful Dead tours. It's kinda what I needed
at that point." Matisyahu ended up moving
into the rabbi's family's apartment, due to
family tensions stemming from his newfound religiosity.
"At first it was hard for my family, and
that's why I needed to move out. I couldn't
eat on their dishes. At first my family, like
many families, took it personally and
thought it was a rejection of their ways, and
was off to yeshiva
and stopped playing music. The
timing wasn't quite
right. He completely
performing and listening to music,
and just learned
Talmud all day.
didn't write off the
idea entirely. He
told Bisman that if
the record label
became a reality,
he'd join in. And
so, after corralling
his New School
musician pals, and
from his rabbi,
on board. JDub
decided to tout him
as their biggest act.
Their first album is
"Shake Off the
it's gaining effusive reviews from
there was a lot of stress," he says.
"But now they are super supportive,
super positive about the whole thing.
Even when we were stressed out, I
always knew it would work out. It wasn't
a rejection of them; it was a positive
thing. I knew there would be initial fear,
but now they're very accepting and positive."
It took about a year for everything to
settle down. During this process he
changed his name to Matisyahu and
attended yeshiva for two years in Crown
"I used to wear baggy pants. I wasn't
representing something real. But from the
second I wore a yarmulke and wore a
beard I felt there was truth and confidence that I never had. I think I bring that
into my music, and yiddishkeit is the
emes, the truth. I bring that with me and I
think people sense that. They don't sense
and they sense
truth," he says.
who was starting a new
They hung out
with the vision
to be partners
on the new
other plans - he
Even the non-Jewish mainstream
world is paying attention. What has followed is a flurry of articles in the New
York Times, Boston Globe, and The
New York Post.
Things have begun to snowball with
appearances on CNN, NBC, and the TV
talk-show Jimmy Kimmel Live. But he
doesn't let it get to his head. "I don't really get too nervous about being on TV. I
learned Talmud for an hour before the
Kimmel interview, so not to be too carried away with Hollywood. My mission
is to promote Moshiach and G-dliness,
and the more I learn, the more I daven,
and stay close to the real reality."
Matisyahu explains that religion and
reggae have always gone hand-in-hand.
"In Jamaica, reggae music's message
grew from the Bible and a connection
with G-d," he says. "It's not so different
if I borrow their music to help people
know G-d better, too."
M a t i s y a h
On-line Dating Feature
10, pre-Spring 2005
In the olden days, there were matchmakers.
Today, more and more observant Jews are
turning to the Internet to find true love...
By Baruch Arnold
You meet her at midnight. You're in
your pajamas, munching popcorn; she's in
her nightgown eating her way through a
pint of B & J. You share your inner thoughts
and feelings with one another -- and hope
she'll look as good in person as her online
picture suggests. Making sure your observance levels are the same, you check out
her references with your Rabbi. Welcome to
the online world of observant Jewish dating.
Derek Saker, Director of Marketing
at Frumster.com, says that Internet dating has caught on like wildfire
amongst the observant single crowd.
What has become the leader in online
dating for observant and marriageminded Jews, Frumster.com is one of
the most successful online Jewish dating services of its ilk.
"In the traditional Orthodox
matchmaking environment where many
singles can be too dismissive, Frumster
enables members to gauge more of an indepth perspective of an individual through
meaningful communication," he says. In
fact, Saker says many are surprised to hear
that half the time women initiate the communication.
The site touts itself as a virtual meeting
place for religious singles that run the spectrum from Modern Orthodox to Yeshivish
Black Hat. In three years, Frumster has
boasted over 280 matches resulting in marriage, crossing all observance levels, ages,
states, and continents.
One such match involved Simcha
Fulda, a young chap from England, and his
wife Suri, from Israel. "I've always hated
singles weekends, and I am very weary of
shadchanim [Jewish matchmakers]. I highly recommend trying to meet someone over
the Internet," says Suri. "It is much less
stressful then blind dating, and it is also a
much easier way to meet. This is so much
simpler, and the best part is, if you really
meet a creepy guy, you can get rid of him
with just a click of a mouse!"
How did this previously divorced
woman with two children find a mate in an
already complex and frustrating dating
scene? One of her co-workers nudged her
for two months to register on Frumster, and
despite Suri's hesitations, she gave it a
whirl. "I felt that using the Internet to meet
a guy was very sleazy. I lost a lot of trust in
men and I wasn't interested in messing up my life with the
wrong guy. But.
