Religious Dating Online
February 11, 2005 - Episode no. 824Reprinted from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly - an online companion to the weekly television news program of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service
Betty Rollin reports.
HALA DURRAH: I had gone through the traditional channels that a lot of Muslim-American and Arab-American women did, which were being introduced by people through your parents, through family friends. And I didn't really find anyone, and I was getting a bit frustrated. So a few friends kind of suggested to me, "Why don't you go on the Internet?" So I decided to try it, and I went on a Web site called Zawaj.com. I set up a profile describing who I was, briefly what I looked like, what my goals in life were, what I was looking for. At the same time you could browse the Web site to look at other profiles of eligible mates or partners and see what you liked and kind of respond to their ad.
ROLLIN: Adeeb, who is a doctor, also submitted a profile to Zawaj.com.
Dr. ADEEB JABER: I said that I'm a well-educated professional, actively practicing Muslim, seeking a Muslim who is also trying to do that which pleases God.
Ms. DURRAH: I had loved everything he said except for the age. At the time when I saw his profile, there would have been a 10-year age difference. And I kind of put the cutoff at 9 years.
ROLLIN: But after several weeks, Hala had second thoughts.
Ms. DURRAH: I saw his profile, and something in my head just kept telling me, "Respond! Just send him an e-mail. You have nothing to lose. Just do it!" And I did.
ROLLIN: And so they began to get to know each other via e-mail.
Dr. JABER: With the Internet, you can just log on, see where we last left off, you know, and then touch base again. And what it essentially did was it allowed for a beautiful continuum to go on. You actually grew with each other.
ROLLIN: As is the tradition, the family was soon involved, and a meeting with the young couple and Hala's parents was arranged.
Ms. DURRAH: My parents asked him questions, because in the Arab culture, and even in the Muslim religion, it's really a family kind of marrying a family.
ROLLIN: What did you think when you looked at him?
Ms. DURRAH: Well, I actually had a picture of him prior to his coming. He didn't know what I looked like, and he never asked.
ROLLIN (To Dr. Jaber): So what did you think?
Dr. JABER: When I first saw her in her veil, I first thought she looked like an angel, she looked so beautiful.
ROLLIN: Esther and Shlomo Druckman of New York City have been married just six months. Like Muslims, some Orthodox Jews also have strict dating restrictions.
SHLOMO DRUCKMAN: You can't be in the room alone with a woman; there's no physical contact until you are married, like you couldn't hold hands, you can't give her a hug.
ROLLIN: The Druckmans, too, turned to the Internet, to a site for observant Jews called Saw You at Sinai.com, which involves a matchmaker as well.
Mr. DRUCKMAN: I can't go and look at a woman's profile if she's not been suggested to me. I get to make a profile, and I get to see which matchmaker sees the profile. And then the matchmaker from there decides who else's profile I can see.
ROLLIN: So Esther was your first shot?
Mr. DRUCKMAN: Esther was my first shot.
ESTHER DRUCKMAN: And he almost said no.
Mr. DRUCKMAN: I almost said no. I was very skeptical. From the first phone call, it was love at first sight, love at first phone call. I hadn't even met her or seen her picture -- she didn't have a picture on the Web site.
Mrs. DRUCKMAN: The matchmaker called me; she told me that she had a suggestion for me, and she read the profile over the phone. And I really liked it, actually. I liked it a lot.
ROLLIN: What spoke to you about it?
Mrs DRUCKMAN: I'll tell you: passion. He kept talking about how he was passionate about studying and how he was passionate about music and he was passionate about everything he did in his life. And that was exactly what I wanted.
ROLLIN: Other religions have sites as well. There's DharmaDate for Buddhists; JDate for both religious and not-so-religious Jews. There's also Shaadi.com, primarily a Hindu site. And CatholicSingles.com and WhereChristiansMeet.com.
One of the biggest sites, eHarmony, is multifaith but got its start because of its founder's concern about his fellow Christians.
Dr. NEIL CLARK WARREN (Founder, eHarmony.com): Amongst Christians, the divorce rate is just as high as amongst atheists and agnostics, and that has been terrible for us to deal with.
ROLLIN: As the result of his research, Warren identified 29 key factors to consider in the selection of a partner.
Dr. WARREN: A lot of Christians think. "If I can just find somebody who agrees with me on the basic belief about God -- that is, Jesus as God -- and I feel turned on to them, we can make the marriage work." And I say that's 2 of 29!
ROLLIN: In addition, says Warren, one must consider differences within the same religion.
Dr. WARREN: A Pentecostal person is not going to be very happy with a very rational, very cognitive kind of Christian who doesn't get the spirit very much in their lives. So you've got to get things like that. You've got so many denominations in this country, in the Protestant camp, that if you try to get certain of those denominations together with other denominations, it's not going to work.
ROLLIN: Singles bars are still thriving, especially in big cities, like this one in New York, but many religious people wouldn't dream of going to a singles bar. While the young people here may be looking to hook up, as they say, for the short term, religious people are looking to hook up for life.
Ms. DURRAH: We believe that who you are with, that spouse that you are brought together with, is destiny. That God has decreed this -- that it's written before you are born who you are going to marry and share your life with.
ROLLIN: The Jewish teaching is much the same.
Mr. DRUCKMAN: You are destined to marry someone; you are destined to meet the right person. There's a question as to whether or not it was real. So I was very skeptical -- but not skeptical anymore.
ROLLIN: Who got you together, God or the Internet?
Mrs. DRUCKMAN: Well, God is powerful, but even he needs a little help.
ROLLIN: It may be that the most surprising marriage of all is this newly sanctified marriage of technology and religion. For RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, I'm Betty Rollin.