" T h e
And if I realproblem was that
ly hated it I could
I had I did not have
j u s t
time to wait
s t o p , " Suri and Simcha Fulda: a “frum” match made in Cyberspace for
chanim at all
After chatting online with Simcha, and
hours. I needed something that would
thoroughly checking him out through
allow me to respond on my own sched'Jewish geography', she gave him her
ule. Reluctantly, I decided one day to
phone number, and they hit it off. Simcha
check out Frumster and at least see the
and Suri have been married for almost two
website. When I saw how the website
years and Suri still can't believe how it
was set up, I was quite impressed. It was
happened: "I mean, what are the chances of
modest, serious, and extremely easy to
two nice good, frum people meeting over
navigate," Tzvi says.
the Internet and actually getting married,
Indeed, the key to Frumster's sucespecially when they live in two different
cess, says Saker, is hands-on support,
countries?" In this case, pretty good.
readily available online advice and rigorSuri and Simcha's experiences aren't
ous screening by a dedicated Orthodox
atypical. Tzvi Michanik tried Frumster
management team.. According to Saker,
because of a shadchan's recommendation,
users are attracted to the insightful quesalthough Tzvi had the same trepidation of
tionnaire and the pool of sincere, marmost neophytes to Internet dating. "The
riage-minded singles who are serious in
whole idea of placing my hopes and shidtheir search to find their soulmate. Tzvi
duch desires into a website did not appeal
was just the third person Channie had
to me," he says. But he quickly got over his
met on Frumster. "I was captivated by
Tzvi's fascination with all of Hashem's
creations, especially nature, since I am a
nature lover and outdoors person," she
says. ChannieBraun and Tzvi Michanik
were married last March.
Unlike many other dating sites, Saker
says that Frumster engages in an on-going
review process to make sure only serious
members apply. "It's extremely demanding," he says. "It's managing a pool of nearly 14,000individuals. We build a close relationship with our members and our support team is quick to respond to any member question, difficulty or complaint."
Due to the success and size of Frumster,
it has a full-time team of professionals,
based in Passaic, New Jersey.
But the site is not all about plugging
information into the website, looking
through profiles and fishing for a date.
"Some members still have an idea of
Frumster as a simple cyber-database that is
Nothing could be further from the
truth," says Saker.
A new feature unique to the site is
Frumster Connect®, a third party facilitation service that assists in the initial stages
of the dating process. A third party facilitates off-line communications between two
members who have already been in direct
e-mail communications, and who mutually
wish to move forward, but feel more comfortable by engaging a facilitator in taking
the next step.
The facilitator sets up a time for the
first phone call between members, assists in
the exchange of personal contact information and reference information, and acts as
a point-person before and after dates.
Members can also request matchmaker
involvement without ever partaking in
direct e-mail communications.
Saker says the site was created as a
reaction to both what he calls "the singles
crisis", and the demand of observant and
marriage-minded singles for a comfortable
and secure online dating environment.
But Frumster isn't just simply a website - it's a meeting place for singles in more
Continued on next page
pre-Spring 2005, 11
On-line Dating Feature
... a 21st century matchmaker
Continued from previous page
ways than one. For those who enjoy mingling and schmoozing in person,
Frumster hosts quarterly events in the
New York area, all of which have been
sold-out. From sushi and politics discussions to a lecture from relationship expert
Rabbi Aryeh Pamensky, the crowds pack
For online shmoozers, a special
highlight on the site is "Frumster
Forum," which posts articles and interviews for members to discuss. Recent
exclusive interviews included dating
experts Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, and a political
analysis from former White House
speechwriter David Frum.
Also in the planning is a number of
Mentor Training events, to educate
laypeople in different communities who
can act as a coach to someone who is dating for marriage and needs a more objective individual to talk to concerning a
possible dating issue.
With all of these new accoutrements,
Saker says he hopes to make it easier for
observant and marriage-minded Jews to
find their intended. For
Jewish singles, finding that
perfect mate within the tribe
is a challenge. For frum Jews
especially -who comprise of
about ten percent of the
Jewish population- the search
can become that much harder.
But despite the challenges,
about one Frumster match
happens every three days.
summed it up best when having combined faith and persistence to find one another.
Devorah Levy, who married
Philip Levy last October,
unabashedly credits Frumster
with helping her find her
beshert. "When people ask
who our shadchan is," she
admits, "I say Hashem and
Ah, singles events are so
Carman -Frumster match
number 39 out of 310 so far were married December,
2003. They are one of dozens
of religious couples from
Canada who have used
Frumster enables members to
gauge more of an in-depth perspective
of an individual through meaningful
communication,” says Derek Saker,
Director of Marketing at Frumster.com
would set us
our lives to
make a significant
match for us.
Philip and Devorah Levy
"When people ask who our shadchan is," she admits,
"I say Hashem and the Internet."
detailed proFrumster.com to find their beshert [soulfiles of our education and the personal
qualities that we would each bring to a
“We both wanted to meet someone,
Much to my complete amazement, I
received an e-mail from someone who liked
but we were experiencing similar horror
stories of matchmakers and terrible dates.
my smile and thoughts about Shabbos. We
We were both meeting well-meaning peocorresponded a few times and we were both
surprised to learn that we lived only a
few minutes away from each other. We
dated for a couple of months and we
were engaged shortly after. We were
very surprised to learn that we had
never met or had been introduced
despite the fact we went to the same
shul, had mutual friends, affiliations
and common interests in the Toronto
We are both very happy to leave the
frazzled world of being single and start
a new chapter in our lives.... together.”
(Canada is the 3rd largest source
of members at Frumster.com, after
Unites Sates and Israel.)